Starting spring 2020, the Department of Management in Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business brought together a talented and passionate pool of students to work as interns for the Division of Human Resources.

Dave Bluey, assistant professor of practice and career advisor in the Department of Management, shared that this internship, developed cross functionally between the department and the division, provides students with an opportunity to experience human resources professions right here at Virginia Tech.

“The exposure to a talented team of executives gives the students valuable hands-on experience beyond the classroom. It also provides them with an understanding of higher-level decision making within an organization’s structure,” said Bluey.

The students benefited from the internship, as did the Department of Management and Human Resources. 

Susan Hughes, interim associate vice president of Human Resources Strategic Engagement, who partnered with Bluey to establish the internship said, “It has been gratifying to support the students and provide them learning opportunities. Human Resources also benefits from the energy they bring, their willingness to learn, and new ways of thinking and problem solving.”

The spring 2020 group included the following interns, who worked in cross-functional areas of Human Resources:

  • Nourhan Abdou, Class of 2021, Analytics and Reporting
  • Kelly Reilly, Class of 2021, Project Management and Process Improvement
  • Lasse Pittioni, Class of 2020, Talent Acquisition

While the first class started off as you would expect with in-office experiences and face-to-face meetings, the program faced a sudden challenge in April – a worldwide pandemic. Quick adjustments were made to continue the program as much as possible in a new, all-virtual environment. 

Nourhan Abdou said that her transition from in-person to virtual with the Human Resources Analytics and Reporting team went smoothly, despite the many challenges the pandemic presented to employees and students alike.

“The constant communication and check-ups with my supervisor, Christine Luketic, director of Human Resources Analytics and Reporting, made the virtual transition easier. I learned how to be more responsible and on top of things, and I developed time management skills,” said Abdou.

The fall 2020 group was double the size of the first:

  • Luke Fowler, Class of 2022, Talent Acquisition
  • Sydney McCain, Class of 2021, Student Affairs
  • Molly Metzler, Class of 2022, Student Affairs
  • T.Van Nguyen, Class of 2021, Compensation
  • Kayo Tanzawa Kim, Class of 2021, Communications
  • Melianty Yularnis, Class of 2021, Analytics and Reporting 
Department of Management interns, leadership, and leaders from the Human Resources Team pause for a photo during the interns' presentations about their experience in November 2020.
Department of Management fall 2020 interns, leadership, and leaders from the Human Resources team pause for a photo during the interns' Zoom presentations about their experience in November 2020.

This time, the internships were completely online due to the pandemic. The participants said that their virtual environment did not discourage them; rather, it provided a unique learning experience through virtual brown bag lunches and meetings. In addition, they had the opportunity to work on strategic projects, such as the development of new employee retention programs, the PageUp Learning Management System launch, and the Commonwealth of Virginia Campaign.

Some of the fall interns shared their unique experiences:

“Understanding recruitment from the ’recruiter’ side was my favorite part of the internship. As students, we spend so much time applying for internships, sending out resumes, and interviewing. Having the opportunity to be part of the hiring process, as I screened dozens of resumes, was eye-opening and educational. This has helped me in crafting a concise resume. When you understand what a recruiter is looking for, it makes the job search process a whole lot easier,” said Luke Fowler.

“I was lucky to work with Mike Copper, compensation analyst. He continuously pushed me out of my comfort zone to ask questions, learn from my mistakes, and grow professionally. Mike wanted me to walk away from this internship feeling as prepared as possible so that I could apply my skills and experience to a potential compensation analyst position,” said T.Van Nguyen.

Kristen Mills, project coordinator for Human Resources, worked with interns throughout the semester and created weekly virtual sessions with division leaders who discussed their job and function.

“I wanted to make sure that the interns were still able to build connections,” said Mills. “Virtual meetings allowed them to learn about different aspects of Human Resources from talent development to recruitment to the Gallup CliftonStrengths Assessments.”

When the application for the spring 2021 program opened, the interns collaborated to build awareness. Nguyen, who also serves as president of the student chapter for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), led a panel to talk about their individual experiences with students interested in applying for the program.

“We were able to bring more than 15 new faces to the meeting and double the number of applicants for the internship. The head of the Department of Management, other professors, and Human Resources leaders also joined us for the event,” said Nguyen.

Devi R. Gnyawali, department head and R.B. Pamplin Professor for the Department of Management, described this internship as a “rare opportunity” for students to work with senior leadership at the university.

“My special thanks to Dave Bluey and Susan Hughes, who worked together to develop and strengthen this program; to Vice President Bryan Garey, who has enthusiastically supported the program; and to all the managers and supervisors who have mentored our students,” said Gnyawali.

Bryan Garey, vice president for Human Resources, expressed how this program represents a commitment by one of the university’s administrative business units to engage more deeply in the academic mission of Virginia Tech as well as provide experiential learning opportunities to students.

“It’s a win-win-win for everyone … the students, the Department of Management, and our division. Students get practical job experience and Human Resources benefits from the knowledge and creativity of emerging talent,” said Garey.

With the successful completion of two internships thus far and an ever-growing applicant pool, Human Resources and the Department of Management are now mentoring a new group of interns for spring 2021. Even with the uncertainty of the ongoing pandemic, leaders are enthusiastic about the growing program and the impact on future professionals in the human resources field.

Students interested in applying for the fall 2021 Pamplin Human Resources Internship can watch for communications from the Pamplin College of Business in early April.

Written by Kayo Tanzawa Kim, Class of 2021, Human Resource Management