(INDIANAPOLIS) — Both short-term individual internship achievement and long-term program success were on display today at the Ritz Charles in Carmel during the 14th annual IMPACT Awards hosted by Indiana INTERNnet.
“This year’s event not only spotlights the incredible opportunities created between students and employers, but also celebrates the milestone achievement where over 15,000 internships have been completed since the program’s inception,” said Lori Danielson, president of Indiana INTERNnet’s Board of Directors.
Indiana INTERNnet is a free internship-matching program managed by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce that links employers, students, high schools, colleges and universities.
Ten winners were recognized in the categories of Intern of the Year (college; high school, which featured a three-way tie; and non-traditional), Employer of the Year (non-profit and for-profit), Career Development Professional of the Year (high school and college) and Intern Supervisor of the Year. The winners were chosen from over 150 nominations.
A new special recognition, the David R. McKinnis Community Partner award, honored three programs that are working to better their communities by creating quality internships and experiential learning opportunities. McKinnis served as Indiana INTERNnet board president from the program’s 2006 affiliation with the Indiana Chamber until his retirement from Purdue University at the end of 2019.
The 2020 IMPACT Award winners are:
- College Intern of the Year: Olatundun Awosanya (Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis)
- High School Intern of the Year (three-way tie):
- Zavion Herron (Center for Civic Innovation Notre Dame; Riley High School, South Bend)
- Shelby Waligora (Community Foundation DeKalb County; DeKalb High School, Auburn)
- Taylor Wylie (The Cedars Retirement Home; Woodlan Jr./Sr. High School, Allen County)
- Non-Traditional Intern of the Year: Harini Kamalakkannan (The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis)
- Intern Supervisor of the Year: Sonya Snellenberger-Holm (Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, Fort Wayne)
- College Career Development Professional of the Year: Abiodun Durojaye (Ivy Tech Community College, Valparaiso)
- High School Career Development Professional of the Year: Brienne Sprunger (Garrett High School, DeKalb County)
- Employer of the Year (For-profit): Intersection Advertising Agency (Muncie)
- Employer of the Year (Non-profit): Indianapolis Airport Authority
- David R. McKinnis Community Partner Award: Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership (Fort Wayne)
- David R. McKinnis Community Partner Award: enFocus, Inc. (South Bend)
- David R. McKinnis Community Partner Award: The Gregory S. Fehribach Center (Indianapolis)
The luncheon was sponsored by Ivy Tech Community College, with Gerry Dick of Inside INdiana Business as the event emcee.
Supporting the luncheon’s theme of “Celebrating Internship Excellence,” there were moderated conversations with several honorees on strategies for success, as well as a focus on best practices for both interns and employers.
For more information about the Indiana INTERNnet program, visit www.IndianaINTERN.net or call (317) 264-6852.
Details about the winners are below and at www.indianachamber.com/IMPACTAwards (which also includes a list of all the statewide nominees):
College Intern of the Year: Olatundun Awosanya (IUPUI)
A senior at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), Olatundun Awosanya focuses on molecular and cellular biology. In 2018, she became an integral part of the Life-Health Science Internship (LHSI) program.
Awosanya’s mentor, Melissa Kacena, Ph.D., director of basic and translational research and professor of orthopaedic surgery, encouraged Awosanya to stay on under her guidance and helped her find additional funding opportunities to do just that.
Kacena praises Awosanya for her leadership skills while doing research in the lab and working alongside postdoctoral fellows, lab technicians, medical students and residents – building cooperative relationships with each. As new members join the lab, Awosanya is one of the primary mentor/trainers to ensure each person learns consistent molecular laboratory techniques and procedures.
Awosanya’s main project in the lab was a collaboration with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the U.S. Army. This included spending several weeks at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Awosanya was an instrumental part of the team preparing cells for a study that was launched into space in July 2019 and remained at the International Space Station for a month.
High School Intern of the Year: Zavion Herron (Riley High School, South Bend) “Determined, good leader and hard-working are desired characteristics in any young man. Fortunately for Riley High School and South Bend, we have Zavion Herron, who exhibits all these attributes,” praises Seth Ponder, engineering teacher at the school and Herron’s immediate supervisor at Bowman Creek Educational Ecosystem (BCEE).
BCEE is a partnership that pilots community-engaged, sustainable projects to address real world challenges in St. Joseph and Elkhart counties.
Herron was the youngest member of the BCEE program and is a top engineering student at Riley. South Bend city engineers called on BCEE interns to work on a large project to help predict rainfall and prevent blockages in nearby Bowman Creek. Herron did not shy away and took the lead on creating the graphical user interface portion of this project.
With Herron’s design leadership, the team was able to take feedback and high-level vision from government officials and turn it into productive renditions of the interface. The end product is a tool that can be easily adopted into a busy workflow.
Herron has also taken the initiative to work with the Center for Civic Innovation leadership and brainstorm alternative ways middle and high school students can be involved in STEM initiatives surrounding Bowman Creek.
High School Intern of the Year: Shelby Waligora (DeKalb High School, Auburn)
The Promise Indiana initiative focuses on expanding access to 529 college savings accounts, making sure all young people have opportunities to build assets for their futures and helping communities develop a college-going culture. Community Foundation DeKalb County (CFDC) launched its program in 2018 with the initial emphasis on K-3 students. Shelby Waligora interned at a time when CFDC was looking to expand up to and including high school students, a first for the Promise efforts in the state.
Waligora promoted the program around DeKalb County by leading her own enrollment events, using strong social media efforts and developing Promise Indiana marketing collateral. Waligora brought together more than 60 high school volunteers to make the DeKalb County Promise Walk Into My Future event possible.
Those volunteers were needed as over 2,000 K-3 students took part in the “Walk” event at the local Ivy Tech Community College campus. Walk Into My Future helps young people gain ideas of what they can aspire to after completing high school.
Waligora met with teachers, students and her principal and coordinated meetings with CFDC staff to make this happen. She has been accepted to Purdue University Fort Wayne and will focus on a degree in psychology with a minor in secondary education.
High School Intern of the Year: Taylor Wylie (Woodlan Jr/Sr High School, Allen County)
Taylor Wylie dreams of one day becoming a registered nurse. Her experience and accomplishments as a certified nursing assistant have her well on the way.
The Interdisciplinary Cooperative Education program allows high school seniors to combine on-the-job work experience with classroom instruction and training in a career field related to the student’s academic preparation and career goals.
Wylie interns at The Cedars Retirement Home in Leo, where both patients and staff find her invaluable. Diane Richman, director of nursing at The Cedars, says Wylie contributes to the nursing home’s mission of providing a caring and supportive community by assisting patients’ needs and making sure they are comfortable daily.
It might be just a friendly smile, a listening ear or a tissue to wipe away a tear. By demonstrating compassion and kindness, Wylie adds to the positive atmosphere at The Cedars. Her attitude and ability to interact with not only patients, but also family members, has an impact on people’s lives. She develops a deep connection with everyone she comes into contact with.
Wylie wants to grow in the nursing profession and always better herself in the health field. She was recently offered at full-time position with Fort Wayne Hospice and will travel to nursing homes to provide special care.
Non-Traditional Intern of the Year: Harini Kamalakkannan – Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
Harini Kamalakkannan originally intended to “build” her career in architecture, completing her degree in that subject in college in India. Upon graduation, however, she moved back to the United States and decided she wanted a job where she would work directly with talented, outgoing people.
Kamalakkannan applied for the public relations internship at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Even though she didn’t, on paper, have the suggested skills, Tim Scully, the intern program manager for the children’s museum, met with Kamalakkannan and relays that her enthusiasm for the position overcome that obstacle.
Focus, attitude and creativity were needed as the museum was planning its 2nd Anniversary Celebration for the Riley Children’s Health Sports Legends Experience. Kamalakkannan took on the challenge of planning the event and exceeded expectations. Veteran museum employees were impressed with her attitude and work ethic.
She led several museum-wide meetings to plan the event. The special guest list she coordinated included an Indianapolis 500 driver, a state championship high school basketball team, a high school marching band and several sports mascots. No detail was left overlooked and with Kamalakkannan’s guidance, the event was a complete success.
Career Development Professional of the Year (college): Abiodun Durojaye (Ivy Tech Community College, Valparaiso)
Abiodun Durojaye was nominated four separate times for this award by her colleagues. Durojaye serves as the director of career development and employer engagement at Ivy Tech Community College’s Valparaiso campus. Her colleagues note her dedication to students and her willingness to help any, even those outside of her department.
Durojaye constantly incorporates new ways to assist students with their career development. She started a series of workshops to help them improve their resumes, work on their soft skills and participate in mock interviews. She created a professional career closet, soliciting donations of professional clothing to give to students in need as they search for a job. She even stands in as a substitute when instructors are not able to make it to class, using the opportunity to promote student success initiatives.
Durojaye also builds relationships with employers to support her students. She holds conferences to discuss the benefits of internships for employers and welcomes them on campus monthly to help connect them with students.
Known for going above and beyond, Durojaye is not afraid to use her personal time to assist her students. “Durojaye adjusts her schedule around meeting the needs of students, rather than them adjusting around her,” says Alexandra Cuadra, a student services professional at Ivy Tech.
Career Development Professional of the Year (high school): Brienne Sprunger (Garrett High School, DeKalb County)
In her role at Garrett High School, Brienne Sprunger is known as the driving force behind students’ career development. By constantly developing new ways to engage students in their career journeys, she ensures their needs are met as they evolve into tomorrow’s employees.
She helps facilitate a peer tutoring program, where students are placed into positions in multiple departments within the school district to give them their first experience with work-based learning. She also oversees a professional development program with a curriculum that includes personal finance, soft skills and other important topics.
Sprunger was instrumental in beginning a student-run café where they gain real-world experiences such as meeting with vendors and outside organizations. Students learn how to operate a cash register and provide customer service, giving them skills, they need to obtain their first part-time jobs.
In addition, Sprunger provides coaching and a sense of support for her students. She helps them navigate the logistics of obtaining a job, such as completing background checks and providing documents. She also advises students on important topics such as health and safety, finances and work-life balance as they juggle jobs, school and various activities.
Intern Supervisor of the Year: Sonya Snellenberger-Holm (Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, Allen County)
Sonya Snellenberger-Holm takes on many roles. She is a Gallup-certified CliftonStrengths coach, teaches communications at Purdue University Fort Wayne and leads the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership’s (NEIRP) internship program for employers in the 11-county area. She also manages an intern every summer and makes it her goal to provide interns with the best possible experience.
Snellenberger-Holm spends weeks preparing a project portfolio for her interns before they arrive. She helps them build their skills so they can gradually become more independent and rely on their own abilities. Being a CliftonStrengths coach, she works with the interns to understand their talents and how those impact their work.
Snellenberger-Holm also makes an effort to get to know her interns on a personal and professional level. She uses that knowledge to create networking and development opportunities for the interns, utilizing her own network of contacts. She connects with the interns on a friendly level, while simultaneously maintaining a professional demeanor – a rare combination that helps dissolve interns’ nervousness in a new work situation.
By overseeing NEIRP’s summertime professional development workshops, Snellenberger-Holm promotes opportunities to learn about topics like project management, dinner etiquette and mindfulness. These events are not just available to her own interns, but those throughout the region.
Employer of the Year (for-profit): Intersection Advertising Agency (Muncie)
Intersection Advertising Agency has a unique internship program. The interns comprise “InterNsection,” which operates as a miniature agency within the company and is responsible for its own set of projects. Interns are given creative freedom to edit their intern web site, take over social media accounts and start real-world projects.
By giving interns autonomy while still providing supervision, Intersection’s internship program provides an effective environment for creative growth. In the summer of 2018, Intersection sought to deliver high-quality pro bono work for a local nonprofit through its internship program. This immersive project not only gave interns firsthand experience in working with a client, but also the opportunity to make a difference in the community.
Community ties were further strengthened that summer by Intersection partnering with the Muncie Intern Collaborative, where summer interns attended sessions addressing leadership skills, personal financing and other important topics.
Interns have regular check-in meetings with supervisors to evaluate their individual goals and performance. The meetings are structured to create two-way conversations, allowing Intersection to use interns’ feedback to better the program. The program is now run by two former interns, and approximately 60% of Intersection’s employees were former interns, serving as an example of what an internship program can do as a talent retention strategy.
Employer of the Year (non-profit): Indianapolis Airport Authority
The Indianapolis Airport Authority’s (IAA) internship program aims to introduce college students to the aviation industry and connect interns to airport leaders while completing real-world projects. More than 10,000 people work at the Indianapolis International Airport each day, and 22,600 area jobs have a connection to the airport.
IAA is tasked with developing tomorrow’s leaders today. The internship initiative is a robust 12-week program designed to provide a full summer of exposure to career fields within the airport management industry.
Each year, IAA hires an average of 12 summer interns. At the start of the program, potential interns are asked to write an essay describing why they should be selected. IAA works with the selected interns on an individual basis to assess their interests and goals for their internship and provide them with hands-on learning opportunities. Each department is required to provide a job description and scope of work for their intern and to clearly define their roles, including the value of the project for the student and IAA.
Interns also spend one day a week job shadowing with other departments. This cross-departmental education broadens their understanding of the organization, how each department works together and familiarizes them with the airport environment. At the end of the program, they are required to create presentations to present to the executive team outlining each of their projects.
David R. McKinnis Community Partners
Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership (Allen County)
Beginning in 2017, the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership (NEIRP) formally endorsed internships as a key business driver for increasing business investment in the region. Recognizing that internships are uniquely effective in talent attraction, retention and development, the broader regional team devoted staff to the effort and assembled a high-functioning committee of regional leaders.
NEIRP itself makes it a team effort to focus on the intern’s professional development. In addition to an intern having a manager who is responsible for their day-to-day work, individuals from different teams volunteer to be an intern’s mentor. A mentor is responsible for meeting with the intern on a regular basis to promote the intern’s professional growth.
enFocus Inc. (South Bend)
The enFocus mission is to empower talent to build better communities. This includes enhancing community health with predictive analytics and transforming government through technology to using data to transport students for a public-school system and building strategies for non-profit sustainability.
To date, enFocus has engaged over 600 interns to work on over 150 projects for 50 sponsor organizations. Interns at enFocus are involved in solving complex problems, growing businesses and changing the way communities innovate to inspire new ideas, implement new services and transform the community for the better. enFocus works with governments, businesses and non-profits to spark innovation.
The Gregory S. Fehribach Center (Indianapolis)
The Gregory S. Fehribach Center recruits students with physical disabilities from across the state and places them in internships in fields directly related to their majors. Research indicates that college students with physical disabilities graduate at rates similar to their peers without disabilities, but there is often a disconnect for these students in finding employment at an equal success rate.
The Fehribach Center’s internship program gives students real-world work experience in positions that correlate with their academic majors. Since its inception, 77 students (from 24 colleges and universities) have received internships (many at Eskenazi Health) through the center.
The Indiana Chamber partners with 25,000 members and investors – representing over four million Hoosiers – to achieve the mission of “cultivating a world-class environment which provides economic opportunity and prosperity.”
Indiana INTERNnet, a program managed by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, is the catalyst for expanding the creation and use of experiential learning opportunities as a key strategy in retaining Indiana’s top talent.