UA Students Return from Summer Internships


Sarah Dougherty (center) interned with Southwest Airlines Internship Program in the Corporate Communication Department.  Photo courtesy of Sarah Dougherty

Becca Murdoch

It’s been said by parents, teachers and the media, internships are the way college students get the best experience, quality educational experiences and, for the lucky ones, a job. This summer, many UA students were accepted into highly competitive and edifying internship programs.

Christina Irion, a junior majoring in telecommunication and film, and Sarah Dougherty, a sophomore majoring in public relations and Spanish, were fortunate enough to work as interns this past summer. Irion was selected for the prestigious Television Academy (Emmy) Internship program in Los Angeles, California, for the Scripted Television Development category, Dougherty was accepted into the Southwest Airlines Internship Program in the Corporate Communication Department.

Irion applied to 27 internships including the Emmy Internship. After waiting weeks and weeks for the call to come, Irion received good news in mid-May that she had been selected to work in development at Wolper Entertainment, where she would work as a desk assistant reading scripts and hearing pitches for possible television shows.

“It was very fast paced. Not every day was the same,” Irion said.

Besides answering emails and phone calls and making notes on the scripts they received, Irion also had the opportunity to engage in meetings with writers and producers and even write her own pitch for an unscripted show.

“[Writing a pitch] was very nerve-wracking,” Irion said. “Reading and critiquing are not as difficult as actually making material, but it went over well even though it made me nervous for a bit.”

Though she loved the hands-on industry work she did at Wolper Entertainment, Irion argued the best part of her experience was the people – both her fellow Emmy interns and her bosses at her host company she met in L.A.

“These are TV nerds like I am who I can sit down and talk to them for hours about where we think the TV industry is going, how it’s changing and the shows we love and grew up with,” Irion said. “Those are the kind of moments that really hit home and made me feel like I belonged there. When you have a whole group of people, not only in the same boat that you are in, but who are also supporting each other and trying to make sure we are all working out here, it’s fantastic.”

Dougherty had similar kind things to say about the people she worked with at the Southwest Airlines Internship in Dallas, Texas. With 128 interns spread over 30 departments, Dougherty got the chance to grow close to the several of the communications interns and employees in 
her department.

“Whether you were working with [the people] or eating with them or traveling, everyone was so nice, welcoming and different,” 
Dougherty said.

Like Irion, Dougherty got her hands dirty with actual experience in her chosen field. Dealing in mostly internal communications and external media relations, she witnessed firsthand how the corporate environment handles public relations without the typical intern grunt work.

“Every day was really different, which was cool, especially as an intern to be doing things that actually mattered,” Dougherty said. “I never did a coffee run.I made copies, but they were for myself for 
a meeting.”

Dougherty applied to roughly 30 internships before landing on Southwest Airlines. With so much demand for public relations internships and so many students looking to break into the industry, she said it was a long and competitive process.

Irion and Dougherty are also some of the lucky few to receive paid internship experiences. With legal battles and heated debate over paid versus unpaid internships, it has become even more difficult to get selected as an intern, said professor Rachel Raimist, an associate professor in TCF.

“If a student can’t get hired to work for free or for very low wages, they need to get more experience while they are still a student,” Raimist said.

Raimist started the TCF in LA program in 2013 for students in TCF who wanted to study the media industries in the entertainment hub of America. After student request for an expansion to include industry internships, Raimist started the TCF in LA summer sessions. Irion participated in this program in a previous summer, during which she interned with Wayfarer Entertainment.

Because of the competitive nature of applying for internships, it may seem discouraging to students desperate to break into their respective fields. Irion, Dougherty, and Raimist all suggest casting a wide net when hunting down the perfect internship.

“Be a very hard worker and stay organized,” Irion said. “Also be outgoing and optimistic; this is your opportunity to show who you are. You want to be genuine, that’s the most important thing.”

Making the most of an internship especially means staying in contact with the internship host. Raimist sees many of her students continue to connect with their hosts via email and social media, as well as sending congratulations emails when their boss has a new success and sending brief “here’s what I’m doing now” emails in order to stay fresh on their boss’ mind. When done right, a summer internship could be one of the first major stepping stones in a bright and successful career.