Section Image: Jason Dearborn, Lauren Casby and Kelsey Gentry

Pandemic Disrupts but Doesn't Derail Student Internships

When the global coronavirus pandemic first swept across the nation, spring classes weren’t the only learning experiences forced online — many internship opportunities also went virtual.

August 07, 2020

By Rachel Master and Elaine Cole

Jason Dearborn, Lauren Casby and Kelsey GentryConfusion, insecurity, rapid changes – nothing deterred TCU Neeley students as they traversed the new landscape of summer internships.

“You must be willing and eager to learn in any situation,” said junior business information systems major Jason Dearborn, who interned with Crossbridge Global Partners Inc., a nearshore technical staffing company based in Yorba Linda, California.

“We saw hundreds of summer internships rescinded or go virtual in a matter of weeks,” said Jessica Cates, director of the Alcon Career Center, housed in the Neeley School of Business and devoted exclusively to TCU undergraduate business majors. “Our students impressed us with their ability to adapt and move forward in the face of uncertainty and unprecedented ambiguity. They were quick to pivot, whether working in person or virtually. Their active engagement and ownership in their personal learning and growth has made them uniquely valuable to future employers. They are more prepared for the future of work than any class in recent years.”

Practicing Resiliency

Dearborn’s summer internship with Crossbridge Global Partners continued as scheduled—he works from home two days a week and reports to the office the other three—but the pandemic curtailed some of his opportunities.

“Thankfully, it’s a small enough organization where we’ve been flexible to adapt; however, it’s not the same caliber of experience that I would’ve gotten since part of my internship was going to be a business trip to our offices in Mexico to discuss strategic partnerships, conduct research and expand our resources,” he said.

As a business development/technical operations intern, Dearborn — who knew the company CEO from church and had kept in touch — works primarily in client development, organizing and scheduling meetings with potential new clients, helping onboard, and ensuring clients get the most from Crossbridge’s services. He also connects software developers and engineers in the company’s Mexico offices with its U.S. clients’ talent acquisition teams. And he puts his technical skills into action automating tasks within the organization.

Dearborn is majoring in business information systems and philosophy.

“My current goals are to utilize technology in a way that truly empowers and improves the lives of the underprivileged. Not many people combine technology with humanitarian action, and I want to take strides in that direction.”

Learning to Lead

From the beginning, senior marketing major Lauren Casby knew her summer internship as social media manager for the Fort Worth Vaqueros amateur soccer club would be virtual, but amid the pandemic, her part-time work blossomed into full-time hours.

Casby found the internship thanks to a lead from Kelsey Gentry, associate director of the Alcon Career Center in the Neeley School of Business. Her primary responsibilities are posting and creating content on different social media platforms. She and her boss discuss ideas and plans regularly via phone and Zoom.

“The biggest impact this internship has had on me is pushing me to lead,” Casby said. “I have been given a lot of freedom and independence. I am not told exactly what to do; I am given general ideas of what they are looking for and I go from there. After being an intern for a few months now, I already feel more confident in my skills and ability.”

Following graduation in 2021, Casby plans to pursue a career in the sports or cosmetics industries. “There are many different areas of marketing, but my main interests are in social media, advertising, promotion and brand management,” she said.

Gaining Knowledge

Before the pandemic, marketing major Rindi Kessler was planning to live and work in Ireland for the summer through Neeley Global Intern Scholars. When international travel was restricted, she found the match for her skills and interest as an intern working remotely for California-based LTC Properties, a health care real estate investment trust with more than 200 senior housing communities and skilled nursing centers across the United States.

Kessler is using the leadership and teamwork skills she has gained through TCU Neeley workshops and class projects, such as the BIS company project and MARK 30153 product project, to assist with investor relations and senior housing relations.

“I am learning first-hand about managing investor relations and how marketing is used in health care REITs as I create content for the LTC social media account. I get to share touching stories of the senior housing residents. I also helped launch Virtual Connections, a website to help senior residents stay active and engaged during the pandemic,” she said.

The main thing she is learning from her internship? I am “gaining knowledge of the field by asking questions and being interested in a variety of different roles,” she said.

Pivoting in the pandemic

The Alcon Career Center, ranked #10 for Careers/Employment for Poets & Quants, and TCU’s Center for Career & Professional Development, rated #8 Best Career Services by the Princeton Review, accelerated efforts to transition resources into virtual formats when COVID-19 began shutting campus down in the spring.

Throughout the summer, the centers have continued to provide 1-to-1 student career consultation appointments, virtual employer programs, and easy access to job and internship postings and announcements. The Alcon Career Center team built new online resources to connect alumni with students and provide additional student support resources.

For Fall 2020, the Alcon Career Center will continue to provide high-quality services for undergraduate TCU Neeley business students, including virtual and in-person advising with additional virtual drop-in/office advising hours, and virtual and in-person employer workshops, events, interviews, alumni panels and connections.

Note: Dearborn and Casby were funded by TCU’s Intern Scholarship Program, which transitioned to include virtual and remote internships, and also extended the eligibility requirements to graduating seniors. TCU’s Center for Career & Professional Development approved summer 2020 scholarships totaling more than $150,000 for 128 TCU students and recent grads.