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From classroom to classified: ONU's top-secret FBI intern

One of Northern's own has infiltrated the FBI, but she's sworn to secrecy about her mission. Melissa Else, senior computer engineering major, has gained entrance into the bureau's top-secret facilities as a summer intern with the FBI Scholastic Honors Internship Program.

The Cambridge, Ill., native joins 300 interns distributed over four locations in the Washington, D.C., area. This is a record year for the Honors Internship Program, which is highly selective in choosing its participants. Candidates for these competitive internships are put through an extensive application process of interviews, background checks and polygraph tests.

Despite the rigors of applying, Else knew she had to give it a try. "Ever since high school, I've wanted to work for the government," she explains.

When Else received notice of her acceptance she joined a select few from Northern who have interned with the FBI, including Kelly Patterson, BSCS '08, who participated in the program last summer in Clarksburg, W. Va.

Stationed in Quantico, Va., in the FBI's Operational Technology Division, Else is in high demand as a computer engineer. "The government really needs technological people, so that gave me hope," she remarks.

Else began the process last winter, traveling to the Cleveland field office for a series of interviews. Her background, citizenship and academic performance were subject to FBI investigation.

"An agent talked to my professors, former employers, friends and neighbors, even people from home. It really shocked people to hear the FBI wanted to meet with them," she says, remembering the FBI's visit to ONU.

Else also had to sit for the dreaded polygraph test. "I tried to contain my nerves because you have to be 100 percent positive about your answers; otherwise, the machine shows you're lying. It was very nerve wracking."

She managed to keep her cool, earning the coveted security clearance and a 10-week dream internship. With the hard part behind her, Else can focus on her exciting job.

"I've learned so much this summer from my co-workers and supervisors. I've had the opportunity to travel to conferences, observe training activities and tour other units in the facilities so I can gain a better view of the possibilities after graduation."

Due to security concerns, Else has to keep a low profile about her high-profile internship. She can say for certain, however, that she's having a great time. "I heard this was one of the best locations, and it's true. I've really loved working here."