Anna Grace Burnette ’13 wasn’t sure what she would do with her degree after she declared her major in psychology. As she learned more about forensic psychology, Burnette’s interest in forensic research and violent crime analysis grew. When she discovered the field could lead her to a job with the FBI, her decision to pursue a career in it was easy.
Burnette’s internship with the Bureau lasted two terms, from August 2013 to May 2014.
Q: What was your position with the FBI and what kind of work did you do?
A: I was a volunteer practicum intern assigned to Behavioral Analysis Unit 2 (BAU2) within the National Center for the Analysis of
Violent Crime, which is a division of the FBI. My day-to-day really varied, but the majority of work I did as an intern was research based. I worked on some research projects that were already ongoing, either with BAU2 or another BAU.
The interns and I toured the FBI Academy, which was really fun. I also went to the Office of the Medical Examiner in Baltimore, Md. and observed some autopsies, which was fascinating and actually not that disturbing. I also observed case conferences and presentations that agents and analysts gave to the interns about experiences they had within the FBI or cases that they had worked. That was a great learning opportunity for us, to see what they had done in the past and what they had learned from prior cases.
Q: Did you feel like you made a difference through your internship?
A: Yes. It was definitely rewarding. I felt challenged by my environment, and challenged to make sure the research I was doing was accurate because my supervisors were using exactly what I found, either for active cases, for answering questions about offender behaviors, or for background on a certain type of crime in general.
It was rewarding because I think all the BAUs do really incredible work – they support law enforcement and other organizations with a field coordinator acting as a liaison between the FBI and the local law enforcement. Everyone who works there has a specific expertise and they use their experience and expertise to really try to help.
Q: What sparked your interest in violent crime analysis?
A: I don’t know that there was one particular event that sparked my interest in analyzing violent crime. Once psychology became my major my professors really encouraged me to pick a division that interested me and the more I learned about forensics, the more I loved it. It’s such a diverse field, you can really go into anything – the prison system, mental health facilities, teaching or a government agency like the FBI. Once I realized I could work for the FBI through forensics and violent crime I kind of fell in love with the field.
Q:What did you like most about your internship?
A: The people I worked with, particularly those in BAU2. They were patient with me and answered my questions and got me involved with cases, projects and research. It wasn’t the kind of internship where you make coffee and run errands – I was really involved and really participating day-to-day.
The internship was supposed to end in December, and if I hadn’t really connected so well with the unit I wouldn’t have asked to extend, but because they are so amazing I did ask and I’m so glad I got the extension.
Additionally, the internship was a unique opportunity for me to see the FBI from the inside since I want to work for them one day. I had done so much research about it prior, but it was different actually being there and really understanding what my supervisors do. It was an awesome experience.
Q: How did you find out about the internship?
A: I found out about the internship online, just researching FBI behavioral analysis units. Then I spoke with the internship coordinator a few times to get some more information, and then I spoke with a crime analyst who worked in BAU2. I found everything else on the FBI’s website.
Q: What was the interview process like?
A: The interview process was nerve wracking but very exciting. I applied in April but the application process for the fall didn’t begin until July. That was my senior year, I found out about it a little bit late in my undergraduate career. As soon as I did I knew I had to apply, but to apply you have to be a student, so I worked it out with my professors at the College that I would extend my undergraduate work for a semester. They found a special internship class for me to enroll in.
I applied and then in July found out that I was approved for an interview. The interview lasted a couple of hours. I flew in for the weekend and interviewed for a couple of hours on a Friday. Then on Monday I found out I got it so I went in and got fingerprinted. That was awesome because I remember thinking that was probably the only time anyone would be excited to be fingerprinted.
Q: What do you think made you stand out?
A: My direct supervisor told me that during my interview she remembered that I mentioned meeting with a few female U.S. Marshals because I had been researching the FBI as well as other government agencies with similar units. It’s not everyday that you can just get a job with the FBI, so I was (and still am) keeping my options open. So I looked into the U.S. Marshals and I was able to meet with the female agents, which was great because they told me about the U.S. Marshals programs and what it’s like to be a female agent in a law enforcement agency.
I think my effort to speak to that many people indicated a serious interest. She also told me that she liked my answer to the question, “What are your weaknesses,” because I said one of mine was that I love doughnuts and that made everyone laugh.
Q: What are you doing now that the internship is over?
A: Right now I’m working with a professor at the University of Virginia as a research assistant, and I plan to continue working on research projects until I go to graduate school in fall 2015. I’m planning to study forensic psychology. After that I’m planning to put in my application for special agent with the FBI.
Q: How do you think the College helped you prepare for a career with the FBI?
A: My professors were so encouraging, they always actively encouraged me to continue to do research and think about what I really wanted to do within psychology. I had independent studies with two professors, Dr. Doughty and Dr. Wright, and those were helpful, especially one in particular where I got to do a lot of research coding work, which is what I do now for the University of Virginia.
I got an internship with the National Crime Victim’s Research and Treatment Center through the Department of Psychology. That definitely helped me feel prepared for the internship with the FBI by being in a professional work environment with a lot of supervisors, and working in research.
Q: What advice would you give to current students interested in working for the FBI?
A: My advice overall is if you have any career in mind that takes a few years to attain, talk to as many people as possible who are in that field. I learned so much about the FBI and the BAU from the research I did before the internship, and from the U.S. Marshals, and once I got to the FBI internship I made sure to talk to everyone and ask a lot of questions.