Internship emphasizes networking for sports savvy Bellisario College student

Jeena Cadigan
August 05, 2020

(Editor’s Note: This is the seventh in a series of stories about students from the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications completing summer internships.)

One Penn State student is making connections all across the nation thanks to a program specifically created to encourage career development and networking this summer.

Tori Bookwalter, senior majoring in journalism from Finland, Ohio, is completing a virtual internship with Must Love Sports, a company that exists to encourage connections between sports industry and industry-adjacent leaders.

The 10-week internship program was conceived by Raleigh Anne Gary, CEO and founder of Must Love Sports, as a way to help students facing limited internship opportunities because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“While I know there is nothing more valuable than time spent learning from others in the office, absorbing the culture, getting hands on experience, it is my hope that the speakers, panels, mentor sessions, assignments and time spent getting to know their peers will give these students a solid start as they pursue what's next,” Gray said.

The program mostly consists of meetings with major influencers in the sports business, including CEOs, commissioners, founders, athletes and sports reporters. Student interns join the wide-ranging Zoom sessions, and the internships also offer opportunities for students to work on capstone projects with companies like Bleacher Report, NASCAR and Turner Sports.

Bookwalter, who participates virtually from Ohio, opted to not work on a capstone project but instead is focusing on her networking abilities. Each week, all 200 students are put into small groups with different peers in the program and have to connect with each other through email, text or Zoom.

“It’s been really great because I get to meet people from USC or Notre Dame,” Bookwalter said. “Those would never be people that I would get to connect with but now I get to meet those people and start networking early with the people who are going to run sports one day.”

One of the biggest topics discussed throughout the internship is diversity and inclusion in the sports industry. Bookwalter said she always tries to ask a question about women in sports in every meeting if it hasn’t already been discussed.

“There honestly has never been a better time for women to get involved with sports so it’s really just great to hear the things their companies are doing to try and make them more diverse,” Bookwalter said. “They really do try to look for women, people of color and people from all walks of life.”

Bookwalter spends the rest of her time getting feedback on her resume and cover letters and seeking advice on how to land a job in the sports industry after graduation. She said the biggest lesson she learned was how to stand out when applying to jobs. She developed her knowledge of what companies want to see from the meetings she's been attending where she is learning how different sports companies and organization operate.

Bookwalter applied to the internship after she got an email from Bob Martin, assistant dean for internships and career placement in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications. She felt it was a long shot to get into the program but was motivated after seeing many other internships being cancelled.

“I was looking for something because I didn’t want to look like I wasn’t doing anything for the entire summer,” Bookwalter said. “I applied for it and I got in.”

Along with providing her resume, the application process required Bookwalter to provide proof of a loss of internship due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Bookwalter said she is grateful for the internship and its unique structure because each meeting is created around who the students want to meet and what experiences they want to have over the 10-week program. The program ends this week.

“It’s kind of all centered around us and it’s been a great experience,” Bookwalter said. “We've been able to talk to a lot of people that I would have never been able to talk to otherwise so I’m really happy I found it.”

  • Tori Bookwalter with Holly Rowe

    Even before her summer internship that emphasized networking, Tori Bookwalter was practicing the skill — including a meeting with ESPN's Holly Rowe on campus last fall.

    IMAGE: Penn State
Last Updated August 06, 2020