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Campus & Community

Summer Gains

In Wake of Canceled Internships Elsewhere, UMD Employees Create New Program for Students to Earn Professional Experience

By Annie Krakower

Illustration of woman on Zoom video conference

Illustration by Shutterstock

Student teams in the 12-week summer internship program started by Joseph Drasin, senior director of enterprise planning and continuous improvement in DIT, meet two to four times per week via Zoom for research, discussion and brainstorming about enhancing operations around UMD.

Samhita Chundury’s summer plans withered before the season’s heat set in, as management and information technology consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton canceled her internship amid COVID-related concerns. 

But now, thanks to employees in UMD’s own Division of Information Technology (DIT), the rising senior bioengineering major is a couple of days away from using real-world experience to address a tangible on-campus challenge.

Joseph Drasin, senior director of enterprise planning and continuous improvement in DIT, started an impromptu 12-week summer internship program, hoping to help 31 Terps like Chundury gain professional practice despite coronavirus closings. Along with a dozen volunteer staff members, he partnered with the University Career Center to virtually lead six consulting-focused student projects, each seeking to help different campus departments streamline their processes.

“That really was our focus—those who had lost internships, particularly upperclassmen. We wanted to make sure they had something to talk about at the (job) interview,” Drasin said. “We have a framework where we break down the problem, research, interview and put together recommendations. It’s a pretty standard consulting framework that they’ll use at their first jobs.”

He came up with the idea in April while browsing Reddit, where several deflated UMD students posted about losing summer jobs and internships. A partner faculty fellow teaching the new Transform Maryland track in the Honors College’s University Honors program, he realized he could convert that practicum, in which students identify operational process challenges on campus and propose solutions, into a similar online summer program.

Drasin reached out to DIT staff members, who volunteered to lead Terp teams, and colleagues around campus, who helped identify potential problems for students to tackle.

“We knew that Joseph already had a structure in mind, but were amazed at his ability to pull in so many volunteer staff members,” said Kelley Bishop, University Career Center director. “This (program) is about the process, the skills required to execute the process. In order to do this well, you have to bond as a team. From an employer’s perspective, that’s exactly what we want students to learn.” 

With Bishop helping to spread the word through email listservs, eager applicants flooded in. The teams, each comprising students with a variety of majors and two staff mentors, meet two to four times per week via Zoom for research, discussion and brainstorming about enhancing operations around UMD, like DIT’s service delivery, Limited Enrollment Programs’ application process and Dining Services’ fall reopening plans.

Chundury’s team project deals with helping the Administrative Modernization Program based in the Office of the Provost ensure that all undergraduates have equal access to internship opportunities.

“Some of the skills I could take away from this are some I didn’t even know I had,” she said. “I’ve learned that I’m concept-oriented, able to connect what the big ideas are and put them into a process. I’m really good at seeing the whole picture.”

Each team will participate in an end-of-internship competition on Friday as they present their recommendations virtually to senior UMD administrators and see whose idea comes out on top.

“It’s been a lot more seamless than I expected,” Drasin said. “The staff and students dedicated a lot of time. My staff has really enjoyed working with the students and how mature, intelligent and dedicated they have been.”

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Marketing and Communications for the University of Maryland community on weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.