UNC-Chapel Hill students translate summer internships into full-time jobs

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill doctoral students are landing jobs before they even graduate, thanks to an innovative new program from The Graduate School.

The Richard Bland Fellowship Professional Pathways Program helps graduate students explore non-faculty career paths. Students selected for the program receive a stipend to fund a summer internship. In order to receive the grant, students must clearly articulate learning objectives for their experience and identify a willing professional mentor to support them during their fellowship.

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Mackenzie Herzog

Mackenzie Herzog is one of the students who received a job offer from her summer internship.

Herzog is a doctoral student in epidemiology who expects to graduate sometime between December 2017 and May 2018. She focuses on sports injury epidemiology, particularly musculoskeletal injuries.

Over the summer, she worked within the QuintilesIMS Real-World Insights Division on the Sports Injury Surveillance and Analytics team.

“Mackenzie was able to quickly onboard and add fresh perspective to the complex methodological questions we are asking within the context of sports injuries,” said Christina Mack, director of epidemiology at QuintilesIMS and Herzog’s mentor.

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Christina Mack

After her internship, Herzog was hired permanently with the company. Now, she works 25 hours a week as an associate epidemiologist while finishing her dissertation.

The Bland Fellowship provided a unique opportunity to participate in QuintilesIMS’ internship program as a graduate student, Herzog added. Through the internship program, she toured the Solution Design Studio and Q2 Lab Solutions, in addition to meeting with the chief executive officer and participating in career panel discussions.

Herzog had clinical and academic experience, but the summer of 2016 was her first experience working within industry. Her QuintilesIMS internship has influenced how she will focus her dissertation and has taught Herzog the importance of communicating with stakeholders in clear language.

“My dissertation work has been influenced by my internship in that it has made me more confident in my analytic skills and applying the concepts that I’ve learned in the classroom,” she said.

Students aren’t the only ones benefiting from these internships.

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Phil Bors and Sydney Jones

Sydney Jones, a doctoral student in epidemiology, interned with nonprofit Active Living By Design (ALBD), a Chapel Hill-based organization that originated within the North Carolina Institute for Public Health. Jones examined the impact of ALBD’s work with funders and communities across the country.

“She helped us really understand ourselves better and the potential impact we could have across the various different clients and communities that we serve,” said Phil Bors, technical assistance director with the nonprofit.

ALBD helps communities make healthy changes by providing consultation and assistance to local leaders, government agencies, coalitions, nonprofits and health funders. For example, ALBD designs, manages and evaluates grant initiatives to advance healthy communities.

“A lot of my academic research is related to how community structures impact health,” Jones said. “Working with ALBD allowed me to see how these structures are being changed by community members to promote health and wellbeing.”

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Thomas N. Phillips II

Thomas N. Phillips II hoped the Bland Fellowship program would open doors for him in the future. And it did: He was offered a full-time job at Duke University, where he served his summer internship.

Over the summer, Phillips worked with the Duke University College Advising Corps. Now, he works as the assistant director for programs at Duke Engage.

In the future, Phillips, a doctoral student in Romance studies, hopes to have a position that balances teaching and working with students outside of the classroom.

“This is a really wonderful opportunity,” he said of his current job, “exactly what I wanted to do in the future but I get to do it now.”

Phillips’ mentor, Girija Mahajan, was initially unsure about adding a 17th employee when her team of 16 is onsite for training during the summer.

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Girija Mahajan

However, learning more about the structure of the Bland Fellowship and how Phillips would be evaluated on outcomes increased her confidence.

“Not only did I appreciate the level of professionalism that he brought but also just the fact that there was a formal program supporting him,” she said.

Mahajan encouraged Phillips – on his third day in the office – to apply for a position in their division. He transitioned to his full-time job in October 2016.

The Bland Fellowship allows students to explore a variety of non-faculty career paths – and through internships that might otherwise be unpaid positions. That’s why the fellowship serves such an important function, said Sandra Hoeflich, associate dean for interdisciplinary education, fellowships and communication for The Graduate School.

“We’re very appreciative to the estate of Richard Bland for providing undesignated funding that allowed The Graduate School to create this new internship program for graduate students,” she said. “We’ve received such positive feedback about the benefits of this experience. We hope to see this program grow.”

The deadline for students to apply for a 2017 Bland Fellowship is Jan. 31, 2017.

—Christine Scalora