IST alumnus, student partner for virtual pet-adoption-internship experience

Emma Riglin
July 30, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — College of Information Sciences and Technology alumnus Kurt Heslop originally joined the board of Hood River Adopt-a-Dog, an animal shelter in his county in Oregon, for a simple reason: He wanted to spend time with dogs. But after a short while of being involved with the nonprofit, he realized how much the organization meant to him and the town he lives in.

“Dog ownership is an important part of people’s lives and it’s an important part of our community,” Heslop said.

As a lead business consultant at Perficient, Heslop said he never felt he had enough time to be a pet owner. But he realized that his expertise could help shelter animals in a unique way.

“I felt that I was able to contribute an interesting perspective to the board being a [technology] consultant and bring that technology experience,” he said.

Since Heslop joined the shelter's board in January 2019, he has helped improve the organization's communications and contributed to the shelter doubling its social media presence. But the novel coronavirus pandemic has since posed new communication and adoption challenges for the organization. Heslop and another board member have been working extensively over the past few months to help the organization function during the pandemic. Part of their work includes helping the shelter move all trainings and fundraisers online.

“[We’ve] been able to use our experience in technology, and my experience from the College of IST, to help assist the shelter in ways that we didn’t think we’d need to a couple of months ago,” said Heslop, who received his degree in 2013.

When the pandemic hit, Heslop and the other board members decided it was time to update the organization’s website, with more people than ever engaging online due to lockdown measures. Heslop said the current website posed usability issues that he wanted to fix, and he immediately thought that College of IST students could help with the task.

“I remember trying to find an internship my junior year,” Heslop said. “I wanted to be able to give back to the College of IST and to also help a student move forward in their career.”

So Heslop posted an ad seeking interns through the College of IST’s Office of Career Solutions and Corporate Engagement. Rising senior and information sciences and technology major Taylor Kost applied immediately.

“I wanted to be able to give back to the College of IST and to also help a student move forward in their career.” 

—Kurt Heslop, Penn State College of IST class of 2013 

After her original summer internship opportunity was cancelled due to the pandemic, Kost said she was looking for a position where she could virtually combine her creativity with her technology skills, and Hood River Adopt-a-Dog's website design project was the perfect fit.

“I've heard about a lot of students who have lost their jobs and couldn't find anything else, so I'm thankful and lucky that I have this opportunity,” Kost said. “I think that it's great because it's with a Penn State alum. I’ll have something positive to talk to employers about when I'm looking for a job.”  

According to Heslop, Kost was the first applicant for the position, and the board was excited when Heslop sent her resume around at the prospect of getting other candidates with similar skillsets. After an interview with Kost, where Heslop ran through a list of various softwares and skills he hoped for the candidate to have — and noted that Kost was a “yes in every box” — the board decided that she was the best fit for the position.

Now several weeks into the internship, Kost is working to redesign the organization’s website with the goal of easy accessibility for volunteers and board members, while also making it visually appealing for potential pet adopters. A dog lover herself, Kost said she enjoys the opportunity to help dogs in a unique way through the internship. Her ultimate goal is to create a concise website for the organization so there is something new for the staff and customers to look forward to in these difficult times.

Heslop is happy to have someone as dedicated to the project as Kost, and is honored that he can offer this unique opportunity to a College of IST student.

“This internship is real project experience,” Heslop said. “This is as close to what our organization is capable of offering to what Taylor will see in the workplace and gives her the ability to work in the nonprofit sector.”

Kost has enjoyed her internship so much that she scheduled more web design courses into her fall curriculum.

“My favorite thing about the internship is it lets me be creative,” Kost said. “Web design is another way for me to express my creativity and design passions, so it's been exciting in that aspect.”

After switching majors from graphic design to IST when she realized she was more passionate about her technology classes than those focused on design, Kost still wasn’t sure what career path she wanted to pursue until this summer.

“The internship is making me realize that I want to have this as a career,” Kost said. “It's really fun, and I’m getting a first-hand look at what I could be doing for the rest of my life with this internship.”

Last Updated August 04, 2020