Union University communication arts students learned about working for corporate nonprofit companies through internships this summer with Compassion International, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Buckner International.
Amelia Krauss, a senior journalism major from Florida, spent three months at Compassion International’s Global Ministries Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., researching best practices for communication between Compassion’s field teams around the world. Krauss’ work culminated in a 126-page report and presentations before Compassion’s child sponsorship department and the department’s leadership board. To gather research one day on best practices from the world’s leading development organizations, Krauss participated in a webcast hosted by the World Bank, during which she was able to converse via the internet with United Nations officials.
Jeff Thompson, senior digital media studies-communication arts major, and Kathryn Flippin, senior public relations major, stayed close to their Dallas, Texas, and Memphis, Tenn., homes for their internships.
Thompson designed advertisements, posters, fliers and even a granite memorial plaque as a member of the graphic design team at Buckner, a ministry that provides many domestic and international humanitarian programs, including Shoes for Orphan Souls, which provides shoes for needy children around the world. Flippin, as the development team intern, helped to plan one of the largest fundraisers the Mid-South chapter of Make-A-Wish hosts each year to raise money so the foundation can grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions.
Krauss, Thompson and Flippin said they were glad they had followed their professors’ advice to network and seek out “real-world” experience in their fields of study. Each said they returned to Union from their internships not certain of their exact career plans, but certain they had gained valuable, formative experiences.
“It was really encouraging to see that even though this internship wasn’t directly related to journalism, all the skills and abilities I’ve learned in the past three years were very much put to use,” Krauss said. “I had to take initiative to research the problem I was trying to solve. Being able to communicate with people and being able to take the initiative to set up those interviews and dig deep was helpful. I could write effectively and communicate ideas simply.”
Thompson’s internship made him interested in broadening his skill set in his last year at Union so he knows design programs for computers well when he graduates, he said.
He said the internship also gave him insight into joining and being a part of an organization’s community.
“It sounds cliche, but first impressions are everything,” Thompson said. “Your first impression is who you are (to your co-workers). You establish yourself and your personality those first couple of days.”
Flippin said through working in the development department she discovered a whole new field — donor relations and development — in which she could apply her public relations skills and strategic planning.
“Donor relations is a lot of PR work,” Flippin said. “We would work very closely with the communication team, but sometimes, because I have so much background in communications — from knowing how to design a flier to writing press releases, my supervisor was able to just use me instead of going to the communications department.”
The internship programs for three students took different approaches to expanding the students’ growth during the internship. Compassion’s program took a holistic approach, Krauss said. Krauss and the 21 other interns at the Global Ministries Center who were chosen from approximately 400 applicants participated in weekly sessions about professional development and spiritual formation. They lived in host homes of other Compassion employees, participated in mentorship relationships with employees and served in the community together.
Thompson’s and Flippin’s internships did not have a spiritual growth element. Thompson said he considered the day of shadowing a manager of a print shop one of the highlights of his internship.
Flippin recorded what she learned throughout the summer in a notebook. She and Krauss both said they are making an effort to remind themselves on a regular basis of what they learned from their internships.
“An internship puts you in the real world and lets you see what people who have the job you are interested in do on a daily basis,” Flippin said. “It is very beneficial because it shows you a whole other side that is not necessarily found in a textbook.”