Making Connections Through the iCivics UF-Graham Center Virtual Internship
May 05, 2017
iCivics and University of Florida Graham Center have partnered to bring virtual internships to UF students interested in pursuing a career in the nonprofit and civic education space. Virtual internships are great opportunites for students to experience the everchanging realities of the 21st century workforce. iCivics interns are provided hands-on, real impact, projects and tasks with the flexibility of the virtual experience. We've found that although a virtual experience is beneficial for our interns, we like to ensure that they get in person time with staff at our headquarters in Boston. Interns visit iCivics headquarters for one week to meet with staff and are encouraged to get out and experience the Boston-Cambridge area while there. Below is an account from Sabrina Kim, a freshman at UF and one of iCivics' spring semester virtual interns.
My freshman year was truly enriched by taking on this internship- it gave me connections that I will cherish and appreciate, skills in communication and design, and helped me develop professionally by immersing me in an office setting. What made this experience unique from others is that pretty much all of my work was done remotely through the computer. I had to adapt to the primarily technology based communication; and although I never met Amber, the digital media manager, in person, I have gotten to know about her and her job. I remember during my interview, I talked about how I wanted to improve my organizational and planning skills, and through this internship, I have become more comfortable in setting deadlines for myself. I also learned that sometimes schedules do not go as planned and how to reorganize and reprioritize when changes arise.
Early March, I had the opportunity to actually visit iCivics’ office. Normally, the work that I complete is done remotely at my own campus, over one-thousand miles away. With the sponsorship of the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida, I was able to travel to Cambridge, MA and got to see what actually happens at iCivics in person.
My first day, I walked to iCivics’ headquarters with the other iCivics-UF intern, Christina. The weather was chillier than what we were used to (Florida is known as the “Sunshine State”) but it was refreshing. The old buildings, friendly people, and unique shops, provided a great first impression of the area. And when we arrived at headquarters, we were welcomed with even more warm greetings and introductions.
Throughout the trip, I met with several staff members in the office. During our meetings, they shared personal interests, their role at iCivics, and their daily schedules which provided a clearer understanding of the office dynamics. I asked many professional questions about their respective positions, which resulted in valuable advice for college, as well as my future career and life. The most common word that was said during this trip was “connect”. Whether at school or on the job, it is important to make connections and put in the effort to keep them, because it is people that will help you achieve your objectives. The people at iCivics represent an extensive network of thousands of educators. Learning about the hard work required to build and maintain an enormous group of supporters was truly insightful.
Collaboration is a huge part of the iCivics workplace culture. Each staff member has their primary job, but since they aren’t a huge organization, they have so much flexibility in what they do. One person isn’t in charge of a single project, so you'll find many people working on their small part of that project. Because projects require multiple talents from different "departments", the team seems to own the success of the final result.
Much of what I learned from these individuals is how they genuinely love seeing iCivics grow to reach more students. For non-profit, mission driven work, the passion of the staff is vital to the survival of the organization. Today’s political climate is more hostile than ever and civics education is a solution that they strongly believe in. It was really insightful to go from my virtual experience to an in-person visit. During my visit, I learned so much about how non-profit organizations operate, networking and gaining support, as well as the awesome work atmosphere in their office.
Sabrina Kim is a first-year at the University of Florida majoring in Information Systems. Sabrina is from Fort Lauderdale, Florida and lives with her parents, brother, and pet chinchilla. She enjoys cooking, watching documentaries, and painting. At school, she is involved in the Reitz Union Board, in which she helps with programming special events for the student body, GatorTech-- a business & technology club, and Kappa Phi Lambda Sorority, Inc.-- an Asian-Interest sorority.