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Entry by Cynthia McCullough-accountant with 25 years experience; currently Corporate Accounting Manager with Grote Industries; senior-level Accounting Information Systems student in Woods External Degree program at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.

…is an internship when it is completed under the auspices of the “Social Marketing Experiment,” a new type of internship designed by Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) and funded by a Ball Brothers Foundation Venture Fund grant. SMWC is conducting a team internship program which brings together campus and distance students to work for local not-for-profit organizations.

The specific assignment for the interns is to create and implement new marketing strategies using social media to benefit the not-for-profit. A significant feature of these internships is the “virtual” meeting, in which Adobe Connect Pro web conference software is used to facilitate communication between team members, faculty advisers, and the not-for-profit contact person. The balance of communication is handled through emails and conference calls.

When I was approached by my faculty adviser about participating in this “Experiment,” I considered it from my perspective as the founder and president of the animal welfare organization Bridges for Animals, Inc. in Madison, Indiana; I thought this sounded like the perfect opportunity to gain some much-needed help in improving BFA’s website and social marketing activities. I submitted an application as a not-for-profit, but I also signed up as a student to “cover my bases,” so to speak. I figured if BFA wasn’t selected as one of the not-for-profits, as a student I would have the opportunity to learn what I needed to know for BFA by helping out another group. That turned out to be a smart choice.

My team consisted of three campus students and two distance students, and our project was to create a website for Happiness Bag, Inc. Center for Adaptive Recreation and Education. Based in Terre Haute, Happiness Bag is “the Wabash Valley’s only recreational and educationally oriented facility solely designed for individuals with disabilities,” as the new website proudly states. The team reported to Jodi Moan, Executive Director of Happiness Bag.

The project kicked off with a conference call interview of Jodi to learn about the organization and define the scope of the project. Using the information provided in the interview, we did research into various website creation possibilities and presented our project proposal to Jodi (and the other teams and faculty) during a virtual meeting. After Jodi approved the proposal, the team and Jodi then met regularly via conference calls and emails to discuss progress and keep everyone on track. The final completed project was again presented to Jodi and the others during a virtual meeting.

For me personally, this was not an “internship” experience. I am not a young student who needs an opportunity to see how things work “in the real world” nor am I an unemployed soon-to-graduate student who needs to get a “foot in the door” to a possible paying job or build up experience on my resume. I already have many years experience communicating with far-flung multi-national coworkers using virtual methods (Webex, video conferencing, etc). I am thrilled to have participated in this project solely because not only was I able to learn some new skills I can instantly apply to my own not-for-profit, I was able to provide volunteer support to a not-for-profit that had a real need for the project we completed.

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