In early March, students at UNC Greensboro, like many students across the country, were told they would have to finish the semester virtually. This transition created many academic and social challenges for students, but for Master of Business Administration (MBA) students in the Bryan School of Business and Economics, the transition to online coursework was just the beginning.
Students in the MBA Early Career Professional Program are required to complete a summer internship. These internships help students gain real-world experience, make meaningful connections, and apply the skills they’ve learned in the program. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many students found themselves with very few internship opportunities available. In fact, between March 9 and April 13, Glassdoor saw a 52% decrease in internship openings.
Despite these circumstances, two students, Calesha Lucas and Evan Graham, were able to turn the pandemic into an opportunity for growth.
Lucas, who is pursuing an MBA with a marketing concentration, spent months searching and applying for internships before being accepted to the Campus Greensboro Fellows Program. Lucas is one of six MBA students and 17 UNCG students to be accepted into the Campus Greensboro Fellows Program this year.
Lucas interviewed with multiple Campus Greensboro partner organizations and secured a position as an integrated compliance assessment intern with ITG Brands. She works to regularly review four ITG Brands production plants and audit production components.
Although her internship is not the traditional in-person experience she expected, Lucas explains that she has gained valuable skills that she would not have developed otherwise.
“Working from home can be a challenge. It can get lonely just staring at four walls every day, and the possibilities are endless when it comes to distractions like Netflix and Twitter. It requires discipline and focus. The main inspiration that keeps me going is knowing that my leadership, organization, and communication skills are needed today to assemble a project that will be used for years to come within the company.”
Like Lucas, Graham, who is pursuing an MBA with an IT concentration, spent the better part of the academic year applying and interviewing for various internships. Ultimately, they all fell through because of the pandemic.
“Most of the positions I was applying for were actually in California, and the one I got the furthest with was an esports planning position for Sony’s professional esports division,” said Graham. “I was really excited, but when things got bad with the outbreak everything sort of broke down. It was really disappointing.”
Despite being unable to secure a summer internship, Graham was able to extend his graduate assistantship with the Bryan School through the summer. He is currently working with multiple professors in the Department of Information Systems and Supply Chain Management. In addition to providing virtual classroom support and class preparation for the professors, Graham is working with Associate Professor Larry Taube to develop an MBA-level Operations Management course to be offered online in the fall.
“It is exciting to give recommendations about the class and what I, as a student, would prefer and would like to see. I’m also helping to find online resources like articles and videos that I know will help students this fall.”
Despite the challenges of the spring and summer terms, Graham has maintained a positive growth mindset and looks forward to finding future opportunities. He plans to complete his internship next year.
“I learned a lot through this process. Even though it was really disheartening to get emails back from a position I really wanted and to hear that they were going in a different direction, I learned to keep my head up. A ‘no’ isn’t definitive. Just because they said no this time doesn’t mean it will be a no forever, and it doesn’t mean I can’t try again.”
To learn more about the MBA program or the other programs offered through the Bryan School, please visit bryan.uncg.edu.
Story by Chloe Blythe, University Communications
Photography courtesy of Evan Graham and Calesha Lucas