United Way’s first student internships give dual benefit
December 22, 2010
By Darla Martin Tucker
The benefit worked both ways this fall quarter, for students who served as first-ever interns at the United Way of the Inland Valleys, and for the agency which drew upon their recommendations.
Twelve La Sierra University graduate and undergraduate business students served as account executives for the Riverside-based United Way office, in a practicum that began on Sept. 4 and ended with a wrap-up session about their experiences on Dec. 13. Their internships were in fulfillment of a Practicum in Management course at La Sierra’s School of Business.
It was the first time the United Way in Riverside had hosted student interns and the experience proved a positive one for the organization. “It was Jim Erickson’s [course instructor] idea and we loved it. We hope the students found it worthwhile,” said Kevin McCarthy, president and chief executive officer of the United Way of the Inland Valleys. The students’ impact was “huge” in broadening the agency’s reach to potential donors. The organization is analyzing the students’ recommendations, he said.
After undergoing a two-day training course that focused on public speaking, financial functions of the agency, confidentiality issues and campaign processes, the students each worked about 10 hours a week handling various responsibilities. They made calls to prospective donor organizations and gave presentations to employees at businesses, schools and hospitals on the benefits of contributing to the agency. They collected and verified pledge amounts and interacted with the agency’s finance department.
La Sierra Master of Business Administration student Edgar Rodriguez developed real-world experience giving presentations to increasingly large groups, ending with a pitch to 100 school teachers. While he had given many class presentations as a student, this was something different and provided valuable experience. “I came out feeling I had actually learned something,” said the future marketing executive. Rodriguez’s career goal is to lead a marketing department within the international automotive industry.
Rodriguez’s tasks at United Way included creating Excel spreadsheets. One involved a 20-hour project that breaks down all the funding the agency receives to show regions that provide the most donations or to show areas where representatives are giving more presentations.
During his practicum, Rodriguez was impacted by the sincerity of the United Way staff. His supervisor shared personal stories and reasons for working with the agency. “You feel people there care and whatever they’re doing is going to make a difference,” he said.
Rodriguez recommended the agency set up a sign-in system detailing work projects and availability so that supervisors can ask interns and others for help during ‘down’ time.
Erickson, who is also director of La Sierra’s Center for Philanthropy and a well-known regional fundraiser, was impressed with the students’ work and views they were able to provide the United Way. “I was so proud of them,” he said. “They achieved more than I thought and they had such insight and perspectives.” The practicum not only gave the students key experience for their resumes, “more importantly, they gave back to the community in a significant way,” Erickson said.
PR Contact: Larry Becker
Executive Director of University Relations
La Sierra University