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In a Virtual World, Meaningful Internships Still Matter


This past summer was anything but normal, but one thing didn’t change — our Scholars’ need for meaningful experiences. The Emerge Summer Internship Program provided just that in a virtual world. Emerge is a paid summer internship program that pairs our Scholars with businesses and nonprofit organizations. The mission is to provide our Scholars with the skills necessary to achieve their career goals and ultimately impact Chicago’s business and leadership landscapes. After interning throughout the week during the summer, Fridays are dedicated to professional development sessions where Scholars meet industry leaders, engage in programming intended to develop leadership skills, and reflect on their experiences. Over the last three years our Scholars have completed their summer internships to expand their skillset and grow their networks through the Emerge program.

Just as work and the workplace have changed in 2020, our summer internship program also looked a little different. There were delays in placement and rescinded offers related to COVID-19. However, thanks to our amazing 14 career partners, 25 Scholars, seven company hosts, and 31 volunteers, we were able to execute an incredibly meaningful summer program. This summer we launched a fully virtual format. This was a major adjustment in comparison to what we had done in the past. Together, we all navigated a new normal and worked to support all participants. Scholars interned across a variety of industries, companies, and organizations, including Goldman Sachs, UNICEF, Turner Construction, and The BrandLab.

“I was extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to intern at Wellington Management remotely. Initially, I did not know what to expect as this was my first internship,” says Wendy Chen, a Chicago Scholar at Northwestern University. “Navigating an internship online was challenging. Despite this, I learned to utilize the online format to my best advantage. As the weeks went by, I stepped outside of my comfort zone to schedule catch-ups or virtual coffee chats with different people at the firm. It was a great networking opportunity and to build relationships with the people I work with.”

Overall, our Scholars were able to adjust to virtual work/life integration and manage deadlines even as they were balancing other responsibilities at home, and in some cases, working other jobs on top of their internships. Our Scholars persevered through uncertainty, new norms, and excelled in their summer internships as they began their career journeys. And we’re proud to report that seven of our Scholars received internship extensions or return offers from their internships, and 100% of our Scholars surveyed felt that Emerge helped them to expand their networks. All of this goes to show that although there is still uncertainty about what future summer internships will look like, our Scholars are more than ready for the meaningful experiences our partners can provide.

Learn more about Emerge here.