Paving the Way in the Tech Industry Amidst a Pandemic
July 16, 2020
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of internship programs across the nation were cancelled, paused or disrupted. Always looking to the future, the Tech Core in the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona is finding ways to create virtual internships that are innovative, opportunistic, forward-thinking and adaptive, allowing students to apply their knowledge to cutting-edge projects.
Tech Core is a unique professional development experience that prepares students for successful careers in the tech industry by providing robust on-the-job training, while simultaneously advancing the University of Arizona’s positions in emerging technologies such as VR, AR and 360 media.
The main goals of this new internship program, which launched earlier this spring, are to teach students high-tech skills, provide an applied learning environment to participants and help them discover what they are truly passionate about—even amidst a global pandemic.
“COVID-19 has had a major impact on how we work and interact, for certain. But we are learning to adapt in innovative ways, like through the use of Discord as a communication platform, for example,” says the program’s director, Ash Black.
Discord is a digital distribution platform that is specifically designed for creating communities ranging from gamers to educators and businesses. “Our use of Discord is very unique, considering it is mainly used by and for gamers. But, this change has given us back some of what we lost to COVID-19; our work environment is entirely synchronous, in fact, it’s exactly like an office, but virtual,” says Black. “Our team adapts no matter the challenge given to us.”
The Eller Tech Core Internship Program is open to University of Arizona students of all majors, both at the undergraduate and graduate level, with no technical experience requirements and provides opportunities that cater to each individual student’s goals and needs. Due to its online nature, the program allows its participants to create a schedule that work best for them and is even open to international students not currently in the country.
In the first four weeks, interns gain fundamental experience in a variety of topics, including data science, creative design, web development, operations and more. Participants are then assigned to a team to dig deeper into their work, applying their new skills to projects. The interns will come out of the program with essential business, communication and project management skills as well as valuable friends and connections.
Eighty Eller students are currently working as online summer interns for Tech Core and have provided positive feedback about the program: "Tech Core has enabled me to gain the kind of experience that I did not think was possible to gain while at a university—real, collaborative, client-oriented work experience,” says previous student participant and now-mentor Devon Oberdan ’20 MS MIS. “These two years have prepared me for my career more than any other course or experience I have had. Oh, and VR is fun, so that's been a big plus."
And VR isn’t the only project Tech Core has made substantial headway on. From Bluetooth-enabled face masks to an enterprise security system to ensure UA device safety, to augmented reality classroom experiences, and more, Tech Core is a place for students to work on innovative tools of the future.
“My favorite part about leading this program is simply the students who are a part of it. I love seeing them enjoy what they’re working on and putting their all into a project,” says Black. “Supporting the students as they succeed is the most rewarding aspect of being a part of Tech Core.”