Students Thrive in Spring Internships

How do you make sure students get valuable professional experiences during a pandemic?

The answer, it turns out, is a little flexibility, a lot of creativity and a whole lot of community partners who are dedicated to Alverno’s student-centered mission.

As a result, the spring 2021 semester has seen Alverno students ― in all majors ― building their professional networks, gaining hands-on experience in their chosen fields and applying the 8 Abilities to the real world. Here are just a few of their stories.

Learning and teaching virtually

Education major Valencia Griffin (above) is drawn to teaching because she wants to be an advocate for all of her students.

“I want to be the teacher that students confide in and trust, and who helps the students master what they need to learn in order to be successful,” she says. “I want students to stand up for themselves and know they are the getting the best education.”

When she graduates in May, Griffin knows she’ll be ready to take the lead in her own classroom thanks to plenty of hands-on experience in her field.

“When I leave Alverno, I’ll know how to teach in person and how to teach virtually,” she says. “I have taught in low-income communities and my next placement is in a suburban community. I’ve taught in Catholic schools and a bilingual school.”

Not only has she gained experience in wide variety of school settings, but she has also formed a close and inspiring connection with the classroom teacher she has worked with at her most recent placement, Greenfield Bilingual School.

“She has taught me so much, the things you don’t learn in the classroom but learn on the job,” Griffin says.

Exploring new career paths

As a transfer student, Holly Schuldt (above) was eager to dive into her health education major. She wasn’t disappointed.

“My first semester at Alverno, we went to Pulaski High School and did a diabetes awareness program,” she recalls. “It wasn’t ‘here’s what you do when you’re a health education major and when you graduate, go do it.’ They taught us and then we got to show what we learned. It’s been so fun and so exciting.”

Schuldt later interned at the Franklin Health Department and is currently interning at Gigi’s Playhouse, a nonprofit that supports children with Down Syndrome and their families.

“Because of COVID they haven’t really had kids at the playhouse, so I’ve been helping design a fundraiser this summer,” Schuldt reports. “Last semester, I completed a fundraising and grantwriting class. I just emailed my teacher to thank her, because everything I learned is helping me in my current role.”

Schuldt knows nonprofits are a big employer of health educators, and she values this opportunity to see a new side of nonprofits.

“A large role of nonprofits is fundraising to support the nonprofit’s mission, whether that’s via grants or donors. It’s really interesting to see this side,” she says.

Schuldt, who is set to graduate this May, knows that whatever her next step, she’ll be ready.

“The hands-on experience shows employers that not only have I learned how to be a health educator, but step by step, I’ve done things to show people that I’m capable of everything from talking to large groups of people to designing curriculum,” she says. “I’m able to be a health educator while I’m still in school.”

Leveraging connections

When Massachusetts-based artist Regan Halas joined Alverno visual arts instructor Eileen Booth’s class via Zoom as a guest speaker, she immediately gained a fan in student Alex Watson (above).

Later, Watson confided in Booth that the pandemic was making it difficult to find an internship. Booth suggested Halas might be interested in taking on a student. After a few phone calls with Halas, Watson, a Creative Arts in Practice major, had an internship lined up for the spring.

“She’s never had an intern before. We were able to discuss what we each wanted to accomplish, how we would handle it and when,” Watson explains. “She’s actually doing a residence right now in Mexico. That’s the fun thing about a virtual internship. I can be with her no matter where she is.”

Watson’s role includes helping improve Halas’ online and social media presence as well as refining the artist’s logo and web design. Watson has created new design elements, like letterhead and digital assets, and has audited Halas’ online course offerings.

“I’m there to help what she already does get better,” Watson says.

Every component of the internship is helping Watson, who will graduate in May, prepare for a desired career in user experience and user interface.

“It’s a perfect job for someone who looks at something and says, ‘this could be better.’ You do a lot of testing to make sure programs are working the way they’re supposed to and that they make sense. And there’s an artistic aspect in choosing design components,” Watson explains. “It’s a happy marriage of the two things that I’m really passionate about.”

Mission-driven work

Through her internship, Brittany Basile (above) helps kids’ wishes come true.

Basile won a competitive internship at Make-A-Wish Foundation, where her role as a mission delivery intern is to welcome children to the organization before they are matched with a volunteer who will help plan their wish. Her favorite part of the job? Choosing a toy to fit each child’s specific interests and needs, which is then included in a welcome box.

“It’s the first impression that Make-A-Wish is having on the kids, so I try to make it super special,” she says. “The volunteers that work with the families have said that I’ve been doing a really good job finding gifts that fit each child’s personalities.”

The internship allows Basile, a business and management major who is graduating this May, to continue building professional experience at the nonprofits where she hopes to work someday. It’s also personal.

“I’m a three-time cancer survivor,” she says. “I had Hodgkin’s lymphoma and have been in remission since 2017. That’s why I want to work for nonprofits – I like the satisfaction I get from helping people.”

Since her diagnosis, Basile has volunteered at the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. She plans on pursuing a master’s degree in health care administration. She also hopes to work in community outreach, leveraging her personal story as well as the communication skills she built at Alverno.

“I used to not like group projects, but in the real world, you need to know how to interact with a team,” she says. “The group work we do at Alverno has helped me learn how to manage these interactions and grow as a leader.”

Building skills – and confidence

Second-year nursing major Catherine Cha (above) may be in her first off-campus clinical, but she and her classmates have already had plenty of hands-on experience through Alverno’s Clinical Learning Center.

In the CLC, students learn and practice concrete skills like IV placement and administering drugs. They also practice caring for patients in a simulated home environment and later move to simulated hospital environments.

“I love the CLC because you get to acquire skills there. You get the experience of what it is like to work with various patient situations. I love how the faculty challenge us to apply our skills to the real world,” Cha says.

This semester, Cha’s off-campus clinical placement is at a nursing home. “I really enjoy being able to build relationships with the residents as well as the people who work there,” she says.

Such relationship building is a crucial part of the nursing profession and is therefore an essential component of an Alverno nursing education.

“As an Alverno nursing student, we emphasize the social interaction ability as well as valuing,” she says. “Our faculty members encourage us to critically think about the care we provide and how we apply what we’re learning to real life.”

Cha was inspired by her mother, an Alverno nursing alumna, to choose nursing for her career, and specifically hopes to work in pediatrics. The pandemic has only affirmed her passion for this profession.

“I want to be that person who makes a difference and can help people in these critical times,” she says.

Building a healthier community

Psychology major Jessica Hernandez (above) is interning in the social services department of Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers, which primarily serves Latinx patients, many of whom are uninsured or underinsured. In her role, Hernandez assists with patient scheduling and check-ins, including administering screenings to determine which basic needs are or aren’t being met.

“If they need housing, food or financial assistance, we’ll give them the appropriate resources and get them to stability so their health isn’t impacted by outside factors,” she explains.

Because much of her work revolves around phone calls, Hernandez started the semester on a hybrid basis. Now that Hernandez, her colleagues and community members are being vaccinated, however, her work will soon transition to in-person patient interactions.

Hernandez, who will graduate in May, has found fulfillment in helping connect people with the resources they need to live healthier lives. And she has also found her calling.

“This internship has helped me refine what I’m looking for in a career,” she says. “I’m leaning toward counseling and may want to get my master’s in social work. I want to build connections with people.”

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