Illustration by Joey Guidone c/o theispot.com
COVID-19 may have put a stop to in-person internships, but Wellesley students still gained valuable on-the-job experience this past spring and summer, thanks to alumnae.
More than 300 students connected with employers from home on their laptops as part of Career Education’s new virtual internships. The experiences were made possible in part by 120 alumnae who took on interns remotely, guiding them through virtual projects. Many alumnae hired multiple interns. Students learned about new industries and roles, honed speaking and technical skills, and benefited from career advice.
“We simply could not have provided students with opportunities this summer without the alumnae network,” says Jennifer Pollard, interim executive director of Career Education.
The virtual projects not only helped meet the need for experiential learning, but they also established a new model for increasing equity and access to opportunity. Students who before may not have been able to fly across the country for an internship—because of cost or a disability—can now test out different careers remotely.
Exploring Public Health
Shreya Huilgol ’21 was looking forward to strolling around the capital as part of the Wellesley in Washington Internship Program. Then came COVID-19.
The program’s alumnae liaisons pivoted, putting out a call for alumnae in government and politics to work with students virtually. Huilgol ended up doing an online internship with Erika Willacy ’99, program lead for an international public health workforce development program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“The internship aligned with my interests in public health and was also timely given COVID,” says Huilgol from her home in San Diego.
Huilgol and Willacy, who is in Atlanta, met twice a week over Zoom, and Huilgol spent the spring and summer building an interactive map that ultimately will help Willacy understand how well public health institutions in low- and middle-income countries support their workers, and how the CDC can help. The map will bring to light what helped workforces succeed during COVID, what hindered them, and will inform pilot programs to make improvements.
“I needed to advance projects, and I jumped on the opportunity,” says Willacy. “Shreya is a pleasure to work with and has seamlessly fallen into our team.”
So much so that when Huilgol’s internship was over, Willacy found a way for her to stay on into the fall. Soon, Huilgol will vet her work over Zoom calls with public health leaders overseas.
“This summer has really solidified my path into public health, and more specifically global health,” Huilgol says. “I felt so supported, and I have a clearer picture of what I want to do post-graduation.”
Helping At-Risk Youth
When mystery writer Katherine Hall Page ’69 received an email from Career Education looking for mentors for virtual internships, she was the first to reply.
She set up an internship for a Wellesley student with Youth Advocacy Foundation, a Boston nonprofit that works to end the school-to-prison pipeline in Massachusetts. Through one of the group’s initiatives, lawyers provide education advocacy to court-involved youth. Page is on the board. “We ended up with this jewel that’s Sophia,” she says.
From her home in Manhattan, Sophia Greenberg ’21—who was supposed to be studying in Uruguay—spent the spring and summer designing a brand new trifold brochure for the organization. She also cleaned up its donor database, worked on its annual report, and helped plan a virtual fund-raising event with a keynote speaker and a silent auction.
“I’m dipping my toe into lots of different areas,” Greenberg says. “I’ve been getting better at written communication and definitely strengthening my design skills.”
The internship was so successful that Greenberg is also staying on with the foundation through the fall. The impression the work made on her, however, will last even longer.
“I didn’t even know this kind of law existed,” Greenberg says, “and during the internship I had an epiphany—this is the type of work I want to do after I graduate.”