Virtual internships keep students on track for graduation
As COVID-19 spread, businesses moved to remote operations or closed doors completely. Some were forced to revoke internship offers made to college students who were counting on the opportunity to fulfill degree requirements.
Fortunately, most degree programs waived the requirement for spring 2020 graduates. By summer, Dr. Judy Sandlin, clinical professor of human resource development, was determined to find internships that students could participate in virtually.
Sandlin and fellow Department of Educational Administration and Human Resource Development faculty and advisors worked to identify opportunities through Sandlin’s higher education and former student contacts.
“The response from most everyone I contacted was overwhelmingly positive,” Sandlin said. “Plans began immediately to create real-world experiences and work for human resource development and technology management students to complete in order to graduate on time in August and now, also, in December.”
Gaining valuable experience virtually
Human resource development students completed five two-week rotations, completing work related to hiring, on-boarding, employee drug testing, employment law, school districts and city governments, creating diversity and inclusion programs, and combining policies and procedures when companies merge.
Technology management students completed three 3.5-week rotations learning how to utilize Salesforce, a customer relationship management system, assisting with setting up the college’s Aggie Homework Helpline, creating web-based sales platforms for members of the Navajo nation and completing individualized technology related to autonomous projects.
Virtual supervisors like Lisa Baca, senior consultant with Third Stage Consulting Group, were instructed to treat students as employees and maintain high expectations for the work they assigned. She took on 25 students, providing a virtual internship that allowed them to gain valuable experience from her company.
“Witnessing the students develop their respective capabilities to take an idea and transform it into something that could be meaningful in the business world, i.e., increase their employability, was an immense privilege and highly rewarding,” Baca said.
Senior technology management student Bennie Flores ’20 worked with a student organization at Texas A&M for his virtual internship.
“I had the honor to work with the Native American and Indigenous Student Organization here on campus on creating a more consistent look to their social media and giving them tips on how to push for a more synchronous transfer of information for future generations in the organization,” Flores said.
Thanks to the virtual internships, 80-90 students graduated over the summer and fall semesters. Sandlin said this success is largely due to her department head, Dr. Mario Torres, for giving the green light to secure the internships, and maintaining the department’s motto throughout the pandemic — “we will all do the best we can, every day, in every instance”.
“While there were challenges, I know the students were thrilled to have the opportunity to complete their degrees at TAMU and graduate on time,” Sandlin said.
Sandlin highlighted the supervisors by noting how they nurtured the students in creating positive learning experiences and exposing them to a variety employment settings, circumstances and projects.
“A number of the students have used their summer and fall supervisors as references for jobs and most, if not all, have been hired based on supervisor recommendations,” Sandlin said.
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