Rebecca Rivera Saves the Internships!
By Alixandra Rutnik on Jul 22, 2020
One Club Member and CUNY Professor helps students advance their careers through tough times
College internships are a major key to success – experience is crucial for students to get their footing and figure out what they really want to be doing once they leave the classroom. But with most internship programs canceled or switched to remote this summer due to COVID-19, 2020 has not been great for hands-on learning. However, One Club Member and City University of New York professor Rebecca Rivera has kept a glimmer of hope alive for a handful of students by launching Save the Internships New York!
We talked with Rebecca to learn more about how she’s been saving the internships this summer!
Save the Internships, New York! This is an amazing initiative, especially given our current climate. Tell me a little bit about what inspired this page?
In mid-March CUNY classes went online. A few weeks later, I began hearing from my students that their summer internships were being canceled. At the time, I was trying to convince Pereira O'Dell to hire a few paid interns. When Pereira O'Dell started to waffle, I knew something had to be done, in a way that would give visibility to these students so the industry would realize the huge impact canceling internships would have on everyone. Most CUNY students work while studying, and those jobs help pay their family’s bills. Many of the students lost jobs due to the pandemic, so losing their paid internships was a double whammy. I wasn't about to give up without a fight. I challenged Pereira O'Dell to double down – to go ahead and hire the interns and to do it publicly in order to provoke conversation and get other agencies and advertisers to step up.
"It's one thing to talk about young talent. It's another thing to look into their eyes."
It took a few weeks to identify and vet the students and to build the site, which I did myself using Squarespace. I had a very clear vision of what the site should look like from the start. It needed to put a human face on the problem. It's one thing to talk about young talent. It's another thing to look into their eyes. The logo was designed very quickly by Pereira O'Dell, and we threw together the Instagram and Twitter presences practically overnight. The site launched on May 11th with an article in Adweek and some grassroots LinkedIn and IG posts. Vision to launch took less than a month.
What’s the intern hiring process been like?
Fifteen interns have been hired so far, with a few more hires in the works. I've started taking inquiries for Fall interns, but I am narrowing the talent pool to CCNY and NYCCT COMD Ad, PR, Marketing & Design students who can be nominated for the site by their professors. I wish I could feature students from all over, but once the school year starts I'll be teaching a full load of classes– I won't have as much time to devote to this initiative. I also feel strongly that CUNY students represent the diverse young talent the industry needs to respond to this particular moment in time.
You’ve been hosting Zoom events all Summer – what is the goal of these events?
The goal was to make sure every student featured on Save The Internships continued their momentum. Even if they didn't land a paid internship, it was important to guarantee them access to learning and development programs, and contacts that will keep their career moving forward. Keni Thacker and Ericka Riggs from the G.R.O.W.T.H. Initiative and The Advertising Club NY generously offered to provide programming and contacts. I was also able to secure seats in WPP's Next-Gen Virtual Leaders program for 26 STI students. So far, the students have told me they're grateful to have the opportunity to gain such valuable experiences.
After COVID-life simmers down a bit more, is this still something that you will continue during summers and semesters going forward?
I do plan to continue the initiative, but if there's one thing the pandemic has taught me– it's to remain committed to your goals but be flexible in how you meet them.
What is a piece of advice that you think students need to hear these days?
Even in a tough economy, there is an opportunity. You don't have to go it alone. Reach out to your professors– we're here to help you kick open that door.
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