National Intern Day, which falls on July 30, was founded in 2017 by the organization WayUp to celebrate and call attention to interns and the great work that they do for companies throughout the country. On their quest to gain professional experience, interns learn to step into leadership roles and have the confidence to enter the workforce after graduation. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), after administering a survey in May, discovered that 22% of employers had removed internship offers.
According to indeed.com, “many graduates and students are finding it difficult to make plans a few weeks or months ahead,” which also has an impact on locking down an internship for those positions still available. Knowing the value of an applied learning intern experience, many organizations have gotten creative to provide opportunity and keep students engaged from a distance. Throughout SUNY, a number of student interns remained vigilant throughout the pandemic to continue with their internship experience, as detailed by the reflections shared with us below:
- Stefanie Rios, a student at SUNY Cortland, was an intern for the campus’s Development Team this spring. Her supervisor, Rachel Sluberski, notes that “as we transitioned into a remote work setting, Stefanie was able to adjust seamlessly and continue to help us.” Stefanie’s major project for the semester was editing student thank you videos for scholarship donors. The finished product was a heart-warming success, as “multiple donors reported back how touched they were by the videos, even bringing some to tears.” Given the COVID-19 pandemic, the videos Stefanie worked hard on brought people together and provided good news to donors.
- Taylor Lansbury, also a student at SUNY Cortland, was an intern with the New York State Attorney General’s Office out of Syracuse this past semester. She assisted in claims cases, gaining experience working on trials involving inmates in the New York prison system to potential misconduct pertaining to individual’s wills. Once COVID-19 struck, she transitioned to working from her supervisor’s home to complete her internship, which remained a valuable experience for Taylor. “My supervisor has made this altered experience as close to the real thing as she could. I have been able to email and talk over the phone with employees from various departments to gain different perspectives… I believe this experience is exceptional and is providing me with unique firsthand exposure to the inner-workings of the state government.”
- Madison Eshel was able to participate in a human rights course at Nassau Community College, which included an on-campus internship with the New York Public Interest Research Group. Despite the on-campus portion of the internship ending earlier than expected due to COVID-19, Madison still had a great experience remotely. Using Google Classroom and Zoom, Madison engaged in interesting and educational meetings and completed assignments, such as calling legislators, how to help out local communities during the pandemic, and making posters for Earth Day. After taking the course, she speaks highly of it and recommends that everyone take it to become more enlightened and knowledgeable about climate change, race, and activism.
- After working closely with a faculty mentor–Dr. Kathleen Gillespie–at SUNY Cobleskill, Sharon Restrepo was able to secure an internship at the University at Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET). Sharon will be working on a project that aims to collect information on phytoplankton blooms in Baltimore Harbor and the factors contributing to the massive population increase. Traditionally, interns come from all over for their IMET internships, but this year, they’ll complete their work out in the field. Sharon shares that she “feels very fortunate given the circumstances this year to be able to have this opportunity. I think any connection is a good connection in this type of environment.”
- For Ada Garcia-Poll, a student at Buffalo State College, she started interning remotely with the college’s and Community Engagement Office this past June. She drew from her experiences of distance learning from the spring semester for her internship, and shares that “working remotely has made me work more independently, use time management skills, and learn how long it will take to complete tasks.” Ada has also had the opportunity to thinking creatively while developing clear information for undergraduate students who are also adapting to remote environments.
- At Farmingdale State College, the campus’s Research Aligned Mentorship Program partnered with on-campus faculty and external partners to create the Summer Research Institute. The program provided networking and remote-mentored research experience for 50 undergraduate students, ensuring that students still received a valuable experience despite complications due to COVID-19. Later in the summer, student interns will participate in a research symposium, presenting their proposals to the campus community.
One of the many facets of a SUNY education that helps our students secure a job after graduation is helping them find experiential learning opportunities. Despite the many challenges posed by COVID-19, our students are still able to gain hands-on learning experiences through on- and off-campus internships, better preparing them to make a smooth transition to the workforce and taking the first step on their career path.