Our colleagues at Penn State started their own internship program last year and have now begun their second summer. We wanted to invite former PSU intern (and current PSU alumna) Devon Herrick to share her thoughts!
It’s been almost one year exactly to the day since I began my first week with the Penn State Summer Internship Program in its inaugural summer of 2009. Myself, along with 9 other wide-eyed and eager-to-learn interns, were ready to dive into the world of Higher Education Development. Boy, we had no idea what we were about to experience.
This entire process started for me back when I was a senior at Penn State University in the spring of 2009. I was a few months away from graduation and going through the inevitable “what am I going to do with my life?” stage that most college seniors face in the waning twilight of their University career. I had the great fortune of meeting a development professional who was new to Penn State (and who now is one of my best friends and colleagues here in Happy Valley) that was looking for an unofficial intern to work with her for the rest of the spring. I decided to jump on board and later found out that she was part of a group of development employees at University Park who were putting together Penn State’s first official development internship program, modeled after an innovative and successful program at Michigan.
Despite my innate suspicions of what a Michigan program could bring (I joke!), I was eager to apply and in the end I was chosen to work for the Smeal College of Business in the Development and Alumni Relations office for 11 weeks of intense development immersion.
Over the summer we were able to get true first-hand experience in the development world. I’m not talking about merely observing the practices of those we were working under, but really being put to work. Within weeks of my internship I was shipped to New York City to participate in a group dinner of young alumni working on Wall Street, all graduates of Smeal. My director at the time was able to seamlessly integrate my role into her strategy for the cultivation of these alums, and there I was: able to put a report of contact into my litany of new knowledge and experience gained through this internship.
The summer ended far too quickly and before I knew it, it was time to say goodbye to our mentors, classmates and development colleagues. The summer culminated in a wonderful ceremony where we debuted a video we created to capture the experience. You can view it on YouTube here:
My internship gave me the privilege of having a vast database of contacts to network with as I started to look for my full-time launching position in development and after interviews across the state of Pennsylvania, I landed, ironically and ecstatically enough, back at Dear Old State.
My current role as a major gifts officer is more than I could have asked for in so many respects. Not only have I been embraced through my transition from student to intern to professional, but I have gained the respect and encouragement of my supervisors, colleagues, and leaders at the University.
I am proud to say that I have received my first gift from a donor and have several major gifts “in the works” as a result of getting a head start when it came to understanding the sophisticated and at times, complex, network of development policies, procedures and protocols here at Penn State that will contribute to our new capital campaign, For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students (check it out at www.giveto.psu.edu). Obviously my affinity to Penn State as my alma mater comes very handy when speaking with donors (I often tell people I have the best job in the world for many reasons, including that I get to talk “Nittany Lion-speak” in my everyday routine!).
I also had the privilege of lending my experiences through this program at a presentation during the Winter 2010 District II CASE Conference in Philadelphia, Pa. This was a great opportunity to again spread the power of the program both at Penn State and Michigan (where we gave ample credit!) and see what other Universities and Colleges, both large and small, are doing in development.
It isn’t often in this profession that development officers are able to start their careers here right after college. I am beyond grateful for this internship experience exposing me to this work as before I hadn’t always known where my Public Relations degree would land me (stints at a magazine in New York City and in other various writing positions as an intern over the years were wonderfully telling for me as to what I did and did not want to do, but I still hadn’t found that career niche).
I look down the road and the opportunities seem to be endless. To have job that I love, in an economy that is struggling to employ its college graduates, and at a University of higher education that is not only “my” school but also has a thriving development field is such a thrill.
The class of 2010 is no different in energy and excitement and I am anxiously waiting to hear about their accomplishments with bated breath! Good luck to the next crop of interns…there are fantastic things in your future!