Building a Power Network

on September 1 | in Featured | by

The internship scene in Washington, D.C., is more active than ever, thanks to recent efforts by two alumnae who have used a solid foundation to build even more opportunities for students.

By Sindhu Hirani Blume ’93

The United States Capitol BuildingInternships abound for college students in Washington, D.C., but often there’s more to getting an internship than simply asking for one. Thanks to a well-established alumnae network—strengthened in the past year by the hard work of Ellen Parke ’71 and Barbara “Duck” Duckworth ’72—Hollins students have an array of Signature internships to apply for. Parke and Duckworth are not only ensuring the availability of coveted opportunities, they are also working to uphold the key element needed to empower any network: support.

Parke and Duckworth benefited from the groundwork alumnae had already laid. Suzy Mink ’74, senior philanthropic advisor at Hollins, headed a Washington, D.C., steering committee to brainstorm, develop, and secure internships. And before her, a steady population of Hollins students connected with the D.C. chapter and D.C.-area alumnae for opportunities in the area. The goal for Duckworth and Parke was to update the opportunities to meet Hollins’ internship requirements, expand contributions to the portfolio, and increase alumnae engagement.

“It takes a lot of work,” Duckworth said. “Over the course of the summer, we worked with alums in Washington and with the [Hollins] Career Center. We coordinated that information and exceeded the requirements for 30 internships. At that point, the Career Center worked with Hollins students to align them with available opportunities” for J-Term 2016.

Once students were matched with internships, Parke and Duckworth addressed how to keep students supported during their time in Washington. Chapter-wide events as well as private or smaller events kept students connected and involved with each other and the D.C. alumnae chapter.

Barbara Duckworth -Ellen ParkeParke and Duckworth (left) are gearing up to repeat their successful steps for next year. Their efforts will be bolstered by their role on Hollins’ national steering committee on alumnae engagement, which among other goals aims to strengthen the university’s internship program, in part by focusing on sectors and industries of interest to students. There is a need, for example, for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) opportunities and getting hands-on experience.

For Parke, her role in building support for the D.C. internship program is “all about giving back. It’s about helping students and ensuring they benefit from all those who went before them at Hollins.” Duckworth said she has stayed actively connected to Hollins since she graduated but until her recent experience, she didn’t how much was involved in finding and supporting internships. It’s also been a topic of discussion among the Alumnae Board.

“The Hollins network is extremely strong. Whenever you are on campus, there is this tremendous bond—we do not do enough to take advantage of that for programs like this,” Duckworth said. “I really think we need to expand alumnae engagement. It could be extremely powerful.”

The number of internships in January 2017 will remain at 30, but Parke and Duckworth are looking to mix the offerings. “Even though we could have the same number of sponsors as last year,” Duckworth said, “it would be good to have opportunities that match the broad interests of Hollins students.”

Sindhu Hirani Blume ’93 is a writer and communications consultant. She got her first job as a reporter through an internship at a local newspaper in Maryland.

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