Career Services Steps Up to Help Students Overcome Mass Internship Cancellations

July 29, 2020

As employers cancel summer internships in light of COVID-19, students everywhere scramble to adjust their plans. For some, placements are requirements to graduate and, for others, it is a source of income or stepping stone to their dream careers. The mass cancellation of summer internships sent many students into a state of panic and frustration as they pondered what this meant for their futures.

As students worried and desperately searched for alternatives to replace their lost placements, there was one career service professional that could not sit idle. Meet Jennifer Krupp, a career coach from Washington University in St. Louis. Jennifer works with students from the Specialized Masters Programs at Washington University’s Olin Business School

In the face of the pandemic, Jennifer single-handedly used the Riipen platform to successfully match 50+ students to virtual internship projects for the summer. 


The Value of Experiential Learning 

When it comes to experiential learning, Jennifer considers it a cornerstone of what she does. Experiential learning is so heavily valued that Olin has its own dedicated center to assist students. 

The experience that students gain from internship placements is what Jennifer described as the next step towards their career goals. Students are still learning, so these types of experiences prepare them for what the workforce will really be like.

Jennifer used data analytics as an example. Real data is not always going to be clean and neatly handed over to you; sometimes it’s messy and confusing to sort through. These hands-on experiences provide students with the opportunity to see that first hand. From learning to ask questions and work in a team to having the opportunity to see if this career is really what they want to do long-term.

Virtual Internships

Knowing the importance and value that internships provide, many students asked for help to fill the gap left by cancelled placements. While searching for alternatives, Jennifer and her team came across Riipen.

“We needed something virtual. Actual internships where the students could go off and have that autonomy … the idea that you [Riipen] were sourcing internships for virtual work in the US; everything fit,” said Jennifer.

Jennifer quickly got accustomed to the platform with the support of a dedicated team from Riipen and was able to match 50+ students to placements in record time. We also connected with Michael Queralt, Chief Technology and Innovation Officer, at Innovating Partners, which was one of the industry partners working with Jennifer’s students. 

Michael worked with 3 teams, totalling 8 of Jennifer’s fintech master’s students. These teams are working on projects exploring the impact of PPP loans for small businesses with a focus on (1) employment, (2) minorities, and (3) the divorce market. The project hopes to understand the impact of these programs on the minority communities and what is the correlation and causation for small businesses to receive funding.

Prior to starting the internship, Michael met with Jennifer to flesh out the details of the project and ensure that they were aligned in order to find the best student/project match. “We know the investment of time [for students], so we wanted to make sure that it was something that was valuable, we didn’t want to do an internship for the sake of an internship,” Michael said. “There had to be value extracted for them and us.”

The placements continue to run through the summer, but have already been described as bringing tremendous value through the students’ new perspectives and ideas. The students are “helping us make progress very fast by analyzing multiple data sources. If we had done it on our own, we most probably would’ve completed it, but I am not able to say if we would have done it on time,” Michael said. 

Michael also credits a great deal of the project’s success to Jennifer, noting that it was incredibly important that they established a connection upfront and she was a huge help guiding his team through this experience. Michael saw how Jennifer cares so much about her students and placing them properly that it indirectly made him focus intently about how to craft an opportunity that would be of value. The students themselves were also very well versed on the project objectives, and their preparedness was key in helping achieve goals and making this whole process easier.

For the Students

There is no question that the work Jennifer and her team does has a profound impact on student success, but we were curious as to what kept them motivated when things don’t go as planned just as we saw with internships this summer. 

“My passion is for my students, and my students needed internships … my goal was to help them now and in the future to have the best possible career, whatever it is that they’re looking for, and if they don’t have something this summer they are missing an opportunity,” said Jennifer.

The day to day of a career coach under normal circumstances would be to support students through interviews and networking, but all of that had to be put on hold when students found internships vanishing underneath them. With her team taking over her workload for the next 6 weeks, Jennifer worked full-time on finding alternatives to lost placements. She believes that students work so hard and are so deserving to put their skills to use that as a career coach it was her responsibility to make something happen for them.

Jennifer was applauded by her team for her perseverance and, though it was not an easy task as there were not many virtual internships available a couple months ago when her hunt began, she remained hopeful. It wasn’t long before employers began to respond, and Jennifer’s dedication to her students resulted in over 50 successful placement matches.

The Riipen Experience

As higher education and businesses alike had to pivot very quickly and adjust to the impacts of the pandemic, both Jennifer and Michael were searching for virtual internships when they came across the Riipen platform.

“I was really impressed with the variety of internships and the variety of companies... all of the students that were looking for internships, there was something they could apply towards. In such a short time frame, it was very impressive to see that scope,” said Jennifer.

Jennifer soon realized that the employers on the platform were a delight to work with as they were all excited to be participating in this type of experience. Though it came with some challenges, “the responsiveness of the Riipen team was extraordinary. They were truly there to help walk me through,” said Jennifer.

For an industry partner like Michael, the Riipen platform also helped him think through his projects. “Some of the questions and interactions with the marketplace kind of forced us to think more clearly about the project, which I found valuable. I think that helped us get to the right match,” Michael said.

Michael describes the Riipen platform as the conduit between students and businesses. “We could not have done it without you guys to be brutally honest. Because we would not have known where to start: How do you reach [students], and who do you talk to?”


Looking Ahead

It has been incredible seeing what Jennifer’s dedication and passion for her students was able to accomplish. Had it not been for her efforts, over 50 students would not have had the opportunity to expand their skills and gain a valuable experience this summer.

We are also very grateful to have such wonderful industry partners such as Michael on the Riipen platform to work with students and facilitate these experiences. Thank you to both Michael and Jennifer for taking the time to share your experience with a virtual internship this summer. 

To get started with Riipen, head over to our website to learn more about virtual internships or contact our team at internships@riipen.com.

Written by: Michelle Wong