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Making it work

During pandemic, internships go virtual

Smiling young woman sits near laptop displaying Postal Service website
America Sanchez, a University of Central Florida junior, is one of 49 USPS interns who are working from home this summer.

The coronavirus pandemic is providing new learning experiences for the Postal Service’s summer interns.

USPS hosts about 50 interns each year, assigning them to 10-week projects that allow the college students to learn about the organization while helping to improve postal operations.

This year, several departments and teams — including Leadership and Career Development and University Relations — worked together to quickly adapt traditional internships into virtual experiences for 49 students, including 22 who found assignments in Marketing.

“This is the experience I wanted to have before I enter the workforce,” said MinhTu Tran, a Virginia Tech business information technology major whose internship involves analyzing USPS global marketing data.

America Sanchez, a junior at the University of Central Florida, originally thought her industrial engineering major wouldn’t be a good fit for Marketing — until she started her internship in May.

Sanchez is monitoring an Instagram collaboration between the Postal Service and a retailer, including reviewing the company’s catalog sales to gauge the initiative’s success rate.

“I’m using Excel tools and formulas, which is practiced a lot in my field,” Sanchez said.

Another intern, Casey Reblin, had planned to work with City Delivery, but was on board when Marketing offered the opportunity to help with sales contract data analysis.

“I’m really surprised that the stuff I’m doing — working with Access and Excel — is what we work with a lot in my school program,” said Reblin, an industrial and systems engineering major at Virginia Tech.

In addition to providing the interns with work experience, the organization encourages the students to get to know each other — just like they would if they were working side by side in the office.

“I have Zoom meetings with the other Marketing interns,” said Jonathan Obas, an information technology major at Florida International University whose internship involves creating a form that business customers can use to look up tracking numbers for bulk orders.

Nakesha Kemp-Hirst, a Strategic Planning and Business Analytics manager in Global Business who works closely with Tran, said it’s important for each intern to feel engaged in his or her work.

To help Tran get acclimated, Kemp-Hirst provided her with orientation materials and set up one-on-one video conferencing meetings so the intern could meet other managers in the department.

“We want this to be as meaningful as possible,” Kemp-Hirst said.