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Jaggar Community Fellows Program Adjusts to Provide Virtual Internships

Updated: Oct 28, 2020

By: Ravyn Malvino

The 2019 Jaggar Community Fellows pose in Nexus. Photo by Kevin Norris

As local businesses and organizations have closed indefinitely due to stay-at-home orders related to COVID-19, summer programs and internships for Adelphi students have been impacted, including the Jaggar Community Fellows Program. The Center for Career and Professional Development has had to modify the 2020 program to adapt to a virtual setting and accommodate students.

The Jaggar Community Fellows Program is a competitive option for nongraduating students and is open to all majors. Since 2010, it has connected Adelphi undergraduates and graduate students with nonprofits representing healthcare, museums, education, social sciences and the arts to provide paid, hands-on work experience. In 10 years, the program has worked with over 100 nonprofits. There are already over 500 alums of the program, representing nearly every major at Adelphi. In 2019, 13 of the 70 participants were international students.

But for this year’s fellows, there will need to be modifications.

“After hearing that many companies and nonprofit organizations canceled their internship programs and field placements for students in nursing, education, psychology and social work, we were determined to make this program happen,” said Bernadine Waller, MA '10, LMHC, PhD candidate, who serves as the associate director of experiential learning at the Center for Career and Professional Development. “We have students who are counting on the Jaggar Community Fellows Program to give them the experience they need to succeed after Adelphi, so we were determined to keep the program going.”

Waller said usually the Jaggar team plans for the summer program six to eight months in advance. They interview students and nonprofit organizations, conduct site visits and train nonprofit partners on how to host and manage students, all while securing legal paperwork in preparation for the students' arrival at their placement. This summer, the program has been adjusted to operate virtually. So, the work that was typically done for several months to prepare for the program was done in just six weeks. The program committee was forced to assess what nonprofits were prepared to host students, what positions students would be able to secure, and how student safety could be prioritized while still making the program happen.

To allow for the transition to a virtual environment to be as smooth as possible, this year’s fellows will include 31 undergraduate and nine graduate students. The program committee connected with the Robert B. Willumstad School of Business Innovation Center to partner with nearly 20 nonprofit organizations virtually.

"In an effort to preserve this signature university program while prioritizing the health and well-being of our students, we have partnered with our colleagues at the Innovation Center to flex this year's program to virtual internships,” said Thomas J. Ward, Jr., executive director of the Career Center. “Their expertise in this area has been invaluable to our team. Our students will benefit from this strategic alliance."

Students will work in teams to complete projects to produce weekly deliverables. When the program concludes, the interns will present their projects to the program’s benefactor, trustee Angela Jagger, Ph.D., as well as faculty and administration.

Michael Rienzi, a junior marketing major and communications minor, is thankful for the work done by the Career Center to convert the program to using a virtual platform.

“This has given so many students, including myself, a priceless experience,” said Rienzi. “I am grateful that we can continue the program and have an advantage in the future to learn something new. This is a test to see how we can cope with a virtual internship.”

Although Rienzi initially planned to spend his summer at a dream internship in Manhattan, he is making the best of the situation and is confident he can succeed this summer, despite it taking place online.

Students who were not included in this year’s cohort are encouraged to reapply next year in time for the December 1 deadline and to take a one-credit internship prep course “as some students were not fully prepared for the rigor of the Jaggar application process,” Waller said. There are also individual counseling services.

For any student who had an internship planned for this summer that has been postponed or canceled, Waller suggested that they should still pursue something.

“I encourage students to take summer classes to get ahead,” she said. “Adelphi is offering discounted classes that students should take advantage of.”

If summer classes aren’t an option, there are numerous virtual volunteer opportunities to take part in.

“Contact organizations where you would like to work and see if you can volunteer there,” suggested Waller. She predicts that when communities return to a state of repair, programs like the Jaggar Fellowship and its sister program, Panthers with a Purpose, will see significant growth and need.

“Employers may not be hiring right away, but volunteering can lead to future opportunities,” Waller said. “If you work hard and stand out, you can get hired.”

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