Posted on May 23, 2024 by UTSA School of Data Science

students visiting united way headquartersSDS partners with United Way to pair data science interns at local nonprofits 

The UTSA School of Data Science (SDS) has partnered with United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County to place 13 UTSA students with five local nonprofit organizations in need of data science expertise. The Data Science & AI Community Innovations Scholars Program is a paid 10-week internship that began on Monday, May 20 and will run through Wednesday, July 31.  

Participating students will receive invaluable experience in tackling data science challenges in a nonprofit environment, says Lizet Casas, SDS senior program manager. 

“This connection with the nonprofits will provide our students with a broader understanding of how data science can be used for social good while helping them gain a deeper understanding of the wide variety of career options available,” Casas said. 

United Way has served as an organizational liaison and assisted in developing the plans for the internship program, Casas added.  

United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County“United Way served as the initial moderator between UTSA and the nonprofits,” she explained. “Its introductions helped generate genuine interest in the program. Building the initial partnership with them keeps us focused on making balanced decisions that will benefit the university, the nonprofits, and most of all, the students.”  

Finding ways to benefit both students and the larger San Antonio community is a focus that UTSA and United Way share, according to Sebastian Schreiner, impact data officer for United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County. 

“Through this partnership, we hope to make students aware of data science opportunities within the nonprofit sector, support the development of data capacity for United Way nonprofit partners, create a pipeline of students who are engaged with the nonprofit community long-term, and encourage students to choose nonprofit organizations as attractive choices for their careers in data science,” Schreiner said.  

To achieve these goals, the interns will help prepare, analyze, and report on data collected by the partnering nonprofits, while also gaining experience in nonprofit settings. This includes learning more about nonprofit management, data use in nonprofits, and developing a deeper understanding of how each program they help implement serves the community. 

Depending on which organization the students are placed with, their specific job duties will vary, from projecting academic trajectories of schoolchildren, to analyzing demographic information of Bexar County, to exploring how a nonprofit’s communications strategies influence its community engagement and effectiveness, and more. 

“Many of our partners have client, content, and donor management systems that allow for robust tracking of and databasing information,” Schreiner said. “At the same time, they experience barriers to fully utilizing that data due to not being able to afford the time, talent and technology to execute the work.”

With time, talent, and technology always in short supply for nonprofits, it’s no surprise that a total of 16 applications were received from potential internship sites. To help them narrow the field, the SDS team assessed each application based on a variety of factors including the organizations’ contributions to the community, the presence of clearly defined goals, and development opportunities for students. From there, they asked faculty members from the School of Data Science and the UTSA College of Education and Human Development to weigh in. 

“Our lead faculty reviewed the proposals and selected the organizations with the clearest objectives, those proposing projects that were feasible within our timeline, and that had the potential to achieve a greater impact beyond just gaining insights from the data,” Casas said. “They also took into consideration the skills and career development that each organization could offer to UTSA students.” 

The School of Data Science ultimately selected five nonprofits to participate in the inaugural Community Innovation Scholars program: 

Family Service of San Antonio 

Good Samaritan Community Services 

Healy-Murphy Center 

Respite Care of San Antonio 

United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County 

The program was also popular with students, with 83 vying to participate in the internship. The SDS team reviewed dozens of applications and résumés, considering coursework, class standing, GPAs, and written responses to application questions. After settling on 24 semi-finalists, faculty advisors were again tasked with choosing the final 13 participants. 

Upon completion of the 10-week program, the SDS will review the completed projects and solicit feedback from both the interns and nonprofit partners including United Way. After reviewing the feedback and adapting where necessary, Casas and Schreiner plan to expand the program over the next two years so that more UTSA data science students can make a difference in the community at an even greater number of nonprofit organizations. 

“This is a great way to provide nonprofits with tools and resources they need to take their data analysis to the next level so they can better serve both their clients and the community at large,” Casas said.  

Explore Further 

Data Science & AI Community Innovation Scholars

United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County

UTSA School of Data Science 

- Christopher Reichert 

— UTSA School of Data Science