A photo of a man and woman in lab coats standing outside in front of some bushes and trees.
Maizah Rashid (right) stands outside the Sisters of Mercy Hospital in Croatia, where she served an internship in summer 2022. (Contributed photo)

VCU Internship Funding Program propels students to career success

Three recent alums reflect how the initiative connects academic pursuits to employment and professional development.

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With interests in logistics, human resources and health care, alums Shemayia Broughton, Emily Popp and Maizah Rashid furthered their careers through Virginia Commonwealth University’s Internship Funding Program – and they are among many recent graduates who reflect the initiative’s success.

“I was able to get real-world experience in supply chain management. It was great that I got to experience that type of work before accepting my job,” said Broughton, a 2022 VCU alum with a degree in supply chain management and analytics from the School of Business who now works at PepsiCo in Maryland as a maintenance supervisor.

Created in 2022 by VCU Career Services, the IFP makes internships more financially viable for students. Funds can be requested to help cover internship-related expenses such as housing, transit/travel, professional attire or supplies, food, utilities, hourly support for lost wages, child care and other costs.

Student internships often lead to job placement, according to data collected for the program’s Alumni Outcomes Report from fall 2023. It found that the majority of IFP graduates are either employed or continuing their education, and of those employed, most secured jobs in the same field as their internship.

“VCU Career Services staff helped me through the interview process. They helped me look at my résumé and tailor it to the job I wanted,” Broughton said. 

A photo of a woman from the chest up.
Shemayia Broughton, a 2022 School of Business alum, works at PepsiCo in Maryland as a maintenance supervisor. (Contributed photo)

She completed her eight-week internship in December 2022, moved to Maryland and started working full time in February 2023. 

“I had to get acclimated to working over a team of people. I don’t know if I would have adapted so easily in February if I had not had an internship,” Broughton said.

Internships funded by the IFP are supervised and structured work experiences that are time-limited and facilitate students’ career exploration, professional networking, transferable skill-building and personal reflection. Internships may or may not be tied directly to a student’s major or course of study, but ideally they complement or supplement academic pursuits, leadership experiences or other interests.

The IFP was funded in its first year by VCU’s Strategic Enrollment Management and Student Success division, by the Student Life and Learning Fund in its second year and by a grant from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia and the Virginia Talent + Opportunity Partnership in its third year.  

Popp, who graduated this May with a degree in human resource management in the School of Business, assisted the HR director at Hilton Richmond Downtown during her internship in summer 2023. Its timing “couldn’t have been better,” she said, as her final year of college awaited.

“The IFP helped with living expenses, and without that money, I wouldn’t have been able to do this,” Popp said. “Also, it was beneficial to have check-ins with the IFP program administrator. They would ask me questions like, ‘Can you reflect on your experience and how have you grown?’ I appreciated that opportunity. They would also send out virtual surveys over the summer.”

The Hilton asked Popp to stay on as a part-time employee after her internship ended, and she hopes to become full time soon.

A black and white photo of a woman from the chest up
Emily Popp turned a summer internship at Hilton Richmond Downtown into a part-time job. (Contributed photo)

“If that doesn’t work out, I will still look for something in human resources,” she said, adding that the internship boosted her confidence. “I was able to get out into the field and see that I can do the work. It was nice to see my growth and that I was starting to fit in and be successful.”

Rashid, a 2022 alum who majored in biology in the College of Humanities and Sciences, was one of the first students to receive an IFP award during the program’s pilot year. She completed her internship through the Atlantis Pre-Med Shadowing program for students interested in health care.

During her internship, Rashid lived in Europe for three weeks in summer 2022, working with doctors at Sisters of Mercy Hospital in Zagreb, Croatia, in three specialties — general surgery, neurological intensive care and pediatrics. 

“I got to see a lot of surgeries that I couldn’t have watched in the U.S. after COVID,” she said. “I also got to see the positive and negative effects of the universal health care system and compare and contrast it to the health care system in the U.S. That was exciting to do.”

Rashid is currently applying to medical schools and recently accepted a position at VCU Health, working in pediatric neurology as a certified medical assistant.

She said that without the IFP funding and a grant from VCU’s Baldacci Experiential Learning Endowed Fund, the opportunity in Croatia would not have been possible.

“Those coupled together pretty much covered my trip,” Rashid said. “If I was still at VCU and wanted financial assistance, I would definitely work with the IFP again.”