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NASA Capacity Building program area intern, business management student at Hampton University

Jessica Sheaves
Earth Applied Sciences Editor

The Capacity Building program area is excited to introduce our team of five interns who have been working with us since last fall and will continue this spring. They are working with the Program to build their technical and professional skill sets while bringing their enthusiasm and new ideas to the program. Each of our interns created their own feature profiles, which we will be sharing over the next few weeks. Keep reading to learn more about Barri’ Ragland-English and her role on the intern team.

Why NASA? 

NASA has built a strong reputation as a leader in science and technology related to air and space since 1958. It was an honor to intern for an agency with such an excellent track record and strong influence on science and technology innovations. NASA has contributed significantly to my personal growth, confidence and professional interactions with many great professionals. 

College senior portrait of woman
Barri’ Ragland-English’s 2021 College Senior Portrait. Credits: Barri’ Ragland-English/JCPenney Studios


How do you help the capacity building program? 

I am a general member on the intern team. My tasks vary depending on what is needed for the project each week. For example, I could be assigned to work on white papers one week and develop surveys the next.  

What makes you tick? 

Knowing that I’ve made a difference in the world no matter how big or small the task may be. Just knowing that anything that I put my all into will eventually make a difference in someone’s life is what truly makes me tick.  

What is a normal day as a NASA intern? 

A normal day as a NASA intern involves attending weekly team meetings, listening to and attending conferences and communicating with the other interns. At the start of each day, I check my emails and my task list for the week to see what still needs to be completed. I am a full-time student, so I focus on my internship in between classes. 

How did you get interested in the program? 

I became interested in the program after staying up late one summer night watching movies. NASA was mentioned in the middle of the film, which led a lightbulb in my head to click. When that moment hit me, I decided to check NASA’s website to see if any fall internship opportunities were open. For the rest of the night until the early hours in the morning, I stayed up working on my application and carefully reviewing each open opportunity. There were three different departments I qualified for and the Capacity Building Program was one of them. 

What’s your favorite part of the job so far? 

Working with my fellow interns and mentors on the virtual training we’ve developed. Additionally, my mentors have worked very hard to allow us to explore and meet individuals from different departments of our interest. 

Woman working from home NASA shirt
Ragland-English working from home in December 2020. Credits: Valarie Ragland-English


Are there any unique experiences you’ve had because of it? 

My mentors encouraged me to take the opportunity to present my team’s project to Woody Turner, the program manager of the Ecological Forecasting program area. My teammate, Ella Haugen, and I were asked to attend one of the monthly open doors with Turner. We were aware that we’d only have about two to three minutes to speak about our project, but we ended up speaking for about 20 minutes and gained his support to further pursue our project to reach a broader audience.  

Where do you go from here? 

I will be returning as a spring intern. Once the spring term ends, I will graduate and start my career as a technology consultant in the late summer. I am hopeful that one day I can come back to work for NASA again.  

What do your friends have to say? 

“Barri’ is great. She is very enthusiastic about technology and innovation. She always is researching and sharing new information about the advancement of technology as it relates to Gen Z.”– Tatyanna S., classmate/friend 

“Barri’ is an extraordinary, bright individual who brings great insights working at NASA. I know her strides are helping young children understand they can succeed in STEM too!” - Jade B., roommate/classmate/friend 

“Barri’ loves to help her friends and looks out for them as much as possible. She’s always putting others first” – Robert G., classmate/friend 

“Barri’ is a great friend, loves the arts, and is extremely driven. All of these qualities and more always lead her to success.” – Sam H., former classmate/best friend 

Woman portrait on chair
Ragland-English for her 2017 high school senior portraits. Credits: Lifetouch Studios

What are your goals? 

After completing my undergraduate studies, I would like to work a full-time job for a few years before attending graduate school to study information technology or management information systems. Once I obtain my master’s degree, I would like to transition from the private sector to work for NASA or another government agency as a Chief Information Officer (CIO). 

What are your hobbies? 

My hobbies include shopping, eating, spending time with my family and friends, reading, learning new skills, doing hair and traveling (I just recently got my passport, woohoo).   

What motivates you? 

First and foremost, God blesses me with the opportunity to wake up every morning which motivates me to work hard. My mother and sister are both prominent figures in my life that push and motivate me to achieve all my dreams no matter what.  The three of us are very close and although they can be hard on me sometimes, I know they just want the best for me. My friends are also super supportive of my dreams no matter how big or small they are. Overall, I am a highly motivated person who will jump at any opportunity that allows me to better myself. 

Woman with two laptops
Ragland-English during her intern presentation on December 16,2020. Credits: Valarie Ragland-English

What inspires you? 

The ability to make a difference in someone's life. Whether it’s simply helping them with a small task or smiling and saying “Hello,” being able to help others in any way I can truly inspires me.  

What is a major challenge you’ve overcome? 

A major challenge that I have overcome is being a first-generation college student. I am the first person in my immediate family to attend college. Although there were a lot of things that I had to learn on my own, I am appreciative of the experience.  

What is your dream job? 

My dream job is to become a CIO or a technology consultant for technology companies or a government agency like NASA (possibly, when I get older).  

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