Internships are a vital part of the St. Edward’s experience. They teach valuable job skills, provide professional contacts and enhance your future employment and graduate school opportunities. Last year, 74% of students on the hilltop completed internships prior to graduating.

You may be wondering how internships have changed during the pandemic. Are they harder to find? Are there fewer choices to match your interests? Can you really benefit from mentoring, collaboration and training in a remote environment?

We asked several students involved in remote internships this semester to give us an inside look at their experience. Each is working with Foundation Communities, one of eight Austin-based nonprofits partnering with St. Edward’s to make their internships available to Hilltoppers. The foundation provides affordable, attractive housing and a range of support services to help individuals and families get back on their feet during challenging life transitions.

See how these four students are getting the most from their internships — and making a difference — despite the pandemic.
 

Nina Martinez

Nina
Martinez ’23

Writing and Rhetoric major, Communications Intern

What drew me to this internship is that many of the people helped by Foundation Communities are veterans who are experiencing homelessness. I come from a big military family, and I've seen firsthand how returning from the military into everyday life can be a very difficult transition, so supporting veterans is one of my passions.

My work is very hands on, even though remote. I love that I get to tell the stories of the communities’ “resilient residents,” which is what we call them. It’s really powerful to be part of changing the dialogue on how the public speaks about people who’ve lost their jobs during Covid-19 or who are homeless.

My supervisor is a great role model and also a journalism major. She makes sure I conduct interviews the right way and ask the right questions. She has taught me how to write and speak on sensitive topics, and how to shine a bright light on the residents. In the process, I’m learning to be a better team player.

It means a lot that Holy Cross values are reflected in my internship. My parents, my grandmother and my godmother went to St. Edward's. So I grew up with these values. Helping other people and seeing what my internship work can do to make a difference makes me realize how important that is to me. It also broadens my horizons.

I’ve changed how I view people who struggle. Foundation Communities does an amazing job of giving low income families and people who are struggling hope and a new perspective on life. I don't sympathize anymore. I empathize, and I want to know what else I can do. I know that whoever I work for in the future must have this same respect for people.
 

Taylor McGee

Taylor
McGee ’21

Religious and Theological Studies major, Volunteer Engagement Intern

I appreciate the resources St. Edward’s has provided for internships during the pandemic, especially for remote students. And I'm grateful to be working with Foundation Communities. They do an outstanding job of offering services to a diverse range of underserved people. I’m proud to be a part of helping their 2,500 volunteers stay informed and engaged.

My mindset is that I can definitely learn something from everything. And I’m doing that in this internship — from Zoom meeting etiquette and managing the intricacies of a big project to organizing my time and communicating professionally.

Being the only Black female on my team at Foundation Communities is allowing me to learn and understand how to navigate my voice and express how I feel in a business setting, which is super important for any minority individual in the workforce.

I’m developing useful skills that go beyond my major, such as creating communication tools for a big get-out-the-vote project aimed at informing the foundation’s residents. I had to identify and communicate everything about polling locations and voting for the foundation’s volunteers to share with residents across Texas. It was such an important responsibility to provide those resources to voters for an action that impacts the nation.

My supervisor is super great as a boss and a mentor. She has been my go-to person to turn to in learning moments and so much more. Plus, she is helping me make some academic connections. I plan to go to a post-graduate program at Notre Dame to earn my master’s in education. My supervisor connected me to someone at Foundation Communities who participated in the same program. Wow, that’s what makes an internship even more valuable!
 

Samantha Cienfuegos

Samantha
Cienfuegos ’21

Writing and Rhetoric major, Grant Writing Intern

Foundation Communities is one of my favorite nonprofits in Austin. Interning there intertwines my two favorite things: writing and working with nonprofits. At some point, I think I’d like to form my own nonprofit, and grant writing is important to that goal.

I’m gaining knowledge on the ins and outs of grant writing. And despite being remote this semester, I’m getting a behind-the-scenes look at the entire grant process. So far, I’ve created two boilerplate templates for the grants team to pull language from when writing their respective grants; it’s a cheat sheet that makes it easier for the foundation to receive the money it deserves.

My dream job has definitely changed thanks to this internship. I originally wanted to be a playwright (and still do), but now I see the value of working as a grant writer post-grad. Grant writing is essentially storytelling, and I’ve learned to appreciate the power that each grant document holds. To create a nonprofit, I need to know how to finance it, and Foundation Communities is teaching me how to do so. I’m also brushing up on my storytelling skills, which is essential as a writer.

My favorite thing about my internship is that my supervisor gives me the freedom to get what I want out of the experience. I’m learning a lot about communication, time management and meeting deadlines. I’m also learning how to create and maintain connections. Networking is a skill that doesn’t come easily to me, but this role has helped me ease into it.

I’m grateful to my professor at St. Edward’s who taught my Grant Writing class. Beth Eakman constantly encouraged me to bring my skillset to an internship at Foundation Communities. Her guidance led me to this experience, and it’s showing me that I’m capable of achieving a lot more than I give myself credit for.
 

Vivian Phillips

Vivian
Phillips ’21

Global Studies and Spanish major, Volunteer Engagement Intern

My first internship at St. Edward’s was with a nonprofit last year. It made me want to get more experience in that area. When Foundation Communities offered me a position, I didn’t have to think twice.

I’ve never done a remote internship, and I was concerned about how it would work. It’s been a valuable learning experience. I really appreciated how my team, and especially my supervisor, has made this internship so well-rounded. They recognize things have changed because of Covid-19 and have created a comfortable, productive work process.

Even though I haven’t met the staff in person, I feel like I know everyone. The digital platform we use offers everything to make remote teamwork effective. In my first months, my role was more task based as I learned the ropes. Now I’m handling ongoing volunteer-engagement projects, such as their Holiday Assistance Program that encourages their volunteers to help support residents during the holidays.

As I approach my last year at St. Edward’s, I hope to take part in a Fulbright fellowship program after graduation. (After that, I want to go to law school, then aim for a career in the nonprofit sector.) The St. Edward’s Fellowship office staff has been very supportive in helping me apply for my Fulbright. So has my internship supervisor. She connected me with former Fulbright participants she knows who’ve offered great suggestions and input.

One of the most important things I’m learning is the nuance of time management. Everything is more back-to-back now. With travel time to and from offices and classes eliminated, it creates a more concentrated work load. I thought I was good at juggling my time, but I've learned new skills and how to prioritize more effectively to get things done across all areas of my life. That's something I can take with me wherever I go.
 


Our Austin Partnerships Create Internship Opportunities

Foundation Communities is one of eight organizations in Austin currently participating in the St. Edward’s Community Federal Work Study (CFWS) internship program, which allows students to intern off campus and remotely while being paid through federal work study funds. Our Career and Professional Development team sets up the program with various nonprofit sites.

“We’re proud of the high-quality internship options we’ve opened up for students through this initiative.” says Jason De La Rosa, director of Career and Professional Development. “These organizations are excellent partners in mentoring our students and helping them build job skills, especially during the Covid-19 crisis. We look forward to building more of these partnerships in the Austin community, which is part of the university’s larger plan to enrich our students’ educational experience.”

To accommodate the pandemic environment, De La Rosa and staff overhauled the communication streams, hiring process and onboarding steps with all internship site partners for the 2020–2021 academic year. Other partners in Austin include:

  • Communities in Schools
  • Hispanic Scholarship Consortium
  • Long Center for the Performing Arts
  • Mexic-Arte Museum
  • Museum of Human Achievement
  • Women's Storybook Project
  • TILT Performance Group