The Effects of COVID-19 on Summer 2020 Internships


Megan Bertsch, Reporter

Canceled: a word that has become a new normal as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads.

It is no secret that South Dakota State University students have been greatly affected by the virus in the past few weeks, as classes have been moved online and university activities have been canceled.

Many students are also quickly realizing the effect it will have on their summers, as summer internships are also falling through, leaving students disappointed and the university in a complicated situation.

“There’s two problems. The first problem is with the economy the way it is, and everything the way it is, a lot of companies are just canceling these opportunities for our students,” said Victoria Dubbelde, internship coordinator for Ness School of Management and Economics at SDSU. “But the second issue is we want the students to have those experiences, and get that job experience and that great resume builder. At the same time, we want them healthy and safe, and we can’t encourage the off-campus activities for internships anymore than we can any other sort of off-campus activity.”

Many students are disappointed that they will miss out on the experience as well as the credit. Drew Hanshaw, an electrical engineering major recently found out his internship at an architecture firm was canceled.

“This would’ve been my last internship because I will be graduating in the spring,” Hanshaw said. “And I would be getting paid to do something that I wanted to do, and something that I eventually want to do as a career. Hopefully, it would’ve been fulfilling long term and short term.” 

Though internships are not a required credit for his field, the internship credits would have replaced a senior elective for Hanshaw.

“As a junior, you can get two credits and last summer I did get one credit for an internship. But those two credits would’ve gone toward my senior credits. So I could’ve replaced an elective class with all the credits from the last two summers,” Hanshaw said. 

However, there are students who need internships for graduation credit, and the university is working toward possible alternatives.

“Some programs have an extra level of complication in that an internship is certainly required as accreditation. … So the accrediting bodies are being very flexible with the universities,” Dubbelde said. “We’re working at maybe mentorships instead or in the case of the school of design and the Ness School, since we’re all in the same college anyway, we’re working on partnering with them to create a unique course just for their students. … All of the programs are sort of scrambling to find some of those alternatives.” 

Though it may not be the same experience students were looking forward to, the university is working towards alternatives for students who need internship credit. The most complicated issue for students right now is the uncertainty of the situation. 

“I don’t know a lot of people losing internships, but a lot of people are just generally afraid that they will or something’s gonna change,” said Hanshaw. “ As all this bad news comes through, I think a lot of people are becoming more worried that they’re gonna lose these positions.”

However, Hanshaw is grateful he found out about his cancelation as soon as he did.

“It wasn’t totally unexpected,” Hanshaw said. “I was ready to sign up for an apartment for the summer, and get those summer internship credits all set up before the end of the semester, so I asked the HR lady I was in contact with and she responded that they were cutting the program altogether for this summer. … I was a little bit lucky in that way.” 

The university understands students’ concerns and is looking toward the best solution for each student. 

“We’re very sensitive to the fact that this was their moment to go out and get experience, but at the same time the protectiveness of our students and wanting them to be safe and healthy and taking that into consideration too,” Dubbelde said.