The Digital Summer Clinic, in partnership with Ann Arbor SPARK, has discovered the secret sauce for student internship success. The program provides real-world experience and professional development that are the foundation of a successful internship experience. For 10 weeks, interns are tasked with individually defined projects that cultivate their creative abilities and hone their skills at tech startups. The competitive program hires 48 students and pairs them with SPARK entrepreneurial services clients.
Three alumni of the program showcase diverse disciplines across the digital marketing field. Their collective expertise illuminates the strength of the program, drawing from a range of educational backgrounds and expertise. Program founder and director Bud Gibson described the program’s distinguishing factor. “Our program allows students to turn purpose-driven work experience into real bullet points on their resume. School is about building skills for jobs. Our program puts those skills into practice, giving students a leg up when it’s time for them to transition to the job market.”
The Digital Summer Clinic began in 2015 out of Eastern Michigan University’s Center for Digital Engagement. What started as a handful of interns quickly grew to the size it is today. Interns are assigned to one of 24 companies and work collaboratively in teams of two. Interns are paid $15/hr and typically come from majors like communications, computer science, business, media arts, and more. Aside from the hands-on work with companies, interns form a strong sense of community through weekly cohort meetings. These meetings serve as collaborative spaces where students receive mentoring and feedback from experienced experts in the industry. Students build confidence with public speaking during presentations and receive the soft skills that so often set them apart in entry-level positions.
Yulia Brown (’19) is a prime example of the clinic’s ability to place students in a personalized environment that allows them to flourish. After completing her master’s in film and television production at St. Petersburg State University in Russia, Yulia immigrated to the United States. Though she had mastered social media strategy in her home country, she wanted the opportunity to apply her skills in the new and virtually unknown American market. To get her feet wet she attended Washtenaw Community College. While studying she heard about the internship and boldly took a chance by applying. Once accepted, Yulia took the opportunity by the reigns and ran with it.
The funding video she filmed and produced for Pathware helped the company raise thousands of dollars in capital and opened doors for additional opportunities in the area. Local companies soon reached out to her for videography work. Additionally, the small and often male-dominated videography community quickly embraced her. “The magic of the clinic is that they pair you so well! There’s so much space for creativity and that space really allows you to shine.”
Her work in the clinic paid off in tremendous ways and ultimately changed the trajectory of her career. Inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit of SPARK, Yulia created a company of her own, Y&D Productions along with her husband. The rapidly growing company currently leads video streaming and production work for Zingerman’s Cornman Farms. Her quick rise from intern to founder speaks to the program’s ability to nurture talent and served as a pivotal moment in her digital marketing journey.
Other interns exhibited an equal dose of self-motivation and curiosity. Though they started during the pandemic, both Madison Karp (’20) and Celia Arsen (’20) were able to maximize the internship opportunity to the fullest. Western Michigan University graduate, Madison, tackled the challenge of producing 18 videos and correlating blogs for the startup LoanSense.
“Though I was initially outside of my comfort zone creating visuals, it ultimately helped me to create the type of content that I use today on my job. The internship helped me to learn how to communicate clearly, which helped me be able to prepare for job interviews and build my online skills working remotely.” Today, Madison works virtually as a marketing coordinator for CommerceHub, helping with corporate communications while living here in Michigan.
Celia also spoke on the importance of the internship in shaping her professional experience. The Barnard College grad interned at Dynamo Metrics and utilized her knowledge of GIS in the position. “One thing that was unique about the clinic and my experience was that I worked at a small company. My desk was right across from the CTO which made them easily accessible. It was easy to get feedback from my coworkers and cool to see how the things I was learning in school would be applicable to a company’s needs.”
After several months on the job, she received a promotion with her current employer, Mathematica, partly because the tools she gained at the clinic allowed her to successfully navigate the workplace. Read more about Celia’s story.
The clinic functions as a bridge for students as they make the often-daunting transition from academia into the real world. Through mentorship, the clinic helps students tackle the fundamental question, “What’s next?” and allows them to move forward with tangible skills and self-assurance. The benefits are twofold. Intensive training at emerging companies helps students actualize careers in digital marketing. Similarly, business projects that students complete make a direct impact in the local community and ultimately retain talent for the state.
To apply for the Digital Summer Clinic, visit their website and submit an application by Friday, April 30. The program typically runs from mid-June through mid-August.