March 2020 found the ITS Internship Planning Team organizing interviews with 111 candidates for 44 summer intern positions. The candidates, selected from a pool of almost 500 applicants, were eager to meet with the hiring supervisors, and many of them did. Those scheduled to interview later in March had to settle for videoconferences. By mid-April, it was clear an in-person internship would not be an option. With a starting date of May 4, the ITS Internship Planning Team and ITS Leadership had a difficult decision to make: follow many employers’ leads and cancel the program, or take the remaining days to prepare a virtual summer internship program.
We decided to proceed with a fully-remote, 14-week program. The experience was challenging, eye-opening, and extremely rewarding. The ITS Summer Internship Program prides itself not only on the breadth and depth of learning, but also on its focus on engagement and relationship-building. We had to re-think all aspects of the program to maintain this unique value:
- People: from providing training to supervisors, mentors, and coaches, to organizing weekly coffee chats and events with engaging speakers.
- Process: from adapting methods for managing the program, to hosting an online Showcase event.
- Technology: from leveraging Zoom features such as breakout rooms and polls, to exploring applications such as Jamboard.
By the end of the program, we had accomplished all we had set out to achieve and more. We hope departments at U-M can use our example to tap the power of virtual internships.