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Katie Coffin - 1/14/2016

André Zhang Sonera is serving as a Bicentennial Visioning Liaison with the Office of Indiana Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann. The Visioning Project is a Bicentennial legacy project focusing on Indiana’s future. The project brought together thought leaders throughout the state to identify “big ideas” for Indiana’s future, and the ideas will be compiled into a book expected to be completed this summer.

Indiana INTERNnet: What have you been responsible for during your internship with the Indiana Bicentennial Visioning Project?

André Zhang Sonera: "As a Bicentennial Scholar, my role on this project is coordinating the logistics of each (visioning) session. My job requires me to look at the big picture and make sure that all the knots are in place and ready to go for the event. From coordinating the venue, to making sure that everything is running smoothly and efficiently for our experts – logistics are an essential component to the success of our sessions."

IIN: Describe how this internship is helping you grow as a young professional toward your career goals.

AZS: "This internship has provided me the unique experience to gain in-depth knowledge about our state. It is not every day that you have the opportunity to meet and learn from the brightest Hoosier minds as they share their passion and vision for a better Indiana.

"This experience has also helped me develop insight into how the government works at the state level, nurturing my passion for public service and sparking an interest for a career in government."

IIN: What have you learned so far about Indiana? Has anything surprised you?

AZS: "Each session is focused on important topics that shape the future of our state. Thanks to the research and data presented by Dr. Breanca Merritt from the IU Public Policy Institute at beginning of the session, I now have a better understanding of the current and future state of Indiana regarding a variety of important topics.

"But my favorite part is hearing the innovative ideas of our experts, as they gather together to envision the future of Indiana. At the end of each session I have a sense of belonging and pride of being an 'honorary' Hoosier.

"I definitely would encourage other students (K-12 & college) to get involved with their towns and counties and partake in this unique experience. It is not every day that we get to celebrate our state’s Bicentennial, and it is an incredible opportunity to contribute a legacy for future generations."

IIN: Share a bit of your background and what other internship experiences you’ve had.

AZS: "Born and raised in San Sebastián, Puerto Rico, I moved to Indianapolis in 2012 to pursue a degree at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). My first introduction to Indiana was back in 2007 as a delegate for the National FFA Organization. Currently, I am a senior at the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA), pursing a Bachelor of Sciences in Public Affairs.

"Last year, I had the opportunity to serve as an intern for the White House Office of Scheduling and Advance; where I gained in-depth exposure to public service and logistical planning, while being immersed in the fast-paced environment of our nation’s capital. This summer, I had an internship experience with the City of New York, under the Mayor’s Office of Operations; here I worked to audit and implement the requirement of Language Access for the 24% of the population that doesn’t speak or understand English.

"Both experiences have shaped my identity as a public servant, and the desire to work towards a better community."