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October 2023
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Johnson Completes Work as a Wichita Tribal Enterprises Intern with NASA

Reuben Johnson Family

Reuben Johnson, far left, worked through Wichita Tribal Enterprises as an intern at the NASA John H. Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Pictured with him is his son, William, and his wife, Chantel.


Reuben Johnson, 26, grew up in the construction industry. With his father in the business, Johnson's childhood included a move every two years as part of his father's occupation. This includes living in Virginia, Maryland, Wisconsin and Oklahoma residences in Pawnee, Guthrie and Oklahoma City. Naturally, Johnson began working in the construction industry also, in addition to oil field work and eventually going to college.


Currently a junior finance major specializing in real estate at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, moving halfway across the country to intern for Wichita Tribal Enterprises in Cleveland, Ohio, wasn't that big of an adjustment. Instead, the "learning curve" for Johnson was ten weeks of working in an office setting for the first time.


"When it came to particular projects, when people wanted me to do something, I really didn't know all what they were looking for," Johnson said. "It was a tough learning curve for the first two weeks or so. Once I got it, I was able to use those skills that I gained at school to apply it to the internship."


Johnson's internship with WTE was from May 29-August 6, 2018, at the NASA John Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. His assignments included working on a finance team that helped to fund engineering projects, including the handling of purchase requisitions and travel requests through an online process.


"The teams that I was on, we were working on taking those business processes and integrating them into a web-based management tool so that everything was online and easy to use," Johnson said.

His reasons for applying to the internship, Johnson said, was to give back to the Wichita people for helping to fund his education.


"The tribe's helped me out a lot with schooling," he said. "I've been looking for ways where I can give back and add value in any way that I can. When I was looking for internships, I reached out to the tribe and asked them if they knew of anything. They told me about this opportunity they had with Wichita Tribal Enterprises out in Ohio. I was thinking of anything that I could do to add value to the company and could help out the tribe."


According to Misty Boettger, the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes Education Services Administrator, Johnson contacted the tribe in March 2018, looking for internship opportunities for third-year finance majors. She then forwarded his information to the Wichita Tribe Industrial Development Commission.


"I feel this internship will open up doors and contacts for his future," Boettger said about Johnson's internship. "He will also be gaining experience in his field of study."


One of the ways in which the internship has already impacted Johnson is through expanding his field of study, adding computer-based courses into his class schedule.


"It opened me up to a new world of computer programming," Johnson said. "I worked a lot with application developers. I've already changed my school schedule to incorporate a few more computer programming classes. I think with the experience that I got there and how I apply it in my school, I'll be able to act as a better link between finance and computer developers."


Johnson also said that being an intern at the Glenn Research Center-through WTE-gave him a "competitive edge" as he enters the job market after graduation.

"Especially in today's job market, there has to be more of those links between accountants and developers," Johnson said. "Everything that we do nowadays is all computers. Anybody who can act on that link will have that competitive edge."


Johnson said he also plans to expand his studies through a master's degree in business administration with an emphasis in either finance or organizational behavior.


While Johnson said that working at the Glenn Research Center "felt more like a family" rather than simply being at a job, one of the biggest challenges was not having his family present during the whole term of the internship. While his wife, Chantel, and two-year-old son, William, were with Johnson during part of the time in Cleveland, he said "the biggest challenge was being away from my wife and son for four weeks."


When not in classes, Johnson mostly enjoys spending time with his growing family-he and his wife have another child on the way. Johnson is also into boxing, martial arts, reading and playing the guitar. In addition, he also works part-time for a property management company.


Johnson said that he recommends "100 percent" that other tribal members apply for an internship through WTE.


"It gives you experience," Johnson said. "It gives you a foot in the door. I've always done manual labor jobs. I thought I was going to be manual labor for the rest of my career. After going to school and getting my foot in the door with an internship, not only did it give me new skills, but it gave me greater confidence to know that I can do this and actually move up in a career and be successful in finance."


Robert White, the President/CEO of Wichita Tribal Enterprises, had nothing but great things to say about Reuben and his WTE experience.


"WTE was fortunate to offer such a valuable work experience, which allowed Reuben to become more knowledgeable about our Tribal company as well as working directly with NASA Glenn Research Centers' senior officials within their finance department," White said. "Reubens' hard work ethic and positive attitude reflected highly on WTE and our Tribe during his summer internship participation."