Getting the Jump on Real-World Experience

on September 1 | in Featured | by

Unlike first-year students at many other colleges and universities, students at Hollins can engage in outstanding internships during their first year.

By Jeff Hodges M.A.L.S. ’11

Elise Schloff ’19

She may not have realized it at the time, but Schloff paid the ultimate compliment to Hollins’ first-year internship program when she said the following about her Short Term 2016 experience at United Way of Roanoke Valley:

“I don’t know how to make a copy here because I haven’t had to do it at all.”

Elise Schloff

Schloff was speaking to the quality of the internship experience she and 19 other first-year students enjoyed this January at businesses and organizations throughout the Roanoke area. “We’re not fetching coffee or filing; we’re on our feet and learning what it’s like to be in a career. We’re helping these places in a valuable way.”

The Norfolk, Virginia, native helped the local United Way evaluate and improve its social media policies and practices while preparing issue briefs for donors and assisting the organization in launching a new program, My Free Taxes, which brings tax assistance at no cost to qualifying individuals and families

“It’s amazing to me how they are able to get acclimated quickly and accomplish so much in just a month,” said Lydia Merritt, United Way of Roanoke Valley’s director of marketing and communications, who has welcomed several Hollins interns through the years. “As a small nonprofit, budgets are short and we are very happy to have these intelligent, composed students with the initiative to fill the gap in the work we need to get done.”



Pria Jackson ’19

The opportunity to secure a Short Term internship during her first year in college “was part of the reason why I wanted to apply to Hollins. I was really excited by that,” said Jackson, who spent J-Term at Roanoke’s Taubman Museum of Art. “It shows the amount of trust Hollins affords to first-year students. I’m expected to represent Hollins professionally and to the best of my ability, and uphold the legacy of the many other students who have performed internships before me.”

Pria Jackson

Hailing from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Jackson held responsibilities that ranged from helping organize a Chinese New Year celebration to coordinating activities in conjunction with Tobacco People, an exhibition featuring the photography of Sarah Hazlegrove ’90. She also worked with the Taubman’s children’s education department. “I had no idea there was so much work in running a museum,” she said.

Supervising Jackson was Stephanie Fallon ’08, M.F.A.’12, adult education manager at the Taubman. “As a Hollins alumna, I’m really excited about the J-Term internship,” she said. “Even though it’s a short amount of time, you have the opportunity for a concentrated experience.

“I’m fortunate that I have the kind of position where I wear many hats and have lots of projects with tons of deadlines constantly coming through. I looked at what I was working on in January and told Pria, ‘Here is how we can work together, here are your goals,’ and we just jumped right in. It was great.”

Fallon’s goal for Jackson and future interns is to establish “a risk-free opportunity to try everything and get exposed to as much as possible. The ideal internship is the one where you learn new things about yourself.”


Erin Harrover ’19

Erin Harrover

Harrover wants to become a physician. Her internship at the Bradley Free Clinic, which provides free medical, dental, and pharmacy care to uninsured residents of the Roanoke Valley, enabled her “to see a whole different clientele that medicine helps” and gain a skill set she never considered before.

She recalled her first meeting with Carla Santos Martin ’07, chief operating officer at the Bradley Free Clinic and her internship supervisor. “When I first sat down with Carla to introduce myself, she said, ‘Oh, we’re going to be doing grant writing—are you okay with that?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know what that is.’ So I really learned what it takes to run a nonprofit, how much work goes into it with grant writing and everything else. It takes a whole team to pull together and do it.”

Harrover, from Manassas, Virginia, immersed herself in a wide range of other activities. She helped the front office with screening patients for eligibility and pitched in to assist both the medical and pharmacy departments. She also worked closely with Martin on organizing the clinic’s data. “I knew Hollins wasn’t going to give me a bad internship, and I liked the projects I was doing. It was rewarding.”

“Hollins prepared me for the real world, and I felt it immediately once I started working here,” Martin said. “ I hope what Erin brought away from this internship is that she has an opportunity to grow, discover who she is as a person, and learn what she wants to become as a professional.”

Schloff and Jackson both demonstrate that Martin’s philosophy is shared by other internship supervisors. “I have a better direction of what I’m looking at career-wise and where I’m looking at majoring,” Schloff noted. Added Jackson, “Being able to come here and experience what these people do every day, it’s really quite humbling. It’s also changed my perspective on what an 8-to-5 job can be. I didn’t know anything about museums at the time, but I thought it would be a cool place to get to know something new. It was, and I’m really glad it was.”

For her part, Schloff is spreading the word to others about the unique opportunities Hollins students can take advantage of during their first year. “I’ve talked to people that I went to high school with who are going to other schools and they didn’t even know it was possible to get an internship your first year. When I talk to my friends who are still in high school, they are very surprised that I’m interning my first year. They are now definitely looking into Hollins.”

Jeff Hodges is director of public relations.

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