Summer internships bridge the gap between the classroom and workforce

Summer internships bridge the gap between the classroom and workforce

Summer internships bridge the gap between the classroom and workforce

Beyond classroom instruction, students put their knowledge to the test through a broad array of internship opportunities offered by the University that help them gain experience, sharpen networking skills, and solidify their career plans.

Matthew Brown

Photo credit: Omar Torres

A long-term golf enthusiast, UDC helped Matthew Brown realize his dream of gaining experience at one of the top golf equipment manufacturers. A mechanical engineering major (’23), Brown is participating in an internship this summer at Callaway Golf in Carlsbad, California, working in research and development to help create a better golf club. Calloway Golf is reported to be among the top three global golf club and equipment suppliers.

Brown is working as a prototype innovation engineer, testing golf clubs to help to make them lighter, more efficient, and ideally cheaper to encourage more people to participate in the sport. Through his internship, he has successfully merged his passion for golf and his desire to reinvent equipment and broaden exposure to communities of color.

“I’ve been golfing my entire life,” said Brown, born and raised in Boston. “My mom started me at age five, and it took off there. I was specifically looking for companies with a golf focus for my internship. My goal is to become a senior golf engineer for a company and hopefully create a line of more reasonably priced golf clubs for communities that can’t afford them.”

Brown is also the founder of the golf club at UDC, which competes in D.C., Maryland and Virginia against other HBCUs.

UDC Student Brittany Woodard

For Brittany Woodard, a digital media major (’23) and a D.C. native with a 3.0 GPA, her internships have provided an opportunity to broaden her exposure to various communication platforms, event planning, photography and marketing and promotions.

Woodard is the definition of determination. A mother of four children between the ages of five and 10, a full-time student majoring in digital media, and a full-time employee working remotely for the Department of Healthcare Finance in Quality Assurance—she still found time for two internships.

“I just make it happen,” she said. “If you want something, you will go after it. I don’t believe in excuses because your kids can’t survive off excuses.”

Woodard is exploring communications career opportunities within the automobile industry. Through the Black Automotive Media Group (BAMG), HBCU students participate in The Driving Force, a seven-week, virtual, field-credit internship including training and mentoring sessions. The program is supported by automobile manufacturers seeking diverse talent pipelines. Students learn about career opportunities in the auto industry at the multimedia, marketing, sales and supplier levels.

The Ford Motor Company sponsored and held the internship during the spring semester. While most of the internship was virtual, they went to multiple locations to review and take photos of the Ford Mach E and the 2022 Bronco at the end of the training.

“We met with high-ranking African Americans in the auto industry about the electrical vehicle curve that we are seeing now,” Woodard said, who also met Ford family members who are still involved in the company.

“We learned from various speakers about trends in the auto industry and electric vehicles. We were given assignments to critique the Superbowl car commercials, write reviews, and tell how we would have shot the commercial differently. It was general education about the auto industry.”

Woodard stood out during her internship and was chosen as one of the photographers for Pharrell Williams’ “Something in the Water,” a three-day summer music festival held in Washington, D.C., in June.

“You never know who is paying attention to you and how much it can pay off in opportunities beyond your wildest dreams,” she said. “It was a wonderful, life-changing experience, and it opened my eyes to many avenues of careers that I thought I could never pursue because I am a mother of four.”

She was also recruited by UDC alumnus Randi Payton (’82), a Driving Force internship mentor, to do a second internship this summer with his company, Decisive Media Network. Payton is president and CEO, a leader in automotive media and has a broad background in broadcast and print journalism, marketing and communications.

Woodard said her work had included communications project management. “The internships have exposed me to many career paths. I think I may be more interested in working behind the scenes in event planning and communications management in the future.”

UDC Student Brent Thigpen

An internship is also helping Brent Thigpen, a mechanical engineering student (’24), achieve his dream of becoming a pilot. Raised in Waldorf, Maryland, he has taken full advantage of all UDC offers. Thigpen is spending his summer interning at Boeing in Everett, WA, where he is a system stress engineering intern.

“I am working on the new Air Force One model that should be ready in 2024,” Thigpen said. “I am also working on testing certain L-brackets to see how much tension they can support.”

His work has also entailed traveling to Seattle to check on the 737-max and going to the Everett factory to see the final 747s being made and taxied to the airfield.

“I have met test pilots who inspired me to continue my path of becoming a pilot, even if that means I must first work as a flight operator or a flight engineer. My goal is to become a pilot with the Air Force and hopefully fly commercially or be a test pilot for Boeing.”

Thigpen says he finds inspiration in observing his god-brother, Terrence Davis, an American Airlines pilot. He also credits his father, Johnny Thigpen, for his life lessons and his UDC mentor Doni Russell, director of Student Outreach and Leadership Development, for encouraging him to stretch beyond his comfort zone.

Thigpen has a 3.28 GPA and is the USGA president, Thurgood Marshall College Fund Yard Ambassador, UDC Student Ambassador, Engineering Ambassador and National Society of Black Engineers student liaison for the junior class.

“I used the resources that the University has given me, like Dr. Jared Moffett, Elizabeth Jordan and Jonathan Niles in Career Services, as well as the resume workshops. There are so many more resources that the school has to offer. I would tell any future or current Firebird that they should use the UDC Career Services and build connections because you do not know where they can take you.”