Virtual internships increase opportunities for World Campus students

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — To complete the required internship for his bachelor’s degree in health policy and administration, Luke McClendon thought he would have to find time to work at a local hospital or travel to Pittsburgh, an hour away.

Finding extra time is no easy task for McClendon, 30, who, in addition to pursuing his degree online through Penn State World Campus, works 30 to 40 hours a week as a shift supervisor at Starbucks and is the father of two young sons.

McClendon was thrilled to learn about a new virtual internship program being offered by World Campus and was selected as one of its first crop of interns this fall. As an intern for the Alzheimer’s Association, he has worked on developing social media campaigns and increasing enrollment in a program that matches volunteers with research studies.

McClendon, who lives in Avella, near the West Virginia border, said his internship ties in well with his studies, and on occasion he has been able to join with local staff to participate in events such as the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

The 25 to 35 hours a week he spends on the internship is a challenge for him and his family, “but this is probably the way to minimize the strain the most,” he said. “This was a very fortuitous find.”

“It creates a community of interns that can share ideas and information. It’s not just, ‘Go off and do your own thing.’”

— Ashley Adams, World Campus director of student affairs

More than 60 students applied for eight internships with six organizations, according to Ashley Adams, director of student affairs for World Campus. The interns live across the United States — in California, Florida, Texas, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

In addition to the internship itself, the students must complete career-related assignments such as conducting informational interviews and posting their findings on a discussion board. Adams said that was an effort to replicate the networking opportunities of an in-person internship.

“It creates a community of interns that can share ideas and information,” she said. “It’s not just, ‘Go off and do your own thing.’”

Many World Campus students work full time as well as care for children or parents and may find it challenging to find a traditional internship opportunity that works with their schedules and far-flung locations, Adams said.

“This provides a really rich alternative,” she said. “Our office is always looking for opportunities to make sure that World Campus students have really full opportunities when it comes to engaged scholarship — those things that set students apart, like internships.”

Initial feedback from companies has been positive, and Adams hopes to expand the program in the spring semester and beyond. The deadline for applications for spring semester internships is Dec. 1.

Employers were chosen for the program because of their experience working with interns and telecommuters, and also received training to work with virtual interns. The six employers who participated in the fall internship program were the Virginia addiction treatment center Bacon Street Family and Youth Services, the Pennsylvania research and education network KINBER, Penn State World Campus, Penn State Outreach and Online Education, SEIU Local 668, and the Alzheimer’s Association.

Jeremy Bland, director of marketing and communications for the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Pennsylvania chapter, said the virtual internships have worked out even better than expected.

“We have things that need to be done that you don’t need to be sitting in an office to do,” Bland said. “It’s been an easy process.”

For more information about the virtual internships, visit the World Campus website.

Media Contacts: 
Last Updated November 11, 2017