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FBI Internship Puts UT Student to the Test

Published: July 10, 2008
A team of eight men wearing body armor and carrying high-powered firearms surrounded a trailer home before breaking inside. Yards away, University of Tampa senior Tena West looked on as the team of FBI SWAT trainees piled in quickly to secure the home and defuse what was said to be a hostage situation.

The simulation was one stop on a private tour West recently took of the FBI’s special agent training facilities in Quantico, VA, as she spends the summer in the FBI’s Honors Internship Program. A Tampa native, West is one of more than 100 Honors Interns from across the nation selected to take part in the coveted and highly competitive internship experience. 

“I’ve wanted to be in the FBI since the seventh grade,” West said. “I’m very set on a future with the FBI and I think this will definitely further that goal.”

The tour of the FBI’s training grounds was one of many benefits afforded to West as an Honors intern, giving her exposure to numerous aspects of the bureau’s inner workings.

Her primary assignment is to the bureau’s Human Resources division.

Her days begin early – 5:30 a.m. - when she prepares for her commute from a temporary apartment in Alexandria, VA, where she stays with three of her fellow FBI interns, to the FBI national headquarters in Washington D.C.

Months of background checks and thorough investigation have given West the security clearance to enter the headquarters with the same privileges of any FBI employee. From there, the day is typically a long hustle of briefings having to do with new technology, safety and security procedures and confidential FBI business.

A double major in criminology and psychology, West’s academic pursuits are put to the test in this setting, where background screenings and examinations of potential FBI employees as well as current employees are the focus of much of the work.

“I think a lot of what I’m learning isn’t coming from the things I’m doing as much as it is coming from the people I work with,” West said. “My supervisor has been in law enforcement for years and has given me a lot of insight into the bureau and advice about how to get where I want to be.”

In addition to the regular briefings are occasional tours of FBI facilities and special conferences that are designed to further familiarize interns with the bureau.

A recent conference West attended included a presentation by George Pirro, an FBI special agent who interrogated Saddam Hussein following the former Iraqi dictator’s capture.

In August, West will receive personal firearms training and be tested for proficiency with weapons and the use of deadly force. 

West applied for the internship in the fall of 2007 at the urging and encouragement of her two academic advisors, Dr. Jeff Klepfer and Dr. Tony LaRose.

“I don’t think I could have gotten as far as I have without the people at UT,” West said. “My academic advisors were the ones who told me to go for it and that it would be something worth doing.”