Summer internship experiences develop skills, provide

By Beth Hatcher

This summer, UNC Hussman students are preparing to launch successful careers by honing professional skills and gaining new perspectives at internships across industries and across the country.

“Internships are an opportunity for real-world experience. I tell students all the time that any information they learn about themselves and what they like and don’t like is crucial in helping them make the right path for their future,” Assistant Director of Career Services Heather Stevenson said.

Pictured: Akhilaa Lakshminathan 23 at her international marketing internship at Sony Music Entertainment in New York City.

Hussman’s Career Services team, based in Carroll Hall’s Undergraduate Hub, helps students with the internship hunt in a number of ways, such as one-on-one advising and career treks, as well as career and internship fairs.

“I can say without question nearly every Hussman student completes an internship,” said Director of Career Services Jay Eubank. “Internships are emphasized by faculty and Hussman Career Services as vital to determining what our students want to do and don’t want to do. Internships give students an important leg up in seeking jobs after graduation.”
 

We caught up with six Hussman students interning around the country, where they’re putting in hours at diverse organizations ranging from a small-town Oregon newspaper to a New York City music company.

Uma Bhat ’25, Preston Fore ’23, Akhilaa Lakshminathan ’23, Cynthia Liu ’23, Alanna McCary ’23 (M.A.) and Kaitlyn Schmidt ’23 shared some thoughts from their summer internship experiences.

Pictured above, from left to right: Liu covers a rodeo as a multimedia intern for the Malheur Enterprise, a local newspaper in Vale, Oregon; Fore works at his internship at CNN in Atlanta; and Schmidt snaps a shot at her internship at ESPN 730 The Game Charlotte, a sports AM radio station in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

 

Uma Bhat 25

Internship:

Bhat works as a communications and operations intern at the UNC Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media, where she helps with projects and content that promote CISLM’s mission of supporting local media. Bhat aspires to a career as a reporter after graduation, perhaps in features or investigative work.

Why did you choose your internship?

“I’ve worked with CISLM since the second semester of my freshman year, and I love being able to connect with local media organizations and staff members at Hussman. Earlier this year, I got to work on a local news internship webinar that connected members of CISLM’s training program for local news outlets with students at UNC Hussman.”

What are you learning?

“I love being able to speak with representatives from news organizations in real life. I’ve been able to interview news editors, chat about challenges reporters face and interact with students pursuing all sorts of careers in media across the journalism school.” 

What’s been your favorite (non-work) summer memory so far?

Bhat enjoyed attending a CISLM-hosted dinner party for members of CISLM’s media training program, Table Stakes — not only for another chance to network but for the delicious food. “I’m an unashamed foodie.”

Advice to future interns:

“My number one tip is to focus on being kind and genuine to everyone you meet. This matters outside the workplace too, but in the workplace it’s important because it’ll help you build meaningful relationships — and one of the best parts of having an internship is the people you meet and become friends with.”

 

Preston Fore 23

Internship:

Fore serves as a Southeast Bureau intern at CNN in Atlanta, where he works with the team that handles news from the southeastern United States. He also contributes to news gathering by researching, pitching and compiling stories, writing alerts curated for CNN Digital and logging interviews. He also assists correspondents and producers in the field during interviews and live shots.

Why did you choose your internship?

“I have always been a nerd for CNN. Moreover, being able to work at such an internationally recognized news organization based out of Atlanta has been an amazing opportunity,” said Fore, who aims for a career as an international journalist. “Plus, my department allows for such a diverse variety of learning.”

What are you learning?

“I have learned first-hand how a pitch turns into a story and ends up online or on television. Additionally, I have had the opportunity to learn in the field from correspondents and producers on how they gather news and perform interviews on the spot,” said Fore, who noted a work highlight had been the opportunity to pitch and produce a news package about Americans coming together to send ambulances to the current conflict in Ukraine.

What’s been your favorite (non-work) summer memory so far?

“I went to my first-ever concert; I saw my favorite band, Train!”

Advice for future interns:

“Reach out to UNC alumni who work at your desired company and ask for advice on how to best stand out during the application process. I was able to connect with a CNN producer who was very eager to help fellow Tar Heels succeed.

 

Akhilaa Lakshminathan 23

Internship:

Lakshminathan scored an internship as an international marketing intern at Sony Music Entertainment in New York City, a perfect fit for the advertising and public relations student who aspires to a music industry marketing job after graduation. Her duties at the internship have included brainstorming marketing campaigns for international audiences across a variety of platforms, tracking charts and organizing highlights, as well as creating weekly updates for the team.

Why did you choose your internship?

“I got my internship at Sony through the Multicultural Advertising Internship Program (MAIP) hosted by the American Association of Advertising Agencies. In addition to my internship, I do projects, labs, coaching and networking for the MAIP fellowship. Working in the music industry has always been my dream and working in international marketing perfectly resonates with my Indian American identity.”

What are you learning?

“As a musician myself, and a superfan of many of the artists on Sony’s roster, it is so surreal to be in meetings where all the magic happens! I have gotten to listen to unreleased music, watch unreleased music videos and tour the incredible Sony headquarters. It is so interesting and incredible to see how everyone’s individual contributions come together to make a release a success that fans all around the world will cherish for years, sometimes decades, to come.“

What’s been your favorite (non-work) summer memory so far?

“I got to stay in New York City for a month thanks to the generous MAIP funding, which allowed me to engage in various cultural opportunities outside of work. I got to go to many iconic, world-renowned museums, such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art — and visit other fun places in Manhattan such as Central Park, Koreatown, the Empire State Building, Fifth Avenue and more!”

Advice for future interns:

“LinkedIn is a great resource! See what other students who are interning at companies you want to intern at did before they got there. If you can, message them and ask if they have any advice or how they liked their experience at their company. Everyone I have contacted that has responded has been unbelievably helpful and encouraging.”
 

Cynthia Liu  23

Internship:

Liu is interning at the Malheur Enterprise, a local newspaper in Vale, Oregon, as a multimedia reporting intern, a perfect place to hone the skills she hopes to employ as a visual journalist after graduation.

Why did you choose your internship?

“The Enterprise is a relatively small newspaper in eastern, rural Oregon, but the work they do is big. I was really excited to immerse myself in a new environment and learn hands-on how to serve a community from the inside. With a smaller staff, I also knew I would get to work as a journalist, rather than just an intern, and would be expected to operate at the same level as the journalists on staff.” Liu serves as a general assignment reporter and photojournalist — a favorite assignment was covering Vale’s annual rodeo celebrating the Fourth of July: a great story and a chance to wear a cowboy hat!

What are you learning?

“I’ve gotten to see firsthand the impact of local journalism on the community it serves. I’ve gotten hands-on experience with developing sources and relationships — how to approach people and connect with them in a meaningful way, whether it ends up being an hour-long interview for a story or just a conversation at the grocery store. The work you do as a journalist can significantly impact people’s lives, both positively and negatively, and there’s a huge responsibility to being trusted with someone’s story.”

What’s been your favorite (non-work) summer memory so far?

“After the last day of working the rodeo, the two other interns and I walked to the local diner. Everyone at the diner greeted us like we were locals. The sun was just setting, and we were all exhausted, but I remember it was one of the first times Vale felt like home.”

Advice for future interns:

“I would advise future interns to take the leap, whatever that looks like for them. The opportunities that scare me the most, such moving across the country to work at a small-town newspaper, are also the ones that have been the most rewarding. Also, take care of yourself and cultivate a life outside of work.”

 

Alanna McCary 23 (M.A.)

Internship:

McCary is interning in internal communications at Universal Orlando Resort in Orlando, Florida, where she crafts feature stories for the employee newsletter, reports on employee events, creates social media content and spearheads a new blog initiative for employee editorial pieces — all great experience for her hopes of holding a communications role in the theme park industry.

Why did you choose your internship?

“I have always been a huge fan of the Universal theme parks and already had experience in the industry working for Busch Gardens Tampa. I wanted to work for at least one more company in the industry before I decided to make a career out of it!”

What are you learning?

“This is the first time I have worked for a company that has so much intellectual property involved in everyday business, and it affects everything — communication efforts especially. Anytime the company wants to include intellectual property from partner companies — photos, videos and references, etc. — in messaging, it needs to be approved through the different partners’ legal teams. This has taught me to be patient, anticipate potential issues and take corrections and criticisms in stride.”

What’s been your favorite (non-work) summer memory so far?

Visiting the theme park on the weekends as a guest. “Seeing my messaging efforts affect the employees in a positive way while also getting to experience how the overall company brings so much joy to the public always inspired me. “

Advice to future interns:

“My advice for future interns would be to make the most out of the resources and tasks you are given. There is always an opportunity to learn and perfect your skills if you just look! You don’t necessarily have to wait to be given something to do; learn to anticipate potential asks and needs for your company.”

 

Kaitlyn Schmidt 23

Internship:

Schmidt works as an assistant producer at ESPN Radio’s 730 The Game, an AM sports radio station in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she works with the staff of “Afternoon Rush,” writing questions, editing audio, writing articles and even talking on-air.

Why did you choose your internship?

Schmidt aspires to a career in sports broadcasting, with hopes of working on camera for a major television network. She knew radio work would be a great “foot in the door” and a good way to build contacts. It doesn’t hurt that the commute is easy. She is interning in her hometown!

What are you learning?

“This internship has really allowed me to find my voice and feel more confident in what I’m doing.” A favorite part of Schmidt’s work are the talk sets she has on-air with her radio colleagues. Often ad-libbed, they teach her to live in the moment, not take herself so seriously and that a mistake is not the end of the world.

What’s been your favorite (non-work) summer memory so far?

Schmidt’s excited about celebrating her 21st birthday this summer, as well as a whitewater rafting trip to Colorado.

Advice for future interns:

“I would advise students to look early, and to build good relationships with each of their networking connections so that they have a good number of people in the field looking out for their interests.”