Rollins’ esteemed Gateway Fellows funded internship program welcomed its third cohort this past summer, connecting Tars to some of the world’s most coveted opportunities.
An aspiring lawmaker raising the profile of a national LGBTQ+ rights group. A professor-in-the-making pushing for reforms in chemistry education. A hopeful physician researching public health crises in Kenya. Despite the many challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the third cohort of Gateway Fellows set out into the world not only to gain invaluable hands-on experience, but also to learn what it really takes to effect change in organizations and companies at the forefront of their industries.
Launched in 2018, the Gateway Fellows program—previously Rollins Professional Fellows—is a highly selective funded internship program that gives Rollins students the opportunity to participate in some of the world’s most prestigious programs. Trustee Carroll Hanley Goggin ’85 provided the seed funding, and this past March, Trustee Campbell Brown ’90 pledged $2 million to the program’s endowment, which will offer perpetual funding through Rollins’ Center for Career & Life Planning.
“Creating excellent opportunities for our students to apply what they learn in the classroom across real-world business projects provides our young leaders with great perspective of the challenges our communities and businesses face every day,” says Brown. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to be able to facilitate these experiences for our most important assets and brand ambassadors—the students of Rollins College.”
To date there have been 47 Gateway Fellows, and this recent cohort of 18 students traversed time zones and made connections with a blend of remote and in-person work everywhere from Australia to Brazil. Gateway Fellows are free to fully immerse themselves in these prestigious opportunities without the concern of additional financial burden, as funding for the program covers all expenses, including accommodations, travel, and food.
“Campbell Brown’s gift not only creates sustainability,” says Norah Perez, director of experiential learning in the Center for Career & Life Planning, “but it also creates enthusiasm and excitement for other alumni to contribute to this program.”
This past summer, each of the following fellows tested their ability to respond and persevere in the face of ever-evolving circumstances, grasping in real time the importance of the critical-thinking and creative problem-solving skills they’re learning at Rollins.
Jazlynn Breton ’21’s summer internship at Fundación Génesis—an organization that provides assistance to those living in extreme poverty in Costa Rica—helped crystallize her plans to become a marital and family therapist. Made possible by United Planet, this internship allowed the psychology major to create and launch the nonprofit’s first-ever international fundraiser, the proceeds of which will help buy food for children with disabilities who are suffering even more now amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Breton expects the Spanish-language fluency she sharpened to help communicate with future therapy clients and that the marketing skills she gained will be essential for eventually launching her independent private practice.
“As a Rollins student, I’ve learned how important it is to become a global citizen, and through this internship I really got to see that firsthand. My supervisor told me how impressed she was by my professionalism, decision-making, and listening and organizational skills, and this experience was the perfect preparation for grad school.”
Marcus Davis ’20 ’21MBA found a seat at the table at Leadership Winter Park, a Chamber of Commerce program that offers a behind-the-scenes look at critical issues confronting the community and identifies emerging leaders. The international business major engaged with key stakeholders, participated in meetings, created agendas, and executed programs—all essential experience that will support his dream of becoming a C-suite executive.
“I was able to engage with the decision makers of the community, which helped me demonstrate the skills necessary to become a decision maker myself,” says Davis, who is enrolled in Rollins’ 3/2 Accelerated Management Program, a five-year dual bachelor’s degree and MBA from the Crummer Graduate School of Business. “It was extremely surprising and beneficial to see the projects that I contributed to come to life. They provided me with the first step in my professional career and helped me clarify my talents, abilities, and goals toward working in business development.”
Andrew Stewart ’21 took a leap of faith to serve in a leadership role at Homoglobin, an LGBTQ+ advocacy group dedicated to overturning an FDA ban on blood donations from people who are sexually active with gay or bisexual men. In just a few short months, the biochemistry/molecular biology major helped the nonprofit grow from 10 to 43 volunteers, recruiting state directors to expand its national footprint and tackling hot-button issues of the moment such as COVID-19, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the upcoming presidential election.
“I really learned how to manage myself but also had to do a lot of research about what goes into a marketing campaign and how to expand your organization through social media,” says Stewart. “I also got to develop my leadership skills. I hadn’t been in a place where I’ve been able to veto something or guide or approve it. These skills will translate well to being a physician focused on public health.”
A remote internship at Feiy, a Shanghai-based nonprofit focused on sustainability issues, taught Regan Iberal ’22 about accelerating solutions for the social good. The psychology major and social entrepreneurship minor worked closely with the co-founder, building case studies of trailblazing companies such as Patagonia, which is lauded for turning a profit while promoting sustainability. This is a useful model for Iberal, who seeks to innovate in the field of mental health and open her own clinic for those, like her stepbrother, who suffer from debilitating mental illnesses such as schizophrenia.
“I learned so much from the social entrepreneurs at Feiy, including a lot about time management and how to write to grab people’s attention,” says Iberal. “I know this experience will help me with my goal of creating a safe environment where I can work with other psychologists and psychiatrists to offer the right balance of therapy and medication to improve people’s lives.”
Tyler Nagy ’22 snagged a rare opportunity in a cutting-edge field with an organization in the global manufacturing hub of Shenzhen, China. From the comfort of home, the mathematics and public policy and political economy double major performed market research on the North American drone industry, penned press releases, and outlined a new charter for the World Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Federation. Nagy appreciates having been treated like an employee and an equal and for being encouraged to think outside the box during his internship, which was facilitated through International Studies Abroad (ISA). Nagy’s immersion in this high-flying, high-tech space feeds his aspiration to pursue postgraduate studies in data science, mathematics, or another analytical field.
“I was most surprised with the creative freedom I was given by my supervisors,” says Nagy. “I was able to have a fantastic international learning and working experience during these uncertain times. I may have been working from home, but I learned a lot about China’s culture, and now I have a great international internship to add to my resume that will bolster my job prospects in the future.”
Anthropology major Kirsten Barry ’21 was among a select few participants in the first virtual internship program at ISA Global, assisting businesses in Australia with marketing strategies. Barry quickly bonded with four other U.S. students as they collaborated to help an exhaust systems manufacturer understand its competitive strengths and weaknesses while also applying macroeconomic analysis to help a publishing company understand the U.S. political, social, and economic climate.
“I learned how to develop and demonstrate key global skills such as cultural consciousness, initiative, service-orientedness, and teamwork,” says Barry, who plans to pursue either an MBA or an advanced degree in public health. “Further, I learned to apply research, consulting, and innovation techniques to real-world client briefs, which allowed me to provide valuable business solutions.”
Hannah Jackson ’21 ’22MBA got up to speed quickly at dasFlow, an innovative Orlando startup that specializes in eco-friendly athletic wear. The social entrepreneurship major’s ideas for promotional strategies had caught the attention of the company founder during a Rollins capstone class. As an intern, revamping the website and performing market research for the growing business provided a leg up for Jackson’s long-term career pursuit of advancing social responsibility as a corporate leader.
“My internship helped me gain real-world experience learning how sustainable businesses function and make decisions to keep their corporate social responsibility as a priority,” says Jackson. “As a social entrepreneurship major, I’ve learned about numerous case studies of organizations and companies that have a social or environmental focus, but being able to actually work for one has allowed me to better understand why certain products are chosen and how best to market certain products, choose your target audience, and drive sales.”
EJ Broker ’22 loves teaching others about chemistry and helping them overcome the complexities and stigmas that are so often associated with the subject, so an internship with the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) was a perfect match. The chemistry and Spanish double major took charge of an extensive literature review to track progress in reforming chemistry education, working toward a National Science Foundation (NSF) proposal to encourage funding reforms.
“The moment you tell anyone you’re a chemist, they make a face and tell you all about how chemistry was the worst subject they ever had in high school, and that needs to change,” says Broker. “It’s a subject of modernity, possibility, and change, and everyone should have the opportunity to pursue it. We’re at a turning point in our culture because of the pandemic, which just might be the perfect catalyst for much-needed changes in higher education.”
Public health is rooted in disease prevention, which is how Isabel Adamus ’22 believes medicine should be practiced. Seeking to become a physician, the biochemistry/molecular biology and anthropology double major reveled in combining community-based research with social activism at the Kenya Medical Research Institute, where she completed a five-week virtual internship facilitated by the School for International Training (SIT). Focus areas included tuberculosis, child health, and HIV—with many discussions of COVID-19. Adamus engaged with fellow students from across the U.S., Europe, and Africa to critique medical studies and analyze raw data, presenting on public health topics and devising original protocols to address gaps in the existing body of research.
“We learned how a research study is designed, implemented, and analyzed in a culturally appropriate way to address local public health issues that are globally relevant,” says Adamus. “I enhanced my cross-cultural communication and presentation skills, learned about the culture of East Africa, and explored the role of the social determinants of health. This internship experience has completely changed the way I view research, surveillance, data analysis, epidemiology, community engagement, and social activism.”
Truman Scholar Wyatt Deihl ’21 polished his leadership skills and legal knowledge as an intern at Homoglobin, blending his passions to combat discrimination and advance public health. As Florida’s regional operations intern at Homoglobin, which fights anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination, Deihl built up the nonprofit’s presence, overseeing efforts toward fundraising, lobbying, governmental relations, research, community outreach, and capacity building. Launching a letter-writing campaign to ban conversion therapy, he was surprised to learn how little people know about the extent of discrimination against LGBTQ+ communities.
“It was useful because I gained the necessary skills in policy and government to create sustainable changes in the lives of Florida’s LGBTQ+ people,” says Deihl, a first-generation college student who crafted his own major in health, medicine, and society. “My long-term career goal is to be Florida’s first openly gay U.S. representative, and this internship really highlighted the continued discrimination that LGBTQ+ people face and helped inform my future work in correcting these injustices.”
Economics major Lucca Goncalves ’21 learned how the public and private sectors work together to sponsor economic development in Central Florida by supporting businesses owned by minorities, women, and veterans. Through analyzing financial documentation for CPA audits, maintaining databases, and assisting county vendors through the recertification process, Goncalves gained just the kind of real-world experience he needs to fulfill his long-term goal of becoming a compliance officer in the banking industry.
“The work I did in this internship is very similar to the work of a compliance officer, whose duties consist of revising documentation to ensure compliance with governmental regulations,” says Goncalves. “I met outstanding professionals who were extremely friendly and knowledgeable and taught me the importance of ethics and civic spirit.”
An internship with the Orlando Chapter of the United Nations connected Carley Matthews ’22 to other student social justice activists with similar passions and enabled her to conduct research on pressing issues during an election year. After reading about voter suppression during her internship, the psychology major led an Instagram takeover on the Rollins account in partnership with the Democracy Project and Sigma Gamma Rho on behalf of the Black Student Union. Finding systemic solutions to systemic problems is sticking with Matthews, who’s interested in pursuing a master’s degree in counseling and then working with a nonprofit that focuses on youth and mental health.
“This internship gave me the opportunity to find the connections between academics and activism,” says Matthews. “I believe that due to COVID-19, the current education system, and racial unrest in our country, we are in a unique place where it’s more important than ever to be educated on the issues of our society even if they don’t concern us directly.”
Through a communications and career development training program that exposes students to like-minded entrepreneurs, international business major Haley Panessa ’21 ’22MBA honed skills in networking, sales, and communication while mastering the art of Zoom meetings. Bound for the MBA program at Rollins’ Crummer Graduate School of Business, Panessa dreams of a career in the fashion industry—an ambition that was only further solidified by the opportunity to work with one of her heroes, Kevin McLaughlin, co-founder of the popular American sportswear brand, J. McLaughlin.
“One piece of advice that Kevin McLaughlin gave me is that intuition is critical and to always follow my gut,” says Panessa. “He really kept me on top of my game and taught me that if you see an opening in the market, fill that gap.”
Budding businesswoman Lakala Davis ’20 got a jump-start on her lifelong dream of owning her own medical spa by interning at Duquesa Beauty, a popular local nail salon that specializes in intricate designs. Davis’ internship began right as the business slowly reopened following a COVID-19 shutdown, with strict social distancing, sanitizing, and mask rules in place. The business management major quickly polished skills in organization, communication, accounting, and customer service that will augment the specialized training in spa services she intends to pursue after graduation.
“Being at the salon, I saw how people would leave feeling so much more confident than when they arrived,” says Davis. “I love the idea of helping people with their self-esteem, and this interenship helped my long-term career pursuits by giving me experience in managing a salon and dealing with customers.”
Jean Zhang ’20 doesn’t shy away from a challenge. After all, she moved to the United States from Nanjing, China, as a high school student without knowing a soul. More recently, her remote internship with a chiropractic and wellness provider in Australia presented new hurdles for the MBA hopeful to overcome, like the 14-hour time difference. Sleeping during the day and working in the dark—cell phone and laptop at the ready—kept Zhang dialed in with her supervisor at Functional Health and Performance in Sydney. Armed with Rollins courses in international marketing, operations, and global strategy, the mathematics and international business major hit the ground running, refining skills in leadership while nurturing a newfound love of marketing strategy and operations work.
“My supervisor told me that once you launch a marketing campaign it’s like turning on a water tap,” says Zhang. “The tank is like a business, where the water is going out, and you have to make sure the water is going in at a greater rate. This internship has given me the opportunity to explore a new field and industry, and I see myself having potential in the marketing field.”
Working with the League of Women Voters of Florida during an election year was eye-opening for international business major Ayanna Mattis ’20 ’22MBA. She witnessed how much behind-the-scenes effort goes into making an election possible and gained a new appreciation for politics. On a frequent time crunch, it was often hard to get in touch with candidates and organizations, so patience and persistence were critical, and her skills in teamwork, communication, and collaboration reached new heights on tight deadlines. Mattis expects to draw on that tenacity when she starts the MBA program at Crummer and as she launches her career in human resources.
“My internship has provided me with such a different point of view on how to manage a team,” says Mattis. “I learned so much more than just the HR material, and I feel better prepared not only to start a career in HR, but to begin my time at Crummer with more developed professional skills.”
As they face these challenging times, our students and recent graduates need the support of the Rollins community now more than ever.
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