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Graduating Modern Students Work With National, International Employers During Spring Externship Session

Surveys conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) indicate that identifying talent early through internships and co-ops …
Surveys conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) indicate that identifying talent early through internships and co-ops is rated by 94.9 percent of employers as “very” or “extremely” important — so when COVID-19 forced many colleges and universities throughout the country to suspend or cancel their programs, The Modern College of Design made a commitment to its nearly 70 students enrolled in its Spring Externship course as part of their Associate Degree of Applied Business in Design program to offer the course.

Not only did the college’s required externship continue in a safe way, via remote learning, but it also gave students the unique opportunity to work with national and international organizations that they may not have had access to otherwise due to geographic constraints.

Organizations partnering with The Modern included G-PACT (Etters, PA); Transcend Education and Rev-X (New York, NY); Growhouse NYC (Brooklyn, NY); Reflex Design Collective (Oakland, CA); County Corp (Dayton, OH); Dayton Contemporary Dance Company (Dayton, OH); EPIC Lab (Melbourne, Australia); Dylan Teaches Finance (Sacramento, CA); and Five Rivers Health Centers (Dayton, OH).

Through their externships, students were able to participate in full-scale organizational rebranding initiatives, website audits and redesigns, social media awareness campaigns, and the creation of design assets for fundraising efforts. Ten students were able to take on additional leadership roles through their appointment as group creative leads, organizing meetings, and client check-ins utilizing remote technologies such as Google Meets, Zoom, and Slack. They delivered their final work to the organizations during virtual meetings held the week of May 18.

“I think the curriculum leading up to the externship has prepared the students really well to manage a subject like this,” said Lisa Zheng, founder of EPIC Lab in Melbourne, Australia, an educational start-up focused on integrating design thinking into K-12 classrooms. “Having the hands-on mentorship from instructors shows up in the professionalism of the process in my view and subsequently the final deliverables. …From a client perspective, this has been an extremely positive, enjoyable, and seamless user experience.”

Added Warner Sabio, co-founder of GrowHouse NYC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating safe spaces for Black, Latinx, and Indigenous artists in Brooklyn, NY, “I think the students did a great job; we found them very well prepared, professional, proficient and enthusiastic. Each day we met they brought new creative ideas and solutions, they collaborated and communicated so well we didn’t even have to say much. … We have no doubt that the students that participated in this cohort will go on to achieve great success in their careers.”

The work also left a lasting impact on the students.

“Originally, I was thinking about getting into web and photography, but recently, I have been loving branding and marketing,” said Logan Fischer, Class of 2020 graduate and a participant in the Spring externship program with GrowHouse NYC. “(But) both my externship and recent freelance job were really heavy into branding and marketing. It’s really cool creating a vision that someone has and being able to make it real. It’s like you are helping them find their voice and identity. … It’s just so refreshing hearing positive feedback from actual clients. This externship has changed my mind from ‘Unsure that I want to do this,’ to, ‘I want to do this and I want to do this for a while!’”

When surveyed after the externship concluded, more than 87% of students ranked their externship experience as “good” or “very good” and 87% of employers surveyed indicated the students’ work was “above expectations” and 100% of respondents said that students effectively delivered what their organizations asked them to.

Said Kai Denton, a Class of 2020 graduate and member of the team working with G-PACT, a national nonprofit in Pennsylvania dedicated to raising awareness for gastroparesis: “We work in a way that involves us getting out our own personal ideas and then coming back to discuss, combining our concepts together and making something even stronger out of it.”

The Modern College of Design Externship Program has a number of educational objectives, including helping students: (1) experience different models of work related to specific areas of design; (2) acquire greater insight into the process of design; (3) develop a sense of professional responsibility, and (4) develop the awareness and ability to reflect on and learn from experiences.

Employers interested in partnering with The Modern for future externship sessions should contact Sara Betts, director of career services, at sara.betts@themodern.edu.

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