#CMConnected: Adapting to internship changes with Amy Hendrickson

#CMConnected is a regular web series where we’ll catch up with students, faculty, staff, and alumni about how the CMC community is connecting in new ways during this period of physical distancing due to COVID-19.

Amid the sudden change of moving from the Soll Center for Student Opportunity to a home office, of working with first-year students on securing summer internships to watching their plans crumble overnight, Amy Hendrickson paused long enough to find a silver lining. So, she posted the highlights of a recent busy day on LinkedIn.

“Today, I had video appointments with CMCers in China, London, Mexico, New Zealand, Minnesota, and my own backyard of Orange County. Working from home has been quite the adjustment, especially being in a student-facing role, but you have to admit that technology's ability to keep us connected is pretty incredible!”

cmc-roomates

It was the most “likes” she had ever received for a post, Hendrickson joked—perhaps a sign that she’s not alone in finding inspiration from a unique set of circumstances. “I started thinking about where all of the students were physically located that day, and it was pretty amazing that we could talk despite being in so many places,” said Hendrickson, assistant director of first-year programming at the Soll Center. “It made me think of how resilient they’ve been throughout all of this. I’ve been so impressed by how they’ve adapted to their new realities.”

In February, Hendrickson was celebrating her most one-on-one appointments with first-year students since arriving to CMC in August 2018. “We were swamped in the office. It was awesome,” she said. Momentum was as strong as ever for a busy slate of summer internship applications and funding proposals—especially notable given how much work Hendrickson had put in to engage first-years during her short time on campus. And just like that, plans were disrupted, leading to new conversations about what was even possible from companies and organizations given the uncertain conditions.

“During the first couple of weeks, Soll Center staff really focused on communicating general changes, especially with international cancellations—and just giving clear guidance that the Sponsored Internships and Experiences program was still happening. We would provide funding, but it was going to look much different given the circumstances,” Hendrickson said.

“And again, I have to say, students were really understanding. They get that this is bigger than their individual experience right now, and that no one has all of the answers. Instead of feeling deflated, they’re embracing creativity and outside-the-box thinking. In fact, those are my favorite calls, when students are already coming in with five new ideas and I’m just there to provide feedback.”

Thinking through different scenarios is only doable if students are willing to adapt to video calls and accept a flexible process with Soll Center staff. Despite how easy it would be to blame time zone challenges or home confinement for sapping enthusiasm, none of Hendrickson’s students have missed an appointment yet—perhaps a glimpse of new remote working and scheduling skills they’ll need for the future, she said.

“Maybe they don’t appreciate it right now, but that dedication has meant something to me. And employers will care about those skills, too,” Hendrickson said.

“I was just talking with a student who has put in so much work to get an internship, and recently got a remote opportunity (from BlocPower, a Brooklyn start-up) with help from the Kravis Lab for Social Impact. We talked on the phone, and I could hear the relief in his voice. Then he said, ‘OK, what do I do next?’ And I said, ‘You’ve done it. You got the internship!’ To see how all that work could come together, even through the challenges of this quarantine, was pretty special.”

Have someone you’d like us to connect with for #CMConnected? Email suggestions to trozwadowski@cmc.edu.

—Thomas Rozwadowski