Rising sophomore garners real-world experience at NASA IV&V
When it came down to choosing a major at the West Virginia University College of Business and Economics, sophomore Devan Perdue found herself in a battle between her linear left brain and creative right brain. So, what did she do? She decided to double major in accounting and marketing, allowing her to follow her passion for budget and money allocation, while also honing her creative skills.
“I decided to pursue accounting because my older sister is a CPA, and I always found myself interested in her work. I am organized and love working with money, so it is really good for me,” Perdue said. “I'm pursuing a marketing degree as well because I'm passionate about communication and creativity. Marketing amazes me because it allows me to study how people think in a corporate atmosphere.”
It’s a rarity for a college freshman to obtain an internship, but Perdue earned the opportunity early on in her collegiate career to exercise the skills she’s learned in her B&E courses and gain some real world experience with at NASA’s Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) Facility in Fairmont, West Virginia. In September 2015, she began as a year-round Budget Analyst Intern in the NASA IV&V’s Program Support Office (PSO), a role with which she instantly fell in love.
“One of them is library upkeep, and then I also do Outlook cleanup, so I make sure the resource calendars are up-to-date and managed. I also do the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) VPP (Voluntary Protection Programs) reports. I collect data for the year-round report, and then I also put out monthly safety messages and make sure they are displayed around the building,” she said.
While Perdue appreciates all the experience she is achieving with these tasks, she is especially ardent about one area of her job.
“[My favorite part is] the budgeting – trying to figure out where money goes. It’s something I’m pretty passionate about. I want to take my CPA exam at the end of my four years of college, and that’s another reason I decided to double major,” she said.
With almost one year of real-world experience under her belt, the Morgantown native said that “learning a lot” would be an understatement when describing her time at NASA. It has made such a significant impact that she has already accepted the opportunity to spend another year expanding her analytical, management and organizational skills at the IV&V facility.
“I love it at NASA. Having this internship has definitely opened me up to the ‘real world.’ I've learned that knowledge and experience go hand in hand. It is important to get an education but gaining experience is just as important,” she said. “I've learned how to communicate with professionals above me, what is expected of me and I've been challenged. I'm a better worker because of that and I think my experience as a young intern will help me stand out because of experiencing the work environment early.”
As a rising sophomore, Perdue quickly realized that having an internship as a freshman sets her apart, and she cannot thank her mentors and NASA IV&V enough for a dynamic experience.
“I'm a firm believer that you learn something from everyone you meet. From people I've known for years to those I have just recently met, I am who I am today because of them. Find a good quality from each person and let that inspire you,” she said. “My mentor at NASA is confident with her work. At first, I was so intimidated with my internship and found that she had a quality I lacked. I wanted to be more confident in my work, so I looked up to her in that way. Because of that, I am more confident in the workplace. I want to be the best version of myself. Everyone I've ever met has guided me in some way.”
Outside of her studies and exciting internship experiences with NASA, Perdue is extensively involved in a few student organizations, such as Marketing Club and WVU Students Optimistic for Curing Kids (S.O.C.K-IT), which she has found to be beyond rewarding.
“Becoming involved in student organizations has been absolutely incredible. I've met a lot of people who share the same passions as me. Being around people who all have the same goals as you will get you further where you need to be. It's important that I become more of the person I'm meant to be and making connections has allowed me to do so,” Perdue said.
Although she is proud of her involvement with these student organizations, she holds one local nonprofit organization close to heart. In May 2014, Perdue’s nephew, Finn, was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of five, which he has overcome. Her older sister, Tara (Finn’s mother), founded Fight to the Finn…ish, which serves to raise awareness and help families battling childhood cancer. Perdue functions as the secretary for the nonprofit.
“Being a board member of Fight to the Finn...ish and a member of S.O.C.K-IT were the highlights of my freshman year because I tried to get the two really involved together. We all brainstorm and fight for the same cause,” she said.