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ECU students gain experience through summer internships
July 11, 2014
ECU News Services
East Carolina University students are applying the skills they’ve learned in the classroom at a myriad of internships this summer.
From working at a military base in North Carolina to the fashion hub of Manhattan, students are gaining valuable on-the-job experience from professionals in their field of study.
Many hope the contacts they make this summer will give them an edge for future job placements.
Here we spotlight just a few of the many Pirates who have been hard at work this summer.
Jumpstarting new lives
Dameisha Brown, a senior criminal justice major from Winston-Salem, helps women transition from prison to careers.
Helping women start new lives after completing their prison sentences “is really, really hard work,” said Brown. “But I love it,” she quickly added.
Brown is an intern at the Center for Community Transitions in Charlotte, a nonprofit agency providing employment training and transition services to women coming out of prison. “We are an employment readiness program,” Brown said.
Groups of 10-15 women spend two weeks at the center receiving intensive training in resume writing, how to search for jobs and how to conduct themselves during job interviews.
“A criminal record does not define who they are as a person,” Brown said, “but a lot of them (who aren’t helped by the center) lose hope when they go apply for a job. Employers say they don’t discriminate but it is hard for them to get a job.”
Brown said 86 percent of the women served by the center do find jobs. “And that was last year’s data. I hope when our numbers for this year come out it will be even higher,” she said.
The unpaid internship, which is Brown’s final requirement for graduation from East Carolina University, officially ends on July 28. But Brown said she plans to continue volunteering at the center while she begins her own job search.
“I plan to get a job as a probation officer and do that for a few years. And then I want to go to law school,” she said. “But until I do find my own job, I’ll stay here as a volunteer.”
She said the internship has opened her eyes to the difficult transition women go through after completing their prison sentences.
“It’s a great program that I think should be everywhere,” she said.
Although her internship is unpaid, Brown said she has been compensated in other ways.
“I just love it when clients come in and share their stories with me, how much they appreciate their case managers and the work we do,” she said. “I find that very rewarding, knowing you’ve helped somebody get a solid start on a new life.”
Brown said her duties vary widely during a typical day at the center. She helps answer the phones during the mornings and then spends her afternoons assisting case managers with paperwork. She said her favorite part of the internship is interacting with clients.
“We have a graduation ceremony every two weeks, and we give the clients packages of items that are donated to us that will be useful in their job search. We have these writing tablets in the packages, and we sort of hint that it’s a computer, like an iPad tablet. That usually gets a big laugh when they open their packages and find that it’s the old-fashioned kind of tablet.”
-- Steve Tuttle
Sharing a 'forever' passion
Recent ECU graduate Margaret Craig is interning in the sales department at the Washington Redskins’ home stadium.
“Working for the Redskins has always been a goal of mine so this experience is extremely exciting and rewarding,” said Craig.
“Being able to work with people who share the same love and passion for the Redskins is the best part.” Growing up 15 minutes away from Washington D.C., in Annandale, Virginia, Craig and her family have been Redskins’ fans “forever,” she said.
Her duties include selling season ticket packages, providing customer service and giving tours of the stadium. “The office environment is great because everyone is a die-hard Redskins fan, so the anticipation and excitement of the upcoming season makes it a very fun place to work,” she said.
Craig applied through the Redskins’ website in January and was hired as an intern in April. “I knew it was where I wanted to start my post-graduate career so I was extremely persistent,” she said.
Working with the Redskins is Craig’s fifth internship. “My first was with a public relations firm in D.C., and then I was a marketing assistant for Pulitzer Prize winning author, Mike Vitezm,” she said. She interned with the ECU sports marketing department for two years. Last summer she interned with a triathlon company that she still works for part time.
In her past internships, Craig said that she wishes she had been more proactive and made better connections with co-workers. “At this internship, I am sure to always be the one willing to help with a new project and make sure my bosses know who I am and what I want out of this internship,” she said.
Craig said she was surprised that interns have opportunities to move up in the organization. “The majority of people I work with had my internship and now are full-time employees,” she said. “I am lucky to be in a place that hires within instead of outsourcing.”
After her internship is complete, Craig hopes to continue working with the Redskins in the community relations department. As much as she loves the Redskins, her long-term goal is to work for a nonprofit organization. “As an avid triathlete and runner I am very interested in becoming involved in nonprofits that partner with races to help promote their cause, such as The Wounded Warrior Project,” she said.
All of Craig’s siblings and both of her parents attended universities in Virginia, her home state, so when she came to ECU, her intention was to transfer to a university in Virginia to keep up with the tradition. “I fell in love with ECU's infectious school spirit and football pride,” said Craig. “After my first semester at ECU I knew it was where I would graduate from.”
Craig graduated from ECU in May with degrees in communication and English.
-- Grace Haskin
Ashley Lamb & Kelly Dixon:
Trying their hands in the clothing industry
When Ashley Lamb, left, and Kelly Dixon started out as freshmen at East Carolina University, neither imagined they’d be interning with major fashion brands in New York City only four years later.
But this summer the fashion merchandising students find themselves dodging tourists and navigating the streets of Manhattan daily, en route to impressive fashion merchandising internships.
They’re gaining hands-on experience in a competitive industry that requires both the use of technical skills for things like measuring fabrics and calculating prices, as well as a creative eye for the design of showroom displays and photo shoots.
Lamb is working in the sales group for Jessica Simpson’s dress line at the GIII Apparel Group, a company which designs, manufactures and markets women’s and men’s apparel for brands like Calvin Klein, Guess and Kenneth Cole. Her ultimate goal is to design and sell her own clothing line, but she has to learn the ropes first.
“I’ve been trained on such a wide variety of tasks already,” she said. “So, I’m getting there.”
She feels confident that this experience is giving her a unique perspective for her return to ECU this August to finish her degree requirements. Being immersed in one of the world fashion capitals equips her with what she says is “industry knowledge that can’t be taught in a classroom.”
Both ECU seniors selected their NYC internships independently from one another, but Dixon works only a few blocks away from Lamb as a showroom intern at Trina Turk – a designer self-described as “a lifestyle brand, inspired by the multicultural mix, architecture and landscape of Los Angeles and California.” Turk’s designs are sold by many major retailers and include a partnered collection with Banana Republic.
Dixon is experiencing the thrill of market – a time when buyers from a variety of vendors such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Belk visit the showroom and review the Trina Turk resort 2015 collection.
The market season also gave her an unforgettable behind-the-scenes look at a photo shoot and celebrity interview by Women’s Wear Daily, a leading fashion industry trade journal – sometimes called the “bible of fashion.”
Lamb and Dixon took different paths to choosing a career in this field. Lamb has dreamed of dresses and runways since she was a little girl but Dixon changed her major a few times before settling into it. She says she’s glad she stuck with it, and her only regret is not switching sooner.
The women are friends and classmates at ECU, but have stayed too busy in their internships this summer to meet up just yet.
In a single day, they might be tasked with cutting sample fabric swatches, assisting account managers with client relations, fulfilling extensive retail orders and maintaining the showroom for their respective employers.
Courses in ECU’s fashion merchandising program taught them the necessary fundamentals to succeed in these assignments. Textiles lab, specifically, provided the tactile experience of working with various fabrics. Both agree the course has made their duties such as classifying sample garments—a requirement before they hit the market—much easier.
Dixon said her visual merchandising class has also come in handy. “Designing welcoming displays is very important in department stores because that can be what draws customers into your section,” she said. “If your display is intriguing, then customers are more likely to stop and take a look at your product.”
“Merchandising math has turned out to be really helpful when I’m asked to create line sheets, which requires me to utilize various formulas to calculate prices,” Lamb added.
But equally important to the industry-specific experience are the real world workplace lessons they’re learning in these internships.
Lamb said she’s realized that you should always be willing to attempt an assignment, even if you’re unsure of how to accomplish it. “Your boss understands you won’t know how to complete every task they ask of you, but the great thing is, as long as you’re willing to put forth effort, they have no problem guiding you,” she explained.
They said it’s not all glamorous, but Dixon added, “You’ve always got to bring your ‘A’ game. You never know who is watching and it’s better to make sure you impress everyone … because with this industry, it’s not just about knowing what to do but also looking good while you do it.”
To learn more about the fashion merchandising program in ECU’s College of Human Ecology, visit
-- Kelly Setzer
Shooting for the moon
Living and working in Washington, D.C. has given ECU honors student Jessica Jewell a close up view of the nation’s policy makers and leaders.
As an intern with the D.C. bureau of NBC News Channel, Jewell attended former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney’s final briefing and stood among journalists and protestors at controversial U.S. Supreme Court rulings.
“It’s the center of news in our country,” said Jewell, 21, an EC Scholar from Clayton. “Initially, it was a bit daunting, because although I have worked in Raleigh and Charlotte, nothing compares to the hustle and bustle of D.C.”
Jewell, a rising senior in communication, interned last year at NBC News Channel headquarters in Charlotte, which produces news content for network affiliates across the country.
“There's always something going on and big news constantly evolves in D.C.,” Jewell said. “It forces me to be up-to-date on the latest news and to learn about the deeper issues underlying the problems in our country today. The more I learn, the more I want to share my knowledge.”
She has logged press conferences and interviews, and written summaries of interviews. She highlights important quotes or sound bites for reporters, and helps locate content for news packages. “I really enjoy doing this because I learn a lot from it,” Jewell said.
It’s rewarding to see a reporter use a fact or statement Jewell recommended, she said. “Sometimes I help with information gathering or fact-checking, and sometimes I get to actually interview people on my own,” Jewell said.
She conducted interviews with students at the National Spelling Bee, on U.S. House Speaker John Boehner's lawsuit against President Obama, and Supreme Court rulings on gun sales, cell phone privacy and the Hobby Lobby contraceptives case, among others.
“I also get to record my own standups, which I'll be able to use on my resume tape when I apply for reporting jobs,” Jewell said. “When I work on stories, I write my own story and have reporters critique it so that I'm constantly honing my reporter skills.”
In a case brought by the craft store chain Hobby Lobby, the court ruled that business owners with religious objections to contraceptives can’t be required to provide them in employee health insurance plans.
“There were so many reporters staked out on the sidewalk alongside crowds of protesters waiting to react,” Jewell said. “I assisted a reporter doing live shots for various stations before the decision, saw the crowd react when they got word, helped analyze the decision and interview people, and worked with reporters into the evening.
“It was such a cool experience,” she said, “not only as an aspiring journalist trying to find the news and present it so that the public can understand it, but as an American seeing democracy at work in the very heart of our country.”
Jewell said ECU has prepared her with broadcast writing, video editing, story production and basic news principals. “But most importantly, my classes have really enhanced my news judgment, which is essential in my internship,” she said.
The internship has boosted Jewell’s confidence, whether working with reporters, producers or alone, and challenged her to seek new opportunities. She thought she wanted to be a Today Show host, but now she’s thinking about becoming a national news reporter.
“I've learned that I'm capable of accomplishing much more than I thought I could,” Jewell said. “My professors have always encouraged me to shoot for the moon, and the more I work in the broadcast journalism world, the more I realize that the moon may not be as far away as I think.”
-- Crystal Baity
A self-proclaimed military brat, Karla Baker has her sights trained on a career helping wounded warriors.
The East Carolina University graduate student aims to work as a civilian occupational therapist for the military. And her summer internship at the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center at Camp Lejeune’s Naval Hospital is moving her one step closer to firing range.
Baker has finished the coursework for a master’s degree in occupational therapy at ECU’s College of Allied Health Sciences; now she’s completing the first of two 12-week fieldwork rotations required before she graduates in December 2014.
She’s working with brain injury patients, evaluating each one’s specific needs and designing individual treatment plans to meet them.
“This clinic is very unique in that it focuses on mild traumatic brain injuries,” Baker said. “Here the role of each health profession is different than what you would expect in a typical clinic. Here, occupational therapy focuses on vision, headaches, sleep and anxiety that might result from a traumatic brain injury.”
The goal is to improve patients’ symptoms, and thus, their quality of life, said Baker. By the end of the rotation, supervisors expect her to have assumed her clinical instructor’s entire patient caseload.
Baker said she feels lucky ECU faculty worked with Camp Lejeune to create the opportunity for her. “They knew I wanted to do at least one rotation with the military,” she said. “One of the reasons I chose ECU for graduate school was its close proximity to two large military installations.”
Learning about new technologies and techniques in occupational therapy has been one highlight of Baker’s summer. Another has been touring special training areas and simulators used by the military.
“Being on a military base definitely puts a new, interesting spin on rehabilitation and future treatment ideas,” she said.
She hopes the remainder of her fieldwork will teach her more about the connections between traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, social aspects, current health care and the institution of the military. “When we can better understand how this complex interaction works, I think patient care and outcomes are better because we can focus on the whole client,” she said.
Baker spent most of her childhood in Sasebo, Japan. She said she “fell instantly in love with occupational therapy” during her last semester of high school while shadowing an assortment of allied health professionals. “I like that occupational therapy addresses both the physical and personal components of the client while striving for their independence,” she said.
After earning a psychology degree from Appalachian State University, Baker said she chose ECU’s occupational therapy program because of its diverse curriculum and numerous opportunities for hands-on experiences with a variety of age groups.
Baker helps wounded warriors when she’s off the clock, too. On Oct. 26 in Arlington, Virginia, she’ll run the Marine Corps Marathon on behalf of Team Fisher House, which houses military families while their loved ones are being treated at nearby hospitals.
-- Amy Adams Ellis
Getting a head start on dreams
Senior communications major John Gillespie is interning with the Washington Redskins’ public relations department.
Stationed at Redskins Park in Ashburn, Virginia, he is working under the supervision of Andrew Walker, the lead writer and editor of the Redskins' website -
“It’s pretty surreal working with the Redskins,” Gillespie said. “I’ve always known that I wanted to work in sports, so when I got this opportunity it was perfect.” He said that he applied to many sports-related internships and the Redskins were the first to contact him.
Gillespie’s duties change day to day depending on what is needed. “The fun part of my job is watching the Redskins practice, interviewing players afterwards and writing articles for the website,” he said. “The most tedious thing I do is transcribe interviews that are recorded after practice.”
One of Gillespie’s articles was posted on the Redskins’ website and he plans on having two more pieces published during his internship. “This will give me several documents to add to my portfolio,” he said. “These pieces will hold more weight with potential employers when they see these are published works and not just papers I wrote for a college course.”
A lifelong sports fanatic, Gillespie once dreamed of playing in the NBA. “After I realized my chances of making it to the NBA were slim, I gave up my hoop dreams and decided if I can't play in the NBA I would love be a part of that atmosphere and excitement,” he said.
With hopes that it will help him find a job working for a NFL or NBA team after graduation, Gillespie plans to keep in touch with the contacts he has made during his internship. “In the future, I think some of these connections I'm making could be very beneficial,” he said. “I would not have been able to get these networking opportunities without my internship.”
Gillespie’s advice for students who are looking for an internship is to start looking early. “I waited until the summer before I graduated to do mine, but I wish I had tried to get an internship sooner,” he said. Gillespie thinks that all students should do an internship.
Gillespie is completing his undergraduate degree in communication and will graduate in December.
-- Grace Haskin
East Carolina University
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