Interns or Changemakers? These Bright Students Are Both

Meet the 2021 National Geographic Society Intern Class.

The National Geographic Society is thrilled to welcome 18 driven, talented, and compassionate interns this month. The academic achievements of our 2021 intern class are equaled only by their commitment to effecting positive change in their communities and the world at large.

“This group of interns volunteers, they work on social justice issues, and they’re very, very interested in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts,” intern program manager Tatiana Mota says. “They’re changemakers for sure.”

Members of the incoming intern class started a magazine that highlights young creatives of color; worked on developing a geodatabase to aid in shark conservation; and founded a nonprofit to reduce food insecurity—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. They are teachers and community organizers, law students and environmental science majors, and they embody the core belief of #GenGeo: that young people are the key to addressing some of the world’s most pressing problems. During the two-month program interns will be working together in a variety of roles across the Society, on teams ranging from Education to Communications to Measurement, Evaluation, and Research.

“When I was going through the recruiting cycle this year, it was more important than ever to apply to organizations that aligned with my personal and professional values and goals,” Explorer Programs intern Cordelia Varona says. “With National Geographic, I was drawn to their commitment to illuminate and protect our world. I knew that I wanted to be part of an organization doing such important and transformative work”

The opportunity to gain real-world experience attracted many of this year’s interns to National Geographic. Education intern Alison Johnston describes the position as a way to “grow professionally and mold my passions into a career path.” She says an internship that matches both her majors—geography and secondary education social studies—is “very rare.”

The internship program also assumes a new look this year. Rather than gathering in-person, interns will convene remotely. To ensure a dynamic experience, the program will encourage collaboration among participants and immerse them in the Society’s mission-oriented work. In addition to working within their respective departments and with one another, interns will engage with National Geographic Explorers, educators, and staff in different forums throughout the summer.

National Geographic has a rich history of hosting interns. Beginning in 1981 the Geography Intern Program brought geography and cartography majors to headquarters in Washington, D.C., where they gained valuable research, writing, and design skills while supporting the Society’s mission. Of the hundreds of students who served as geography interns, many of them later joined National Geographic as full-time staff.

This group includes Mapping department head Alex Tait, who recalls interning having a “huge influence” on his life. “I started as an intern making maps in the old Publications Art Division, which led to a position working on the National Geographic Historical Atlas of the United States for two years,” Alex says. “That project focused my career goals on cartography and mapping. After a graduate degree in geography and work in private enterprise, I returned to the National Geographic Society 30 years later to be the Geographer.”

In recent years the internship program has expanded from exclusively geography, cartography, and GIS majors to include students in other disciplines connected to the Society’s work. The Society shared this year’s internship opportunities through a variety of channels, including at university career fairs and on social media. Candidates then interviewed with their respective teams and the program manager.

The 2021 internship program begins June 7 and wraps up August 6.


Youth ages 16-25 can build their skills and learn how to craft a story for powerful change by registering for free #GenGeo Storytelling for Impact courses, developed in partnership with Adobe. The photography, video, and audio courses are open now!

Connect with other young changemakers by joining the growing #GenGeo community.

One thought on “Interns or Changemakers? These Bright Students Are Both

  1. I think internships and volunteer opportunities for students are very good points to choose from – students invest in their future career, new skills and experience, and they bring benefit to society at the same time. For example, this article tells about internships and volunteering as one of the best practices for students while studying – https://ivypanda.com/blog/job-experience-while-in-college . The young generation is more open to new ideas… Thus, I absolutely agree that interns are changemakers.

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