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June 2021

GLOBAL VIRTUAL INTERNSHIP – Summer 2021

881 346 Jaret Waters

UNIVERSITIES:

This global virtual internship program involved students from 18 universities across 5 global regions!

COMPANIES

THE PROBLEM:

How do we best prepare the leaders of tomorrow to bridge cultural and geographic distances in order to solve the most pressing issues facing the world? 

Approach

In partnership with the Global Learning Collective team, we developed the second Global Virtual Internship Program. We brought together 51 students from over 10 different countries and nearly 20 different universities to work on projects with 5 companies from around the world. The projects, focused on producing tangible solutions to complex issues related to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, offered students and companies the chance to learn from one another in a consulting-style virtual format over the course of 8 weeks.

BACKGROUND

The program aimed to engage with students on several different levels and to provide them with academic, professional, and project support through several different actors.

Firstly, students had regular interactions with company representatives in order to better understand the company’s background, the industry in which it operated, and the challenges that they were facing. Projects covered a wide variety of Sustainable Development Goals, including responsible consumption and production, sustainable cities and communities, quality education, and climate action. 

Secondly, in order to give students a better conceptual framework and relevant tools to tackle problems related to business and sustainability, they attended presentations and received resources from Jessica Thomas, the faculty lead of the program. And finally, bridging this academic guidance with the specific tasks presented by companies, the students had recurring meetings with the following mentors: Sebastian Kraus (Europe), Marcus Nakagawa, (South America), Barry Rawlings (Africa), and David Storm and John Storm, (Asia). These individuals supported students in bringing together all of the resources in their toolkits to be able to manage the projects efficiently and produce tangible solutions for each company. 

SOLUTION

The five different student groups, each paired with a different company and composed of students from different regions, spent the course of the program developing specific policies, generating innovative ideas, and exploring implementation strategies to improve the companies’ individual performance and to propel them towards further contributing to the UN SDGs.

Students in each of the teams came from different backgrounds and majors, allowing them to divide up the work, share differing perspectives and analytical frameworks, and ultimately develop a more robust and holistic solution. In the final weeks of the program, students were invited to present these findings and contributions to company representatives, at which point companies could begin implementing these solutions. 

As faculty lead for the Summer GLC internship, it was my role to lay the foundation for the students. I had the opportunity to share with student tools and resources to prepare them for their internships and also life long careers. What was most rewarding for me was to be able to inspire the students by sharing with them a new model of business that is focused on transforming capitalism in a way that benefits people and the planet, B Corps. These are for-profit companies at the leading edge of purpose, innovating to address social and environmental challenges, including the UN Sustainable Development Goals. I was inspired to see the students put into practice what they learned and apply it to real world projects. The students demonstrated critical thinking, adaptability and leadership skills. It's important for students to learn to bridge academic knowledge with real-world experiences because when they realize how interconnected we are, how the SDGs are connected to each other, how important it is to collaborate across sectors, and how to translate what they learn into practice, they will be better prepared to transform themselves, the companies they will work for and the world.
Jessica Thomas
Assistant Professor and Director of the Business Sustainability Collaborative at NC State’s Poole College of Management.

“At first, when I heard about an online cultural immersion, I was intrigued. After all, this was a very new concept. When I first got accepted to the program, I wasn’t sure I could gain much of an international experience sitting home. Still, I was thrilled with the opportunity to gain more from a business perspective. I didn’t realize those two were intertwined, that one could not endure without the other.

Prior to the course, I didn’t understand that a great part – if not the most important part – of doing business is understanding and engaging with the people you’re dealing with.

And it is important to emphasize that I don’t mean only clients, but the people you’re working alongside as well. I think the way the course was presented was really helpful to this comprehension. First, we got to engage with each other, the people we’d be working alongside/amidst. Then, we participated in cultural workshops, enabling the awareness of one another. After that, we started to learn about the participating countries’ data and economics, which would come in handy later, when we’d meet our client. By then, we were already a part of an international community, and had learned all the tools we needed to do a great job.”

Luciana Mary Neugedachter

Undergraduate student at the Universidade Federal Fluminense and intern with MOVIN

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