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Educational Psychology doctoral student earns ETS internship

David Alpizar in profile
David Alpizar

By Kara McMurray, College of Education

An educational psychology doctoral student in Washington State University’s College of Education has accepted a well-respected internship with the Educational Testing Service (ETS) in Princeton, New Jersey.

David Alpizar is a first-generation college student and will spend the summer at ETS, working to help develop assessments.

“ETS does a lot of well-known tests like the GRE and TOEFL,” said Alpizar, an educational psychology student. “Some of these are very, very hard tests.”

Part of his work will be ensuring the assessments work across groups, developing new items for tests, making sure there is no bias in the process of scoring and evaluation, and keeping content current and relevant.

“I’ve been wanting to learn what it’s like working for a company like this,” Alpizar said. “It will be interesting to see how they operate in a private sector.”

Specifically, Alpizar said it will be interesting to see how a company functions when it has access to so many resources.

“There’s only so many resources we can have as an individual university program, but at ETS there will be more resources,” he said.

At WSU, Alpizar has been furthering the work he completed in his undergraduate and graduate programs. He graduated cum laude from California State University Northridge with his bachelor’s in psychology and then with his master’s in general experimental psychology. He said he’s been working on health-related assessments concerning depression and other disabilities.

“I’m making sure those are valid,” Alpizar said. “There’s good evidence to support the validity of those assessments. And I’m also checking scores and the scoring process to make sure those are accurate.”

He said for his dissertation, which is still in the works, he is synthesizing assessments to see what’s out there and what still needs to be done. He said he is looking forward to the internship both as a growing opportunity for his research and for him personally.

“It’s not only an internship, it’s a job interview,” Alpizar said. “It’s leaving an open door. It will be really cool to contribute to the industry and see where that leads. It will help me to keep options open.”

Alpizar has worked in academia in several capacities, including in mentoring and tutoring students. Some of his experience includes working as a math and statistics tutor in Disabled Students Programs and Services at Los Angeles Mission College and in Extended Opportunity Program and Services at Pierce College. He also worked as an undergraduate teaching assistant fellow in the psychology department at CSUN.

One of the career paths he is considered is going back to teach and mentor students. He currently is a research assistant in the psychometric laboratory working on applied and methodological projects in measurement centering on teacher evaluation systems and innovative measures of college student success.

“It’s an open door,” Alpizar said.

His advisor, Brian French, professor and director of the Learning and Performance Research Center, has had five doctoral students obtain similar internships in the past 10 years.

“I think this speaks very well to how we train students in educational and psychological measurement in the Educational Psychology program and the experience they gain in the Psychometric Laboratory,” French said.

Alpizar agreed that the internship is a positive reflection on the research occurring at WSU.

“It means that we’re doing a really good job with recruiting graduate students and bringing people from other backgrounds and being diverse,” he said. “ETS is one of the top programs in the country. This means prestige.”

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