Pandemic brings unexpected spin to summer internships

MIS students alter their plans to gain valuable work experience

Merritt Melancon | Aug. 31, 2020

Terry College of Business MIS students Nick Loudermilk, left, and Nishant Sripathi work on improving the fulfillment process for nonprofit Bulldog Basics.
Terry College of Business MIS students Nick Loudermilk, left, and Nishant Sripathi work on improving the fulfillment process for nonprofit Bulldog Basics.

The right internship can be the first building block to a successful career in business, but what happens when a pandemic scuttles the entry-level experience of a summer internship? 

For some Terry College of Business students, it meant changing tracks and putting their time and talents to work for community organizations and small businesses.

“We knew there was a need in the community,” said Maric Boudreau, head of the Department of Management Information Systems. “Many of our students had the availability and skills necessary to help organizations become more technology-enabled.”

Boudreau put out the call locally and then played matchmaker, connecting 20 organizations with MIS students who had lost internships. Boudreau outlined the initial expectations, but from there the students consulted directly with their clients to help them solve problems using technology.

Nick Loudermilk and Nishant Sripathi took on a summer assignment with Bulldog Basics, a service that provides hygiene and self-care products to UGA students. They designed an e-commerce site that would allow students to arrange anonymous and socially-distanced pickup of toiletries from campus. They also developed back-end technology so the staff has a better system to track inventory and contributions.

“Nick and Nishant did an amazing job creating a new user experience, keeping our core value of confidentiality, developing a more sustainable and efficient inventory process, as well as creating a donor management database,” said Cara Winston Simmons, director of the Student Success and Advising Center in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences. “They truly exceeded our expectations and helped us meet all of our goals and more. Our partners are excited to work with this new model for Bulldog Basics.”

“What I got from the experience was a better sense of what consulting really is,” said Loudermilk, who had planned to intern with Credrea this summer. “I went from not having any idea about Bulldog Basics to learning about the service they provide, where their bottlenecks were, and in turn, helping them build a better solution.”

Having a professional-looking website can open doors for nonprofit groups, agreed Selina Nichols, CEO and founder of Deaf Heartbeat. Deaf Heartbeat launched in 2015 and has helped hundreds learn American Sign Language through community classes and online videos. Nichols said the group needed a website for outreach during the pandemic and to serve clients outside their base in Rockdale County.

Jon Mullis, a fourth-year MIS student, designed the website to tell the nonprofit’s story, promote online classes and securely receive donations.

“The website helps us reach people who aren’t on Facebook,” Nichols said. “They’ve designed it so that people can register for classes, and I think it’s going to expand beyond our community.”

Some students found other corporate internships through the summer program.

Fourth-year MIS students Zach Lunger and Ramatulai Jagne worked with Atlanta software development firm HatchWorks to develop a marketing and launch strategy for its forthcoming time management software. HatchWorks had never hired interns from UGA before, so this summer was a benchmark for the company as well as the students. 

“This was them making their internship,” said Matt Paige, HatchWork’s director of client engagements. “They are the founders of this thing. They got to define and drive it. I think they did an awesome job doing that.”

For the students, it was an eye-opening glimpse into the way teams work inside companies, and they enjoyed being able to make real contributions.

“Working in a cross-functional team was really cool because the teams I’ve worked with in undergrad, everyone’s doing marketing or everybody’s doing I.T,” Jagne said. “To be on a team where everyone has their own function, everyone’s working together and it’s not siloed off was really cool.”


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