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Internship excellence, and the interns, employers and career development professionals that make it possible, were honored by Indiana INTERNnet during the 11th annual IMPACT Awards Luncheon. Check out the individual stories of the winners below!


College/University Intern of the Year

Hannah Dodd, Indiana Institute of Technology

When Hannah Dodd started her geographic information systems (GIS) internship with the city of Butler, she had little knowledge of the field. That would quickly change as Dodd was contributing to projects within just a few days of beginning in her position.

“Hannah’s ability to learn, to understand the purpose and focus on what we do here, and her strong work ethic made her an integral and indispensable part of the team within only a week or two,” shares James Otis, GIS/IT coordinator for the city of Butler.

Dodd relied on her educational background in information technology to assist with various aspects of her internship, and she molded those skills to fulfill tasks outside her experience. She was able to work on public speaking and problem solving skills by conducting training sessions on a new technological system for the organization’s operations personnel.


College/University Intern of the Year

KayLeigh Duerksen, Indiana University

An internship in one department can be challenging at times. KayLeigh Duerksen, however, interned in two departments at TASUS Corporation. Duerksen filled the need for someone to connect marketing and human resources (HR) for recruiting and outreach initiatives.

Duerksen demonstrated excellent leadership and responsibility by owning two major initiatives during her internship. One project was launching Facebook pages for each facility and developing a marketing plan to engage with the organization’s employees. The other project was standardizing employee uniforms at all facilities to create a consistent brand image and cut down on costs. This was a major undertaking with both marketing and HR needing to collaborate to coordinate the logistics.

“The standardization and centralization of many tasks has ruffled feathers, and due to KayLeigh’s leadership during the uniform transition she was often in situations with unhappy employees,” describes Zoullin Ballman, business development and marketing coordinator for TASUS Corporation. “She navigated through these times like a seasoned professional and ultimately brought all parties together and achieved the end goal.”


High School Intern of the Year
Britney Arenas, Riley High School

The youngest of the summer interns at Bowman Creek Educational Ecosystem last year, Britney Arenas overcame her nerves and demonstrated her confidence during her internship. Her optimism, drive and skill in brainstorming sessions were among her greatest assets for the organization.

Arenas owned her suggested project of building a lending library in the community. With the help of her father, Arenas designed and executed the lending library in a neighborhood park. She documented the whole process to share templates and the project budget for others to replicate. The success of her project lead to an offer to include the Food Bank of Northern Indiana and create a lending food pantry.

“Participating in an engaged internship helped to transform a clearly talented young student into a leader with the confidence to articulate and employ her skills in a real-world setting,” boasts Alicia Czarnecki, previous team leader at Bowman Creek Educational Ecosystem. “While previously planning to leave her neighborhood and South Bend after graduation, Britney shared that she felt she could use her interests and talents to improve quality of life in her own backyard.”


Non-traditional Intern of the Year

Katherine Larrabee, DirectEmployers Institute 

Student, intern, single mother and caretaker are just a few terms to describe Katherine Larrabee. She tackled her busy schedule to complete an internship with DirectEmployers Institute (DEI) and graduate from Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.

From day one of her internship, Larrabee showcased her professionalism and leadership. She was placed as a leader over her fellow interns to help ensure efficiency and timely completion of projects. This display of professionalism was rewarded by receiving more responsibility in her role, including representing DEI at important meetings.

“Katherine always excelled in these situations by making lasting connections with everyone she met and by representing DEI in a way that was positive and refreshing,” offers Kasey Cross, vice president of programming at DirectEmployers Institute. “She did such a wonderful job that she has now been hired as DEI’s project manager to lead and guide the partner organizations DEI works with daily in several of their programs within Indiana schools.”


Career Development Professional of the Year

Darshini Render, Purdue University College of Engineering

As the assistant director of student success for the Purdue University College of Engineering, Darshini Render does exactly as her title suggests – direct student success. She supports and empowers students to accomplish their internship and career goals. Her impact on the program is clear as she received two nominations. Both individuals noted Render’s excellent leadership, professionalism and passion for student achievement.

Render started at Purdue University as career services consultant for international students. Almost three years later, she was promoted to her current role. Two of her major accomplishments are developing the Cross Cultural Leadership Program (CCLP) and managing the International Student Peer Coaching Program.

“I would not be the same person I am today if I had not had the honor of meeting and working alongside Darshini Render at Purdue University,” confides Tony Orr, student leader of CCLP and nominator. “She has made me a better candidate and person for the future.”


Employer of the Year (For-profit)

Ambassador Enterprises, LLC


The Fort Wayne-based Ambassador Enterprises, LLC internship program is centered around the development of four professional skills: leadership, problem solving, project management and teamwork.

Interns participate in 11 weeks of programming that mimics a higher-education atmosphere; it is nicknamed “Corporate University.” The program’s syllabus details seven goals, six professional development outcomes, three reading assignments and additional information. Each intern will complete five deliverables during the program: personal assessments, various projects and assignments, performance evaluations, individual development plan and a work journal.

“My major project was compiling a comprehensive analysis of the competitors of one of their holdings. They gave me a rubric and contact information for the CEO. I then had to develop the plan for how I would complete this project,” says Paige Stark, a summer 2016 intern. “I asked a lot of questions and was definitely out of my comfort zone, but grew immensely as a result of this experience.”


Employer of the Year (Non-profit)

DirectEmployers Institute

DirectEmployers Institute of Indianapolis is a double winner in 2017, adding this honor to serving as the home for the non-traditional intern of the year. The program gives high school and college students the opportunity to learn and grow through innovative programming, group project work and networking.

The majority of the interns’ role is contributing to the coordination of a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Youth Enhancement Summer Camp. Interns are divided into groups to work on social media, student registrations, food donations and more. In 2016, the interns more than tripled the number of student registrations they were asked to secure.

“DirectEmployers Institute’s summer internship program is one-of-a-kind in its ability to adequately prepare young people to take on the business world with confidence and poise, all while engaging their minds and hearts with projects that not only better their community, but themselves as well,” explains Kasey Cross, the company’s vice president of programming.

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