The coronavirus pandemic has significantly compromised internship opportunities for college students, preventing many students from getting a head start on their career path.
Internships were postponed or canceled outright due to COVID-19-related hiring freezes. Other opportunities were hastily transformed into virtual or hybrid formats, an experience some students found to be unfulfilling, according to Inside Higher Ed.
Now that vaccination rates are increasing nationally and regional restrictions are eased or lifted, it’s resembling business as usual for college internships.
“Both employers and students are feeling more confident engaging virtually or in a hybrid environment,” said Nicole Bailey, director of La Salle University’s Career Center. “Even in-person interactions are supported by platforms to engage and collaborate virtually. Since our students had to engage virtually in the classroom, they have become much more comfortable and confident interacting in this way.”
Meet a few La Salle students bolstering their skills and leveraging opportunities through internships this summer.
After amassing a significant amount of sports media experience at the college level, Tyler Small, ’22 is going pro this summer.
Small has provided play-by-play commentary for La Salle teams on the ESPN+ streaming platform. He’s covered games for the Collegian and hosted sports talk shows on La Salle TV. This summer, he is interning with the Reading Fightin’ Phils. The Sussex County, N.J., native has been calling games for the Double A minor league affiliate of Philadelphia Phillies on radio and working in the team’s public relations department.
Small works remotely from New Jersey when the Fightin’ Phils are on the road, and stays in Reading for the team’s weeklong homestands, working out of FirstEnergy Stadium.
Typical of jobs in minor league sports, Small wears many hats. In addition to broadcasting alongside Reading’s lead play-by-play announcer Emily Messina, Small prepares game notes for the press, manages the team’s social media channels, schedules player interviews, and collaborates with the team’s video department.
He is relishing the opportunity to participate in the day-to-day operation of a pro sports team.
“One of the best aspects of my La Salle education has been learning sports media from every angle,” said Small, a communication major with a minor in English. “Now that I’m in Reading, I’m lucky to be part of the actual work that gets done in a pro sports front office while I’m gaining more on- air experience.”
Ultimately, Small would like to become a professional broadcaster. But as he learns more about the inner workings of a pro sports franchise, he’s open to different opportunities.
“Now I feel more comfortable letting life take its course, whether I’m on the broadcast side, the writing side, or behind the scenes,” said Small. “There’s a number of ways my career could go.”
Finding an appropriate internship, as she worked toward her master’s degree in public history, proved challenging for Selena Bemak, ’19, M.A. ’21, with many museums and historical societies experiencing diminished hours of operation due to the pandemic.
Bemak’s persistence led her to the Delaware Historical Society in Wilmington, Del. Less than a week after applying, she was on the job, virtually—poring over documents from the mid-17th century through the mid-19th century to trace the history of African-Americans and slavery in Delaware.
“I’m using my combined experience working at the La Salle University Archives and other historic homes, plus my courses that I’ve taken in archiving and public history,” said Bemak, who earned her bachelor’s degree in history from La Salle in 2019.
Bemak began working at the Delaware Historical Society in person after a few weeks, traveling from her Philadelphia home to Wilmington, where her responsibilities involved digitizing the museum’s documents on slavery for a project called “Liberty in Our Grasp.” The goal is to use the digitized documents to pilot lesson plans for Delaware public school teachers on the history of slavery in the state.
“These lessons have been taught, but sparingly,” said Bemak, who will complete her master’s degree this August. “A lot of people don’t know that Delaware was a slave holding state because it was part of the Union during the American Civil War. We’re working on trying to change the curriculum.”
Working simultaneously on the curatorial side and public programming at the Historical Society aligns with Bemak’s preferred career path.
“I’m leaning toward something that is both event-based and curatorial-based,” said Bemak. “I want to work with the public in an outward-facing role. But I’m not ruling out teaching in my future.”
Accounting and finance major Nathan Kolb, ’23, received two internship offers for the summer: One was with a Big Four accounting firm, a coveted assignment for an aspirant accountant. The other was from Christian Brothers Investment Services, a Chicago-based company founded in the Lasallian mission and responsible for financial portfolio management of Catholic organizations like hospitals and archdioceses.
Kolb opted to join the Christian Brothers Investment Services, citing the potential opportunities for professional development.
“I felt that I could do more with Christian Brothers,” said Kolb, a native of Phoenixville, Pa. “I know everyone knows the Big 4 firms, but I feel that I’m able to boost my development in terms of networking and skills that I could always use later.”
Kolb also pointed to the company’s ethically minded investment strategies as another attractive aspect of the internship.
“It isn’t your typical investment company,” said Kolb, who plans to pursue a career in public accounting. “They maintain a profit while trying to ultimately hold themselves accountable for making investments that reflect values of the Christian Brothers.”
The 10-week virtual internship features two segments, with Kolb spending the first four weeks in the accounting department, and the remaining six weeks on the investment management side. Kolb said his post is more than just creating and analyzing financial statements. He described it as a well-rounded learning experience.
“I have been through a program for interns to learn more about the Catholic teachings and about Christian Brothers Investment Services,” said Kolb. “I have also met (virtually) with various employees including the CEO and the CIO to connect, learn, and network. Overall, I’m learning more about the industry.”