Groundwork for Greatness
October 10, 2018
By Audrey St. Clair ’03
From curating a contemporary art exhibition to organizing logistics for race day, the crop of summer 2018 internships provided Rollins students with real-world experiences that were as diverse as they were productive.
In today’s competitive marketplace, internships have become increasingly valuable in positioning undergrads for success in graduate school and the workforce. At Rollins, our students have access to some of the world’s most robust and competitive internships, each of which provides on-the ground experience in an environment that connects classroom learning to real-world applications.
This past summer, Rollins students worked alongside accomplished professionals in their fields of interest, developing problem-solving skills, executing judgment calls, and building interpersonal working relationships. The following three internships showcase how this firsthand experience will prove essential as our students venture out into the great big world.
Gallery Curation, Snap! Space
A second consecutive summer of interning at Snap! Space has turned the gallery into a second home for Cameron Robinson ’19. The art history major worked alongside gallery owner Patrick Kahn, who has turned the photography-focused gallery—one of two in downtown Orlando—into a leading contemporary arts organization through his commitment to both art and social justice issues.
“I keep coming back to Snap! because I’m really learning things related to my future career goals of becoming a curator,” says Robinson. “The hands-on work I’ve been able to do has helped me really understand what it means to curate an exhibition from the ground up, and I feel more connected to my community in a new way through art and those I’ve met in the art world.”
This past summer, Robinson’s focus was curating an exhibition of local artists. She was responsible for everything from organizing the entries and selecting the winners to working on the actual installation and helping with the exhibition’s opening. Robinson credits the rigor and high expectations at Rollins for her success at her internship, where she’s applied her organizational and critical-thinking skills to real-world gallery work that has served to affirm and enhance her aspirations.
“When it finally came time for opening night of the exhibition we’d worked all summer on, it was so fulfilling to see all that we had accomplished, for it to be an actual success in the community and how proud all the artists were,” says Robinson. “Any way that I can be involved in and work with and be around art makes me really happy, and I know this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”
“I’m so thankful for the knowledge I’ve gained through this internship, which has given me such great respect for the art world, especially curators,” says Robinson. “I’ve been able to study art from so many angles, seeing how it shapes civilizations, how people use it to record their lives, and how it can be used for propaganda for political, social, and religious arguments.”
There’s no stopping Robinson on her path to becoming a force in the art world. Upon graduation, she plans to pursue two master’s degrees, one in art history and the other in curating.
Nonprofit Engagement, Office of Stephanie Murphy
As a congressional nonprofit engagement coordinator at the Office of U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, Ellie Heller ’21 immersed herself in the political process. The double major in political science and English was responsible for handling constituent paperwork, writing briefings for the congresswoman, and doing research on various new legislation. Because of Rollins’ Women’s Leadership Institute, Heller was able to grab this rare opportunity to do high-level work as a first-year student.
“It was so important for me to gain this experience in a federal office, where I learned so much about writing policy and legislation and how nonprofits really work,” says Heller.
Heller focused on legislation and policy focused on immigration, specifically related to Puerto Rico and the devastating effects of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. During the latter part of her internship, the Bonner Leader took the lead on locating, organizing, and categorizing all the nonprofits in the area in order to engage the congresswoman’s office in the local community.
“While attending an open-forum event with my supervisor and other staff members, I had the chance to listen to the stories and struggles of Puerto Rican immigrants who had come to Florida after Hurricane Irma,” says Heller. It was really touching and reminded me why I wanted to be a political science major in the first place.”
“With the support and feedback from my supervisor, I learned to believe in myself and have confidence in my intelligence, decisions, and goals,” says Heller, who started her internship as a nervous 18-year-old and emerged eight weeks later as a self-assured leader ready to make a real difference in the world.
As a sophomore, Heller is continuing her community service work with Rollins’ Bonner Leader Program and serving as a peer mentor. She plans to dedicate the first year or two after graduation to participate in a service program like AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps before ultimately pursuing her dream of working for a political nonprofit such as the ACLU.
“Giving back to my community and helping those around me has always been my No. 1 priority,” says Heller. “After this internship and all the skills and experience I’m gaining at Rollins, I know my career will reflect that in some capacity.”
Strategy Development, NASCAR
Faster, bigger, flashier—all of those are synonymous with better when it comes to NASCAR, and for eight weeks, Ryan O’Donnell ’20 worked on developing strategies to make the brand more of all three. O’Donnell worked in the New York City office as the only intern in the strategic development branch, which continually works on dreaming up big ideas and actionable plans to enhance the sport’s long-term trajectory.
“Because of the close student-teacher relationships I’ve built at Rollins, I was able to walk into the office on day one and interact with my superiors,” says O’Donnell. “I wasn’t afraid to ask questions or ask for help, and I really felt comfortable putting myself out there.”
By the end of his internship, O’Donnell had created a business deck on NASCAR’s video content strategy that he presented to the entire office. The social entrepreneurship and communication studies double major got a crash course in real-world communications and how to work remotely with key stakeholders and troubleshoot tactics based on their input.
Two weeks into the internship, the company—to the great delight of the employees and the sole intern—decided each office needed a full-blown racing simulator. O’Donnell practiced every day at lunch and ended up sweeping the floor with the office competition. This made him even more excited to be on the front lines on the Daytona International Speedway for the Coke Zero 400 in July when he took Rollins audiences on a behind-the-scenes tour of race day.
“Growing up only 30 minutes from Rollins and living in a place so close to home, I knew I needed to experience a new place,” says O’Donnell about his opportunity to intern in Manhattan. “I was able to grow in ways I know I wouldn’t have been about to if I’d interned somewhere close to home, and I got the chance to build relationships both in and outside of work that I know will serve me well in the future.”
O’Donnell has found his home in the sports world and is gravitating toward a career in consulting. Upon graduation, he plans to get a few years of work experience before applying to grad school.
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