HOD Capstone Demonstration Day Tips

The HOD Capstone Internship Demonstration Day showcases the design projects students have developed over the course of this semester. Students prepare a presentation and poster to share their design project with an audience comprised of fellow classmates, Vanderbilt faculty, and supervisors from various Nashville organizations. Read below for tips on how to prepare for the final presentation and poster.

HOD Capstone Internship Demonstration Day  Photos by: Susan Urmy

The Presentation

The 7-10 minute presentation will serve as way to demonstrate to your audience how your design project works and the impact it has had on your organization.

  1. Practice. Spend time practicing your presentation. The presentation should feel conversational in nature, but you will still be expected to effectively share your ideas and demonstrate your knowledge of human centered design. Practicing highlighting your main points can improve the overall effectiveness of your presentation delivery.
  2. Dress professionally or in business casual attire. You are showcasing your work, so make sure you present yourself in a professional manor.
  3. Arrive early. You will need time to set up your poster and settle in before the presentations start, so plan on arriving at 8:30 am.
  4. Slow down. Speaking too fast can take away from the effectiveness of your presentation delivery. Keep your tone steady and be aware of moments when you might begin to speed up. Practice helps with this!
  5. Make eye contact. This helps you connect with your audience and keeps them engaged with your presentation.
  6. Breathe. Taking time to pause and breathe during your presentation can serve many functions. It can serve as an opportunity to check and make sure you are still on-track, slow you down if you start talking too fast, and give the audience a moment to think about a point you just made.


HOD Capstone Internship Demonstration Day  Photos by: Susan Urmy

The Poster

The tri-fold poster should supplement your presentation and highlight key experiences and learning from the semester.

  1. Avoid too much text. Having too much text can make it difficult for audience members to follow along and pull out the major concepts and ideas you want to demonstrate.
  2. Make it readable. You want your audience to be able to read the text that you do incorporate into your poster. Make sure the design of your poster, including font size and layout, allows for audience members to clearly view all of your poster’s elements.
  3. Be creative. Use pictures and info graphics to supplement your writing in a creative and aesthetically pleasing way.
  4. Don’t overwhelm. While creativity is encouraged, you do not want your poster to be overwhelming to look at. Don’t add too many contrasting pictures, colors, fonts, and borders, etc. It should be eye-catching but not distracting.
  5. Proofread. Make sure to double-check your poster before Demonstration Day. This is an easy way to avoid simple mistakes in your work, which can take away from the quality of your overall presentation.

HOD Capstone Internship Demonstration Day  Photos by: Susan Urmy

Good luck and let us know if you have questions or concerns. The HOD internship office is open 8:30-4:30 Monday-Friday on the 4th Floor of the Sony Building.


HOD Capstone Internship Demonstration Day

On December 8th, 2017, the HOD Capstone Internship held its first Capstone Demonstration Day. Students who completed the Capstone Internship in Fall 2017 presented their human centered design projects to an audience of their fellow classmates, Vanderbilt faculty, and supervisors from various Nashville organizations. The Wyatt Rotunda was full of energy all morning as students and members of the community engaged with each other and learned about the work the interns completed at their organizations.




Each student created a presentation and a poster to showcase the semester-long project they implemented utilizing a human-centered design approach.  In addition to presenting their own work, students learned from their peers by listening to each others presentations, viewing their posters, and asking questions.

Reva Alperson, Brookdale


Aaron Kwong, Goldner Associates


Kyle Bartholomew, G7 Entertainment Marketing


The event ended with a concluding address by Professor Bob Innes, founder of the HOD program. He shared stories from the first HOD graduating class and how the HOD program has shaped so many lives and organizations for the better.

The first HOD Capstone Internship Demonstration Day was a huge success, mainly in part to the students and all of their hard work throughout the semester. In addition, a very special thank you goes out to all of the individuals who worked to make this event possible.



3rd Annual London Tea Party


London Tea Party
The HOD Capstone Team was at it again with our third annual London Tea Party!

Held in the cozy Fireside Reading Room of the Peabody Library, students interested in interning in London met with HOD Capstone London alumni to discuss their experiences of interning abroad.

london banner

With a round of trivia, a session of FAQ’s, and plenty of tea and biscuits, HOD London alumni shared firsthand knowledge to prospective London interns about the what is was really like to live and work in the United Kingdom for their HOD Capstone experience.

HOD Capstone London alums share their experiences and tips to prospective HOD London interns.

Interested in interning in London? Read what a couple of HOD London Alumni had to say…

“GO TO LONDON!!! I’m sure your internship in Nashville is fine, but doing it in another country with another culture was such an incredible opportunity and one I’d recommend to anyone and everyone.” – Elissa Hakemack

“Even if the work doesn’t match up with your career path perfectly, the opportunity to work in London and expand your perspective of the work world is completely worth it.”  Alex Grant

Biscuits and English Tea served for an afternoon high tea

For additional questions, reach out to hod.internships@vanderbilt.edu, and also, these past London interns are happy to help!

Alexander Grant alexander.t.grant@vanderbilt.edu
Elissa Hakemack elissa.r.hakemack@vanderbilt.edu
Charlotte Kwon charlotte.h.kwon@vanderbilt.edu
Rebecca Krieger rebecca.krieger@vanderbilt.edu
Lois You lois.you@vanderbilt.edu
Megan Mark megan.k.mark@vanderbilt.edu
Pauline Leeuwenburg pauline.s.leeuwenburg@vanderbilt.edu
Michael Mayer michael.f.mayer@vanderbilt.edu
Rebecca Jacobson rebecca.a.jacobson@vanderbilt.edu
The Queen made her appearance!



“A Day in the Life” by Ria Jagasia

Intern Spotlight

Jagasia, Ria Work Site Photo

Who: Ria Jagasia

Capstone Term: Spring 2017

Site: Quality, Safety, and Risk Prevention – Vanderbilt University Medical Center


What was your role as an intern?

My role as an intern varied from shadowing executives in the various QSRP departments to being an extra hand for QSRP staff by working on ongoing projects. I was able to focus on gathering data for my organizational analysis work which helped greatly when I was choosing a capstone project idea. Because of the wide network within QSRP, I was able to interact with staff that had a variety of roles in promoting the mission of quality and safety in patient care within the Medical Center.


What was your capstone design project for your HOD internship?

My capstone project focused on the idea of having a “Culture of Safety” within the Medical Center workplace. Having such a culture means that employees, regardless of their seniority in the organization, feel comfortable communicating with each other about issues that may arise. The goal was that medical staff will work together to prioritize the safety of a patient over other competing goals or obstacles. What I found through my data gathering process was that there was tension in the form of hierarchy barriers between nursing staff and physicians which meant nurses would be reluctant to speak up when a physician was making a mistake. For example, nurses may see doctors deliver the wrong medication or wrong dosage to the patient and not be confident enough to speak up in the presence of more experienced physician staff. This can complicate patient care and thus I saw a need to address this issue. I designed a set of online modules titled “Creating a Culture of Safety” that had sections designed to inform nurses about the importance of having a Culture of Safety and of potential communication barriers. My goal was to empower nurses to start making changes in their behaviors so that they may increase the quality of patient care via open communication with physician staff.


What was one of the highlights from your internship experience?

One of the highlights of my experience was being able to dive into the field of quality improvement as it was not an area I had realized existed in the healthcare space. I realized how vital it is to the way healthcare services are delivered. While QSRP had a wide network of teams, each team had an important role in driving the quality of patient care from the data teams that gathered and made sense of large amounts of patient data to other groups which were improving the use of space within the clinics to increase efficiency of care. Having experienced other internships within the Medical Center, I can definitely say this was the most rewarding experience as the information and toolkit I built over the semester was transferrable since quality improvement is important across all service industries.


How have you grown as a result of your internship? / How will this internship impact your future (i.e. change career, landed a job)?

As I am currently working abroad in China after graduating early from Vanderbilt, I can definitely see how experiencing a professional work environment during college has aided in my transition to my current job. While I am working in the education industry, which is very different from the healthcare industry, the professionalism skills I gained from my internship experience has helped. I can better integrate with my coworkers and, having gone through the organizational analysis process at my internship site, I am more aware of organizational structures in my current workplace. Being able to figure out how teams work and how roles are divided here has made it easier to find my place. I also am more aware of the issues in our organization’s work and have brainstormed some improvement projects that I would like to work on.


What are 3 pieces of advice for someone in the process of their internship search?

  1. While you don’t have to take on an internship in the field you would like your future occupation to be in, it is important to be able to transfer your skills from your internship to a future job. Be considering what types of skills you need in the field you intend to work in and pick an internship that can help you acquire those.
  2. Use the search process to familiarize yourself with the names of companies in your industry of interest. Even if you are looking for internships sites within Nashville, but intend to work elsewhere after college, many companies in the city have branches elsewhere so the research you do will certainly be valuable down the road.
  3. All interviews are great experience. I remember having one of my first phone interviews during the internship search experience and while I did not land up interning with that site, I was able to practice my phone interview skills. Many jobs conduct first-round interviews over Skype or the phone so its important to get that practice in before interviewing for your actual job!


How does the HOD capstone internship compare to other internships you have had?

I felt my capstone internship was more valuable as it was full-time unlike many of my previous internships I had held, and I got to really know the organization as a result. I also liked being able to experience many different sides of quality improvement as it was a field I knew little about before that semester. In addition, I developed more a more professional skillset that I can use in my current and future jobs.

“A Day in the Life” by Darko Osman

Darko Osman served as an intern in the HOD Internship Office in the fall of 2017. He came to us from the Next Steps Program at Vanderbilt University, and from day one, his presence and hard work contributed immensely to our team!
Chelsea and Darko
Darko Osman with his job coach, Chelsea Janda.

Before the conclusion of his internship, we had a quick Q&A with Darko to hear his thoughts regarding his time in our office.

Q: Hey Darko, tell us a little about yourself.

 My family is from Iraq. I speak Kurdish and English and live with 1 brother, 2 sisters, and my mom & dad. My dad owns a local Greek/Mediterranean restaurant. I like to travel, watch movies, go on youtube, music, and learn about politics.   

Q: Tell us about your daily roles as an intern in the HOD Capstone Internship office.

I helped faculty with tasks that they needed done on that day, such as copying/stapling, laminating, sorting/organizing, separating papers, checking the mail at the Commons post office, and working on projects to help with efficiency and aesthetics.


darko working
Every morning, Darko would check his mailbox for daily and ongoing projects, as well as correspondence between team members.


Q: What do you believe is your greatest strength, and how were you able to utilize that strength during this internship?

I believe my greatest strength is memory. Professionally, I can remember what people say to me, where things go, copy codes, etc. Socially, I can remember people’s names, ask questions, and then remembering the details people tell you.

Q: What was the most challenging aspect of this internship for you, and how did you overcome that challenge?

Visual barriers, not being able to visualize small tasks, using equipment that wasn’t fully accessible. I overcame this challenge by self-advocating and asking for help from staff and my job coach.


darko serious face
Darko’s visual barriers never stopped him from completing internship projects and being successful.


Q: What has been your favorite part about interning in the HOD Capstone Internship office?

My favorite part was gaining new knowledge and experience in the area of internships; I also enjoyed organizing.

Q: Do you have a favorite memory that you made during your time here?

The mock interviews. Kristen set it up and encouraged me to go, while Heather & Susan helped organize it for me to participate. In the mock interview, I was asked interview questions, I got to ask questions, practice my elevator pitch and interviewing tips. This was a special and unique opportunity that I would not have been able to do if I wasn’t interning in the HOD office.


darko at mock interview
Darko at the Mock Interview Event, with interviewer Christine McPherson, VP of HR at Campaign Monitor, Delivra and Emma


Q: What do you think is the most important thing you have learned during your time here?

The most important thing I have learned is about strengths and weaknesses. I learned that strengths are areas of work that you are good at. Weaknesses are skills and areas of work that you are not good at, but can work hard to improve. It is important to know your strengths and weaknesses because it helps you to look for the right job. I learned that a strength of mine is organizing and weakness of mine is writing

Q: What are your lifelong goals?

Graduate from college, live as independently as possible, have a big house, get an awesome job—maybe in government. This internship helped me figure out what kinds of work I like and am good at. This helps me to look for an awesome job.


darko with padfolio
Darko received a Vanderbilt University padfolio to take with him on his professional journey!


Q: What do you want to do as a career when you finish the Next Steps program at Vanderbilt?

When I graduate from Next Steps at Vanderbilt, I want a career where the business loves to help people. I could see myself working as an assistant. I would love to work in politics or government.

Q: If you could give someone a piece of advice for how to be successful as an intern, what would it be?

I would tell someone that to be a successful intern they should work hard, listen well, and do their best at their tasks.

Darko’s contributions to our team could not be more highly regarded- as well as his constant positivity and humor that brightened all of our spirits!


darko in front of mayborn
Darko Osman, December 2017

Thank you, Darko, for all of your hard work, determination, optimism, and creativity.

We loved having you in our office!

Preparing for the HOD Capstone Internship Fair

The HOD Internship Fair is Wednesday, January 30th, and will include representatives from a variety of organizations. Read below for tips on how to prepare for the fair, what to do during the fair, and how to best follow-up after the experience.


Tips to Prepare for the HOD Internship Fair

An internship fair is a unique and interesting place to look for internship opportunities or information about the internship market. Students will improve their chances of making good contacts at this event by following these suggestions:

Before the Fair

  1. Edit your resume and visit the Career Center (vanderbilt.edu/career) walk in hours for additional feedback.
  2. Print at least 10 copies of your resume on resume/bond paper. Vanderbilt printing services offers this service. Be sure to give them 24 hours’ notice (http://printingservices.vanderbilt.edu).
  3. Prepare your response to “Tell me about yourself” in a 30 second elevator speech (refer to your HOD 2400 coursework and/or your HOD Internship Search Process Worksheet to refresh your memory).
  4. Develop responses to common interview questions including: What industry are you interested in and why? Why are you interested in working for our company? What are your personal strengths/weaknesses? Develop a response for a time when you have failed and what you learned from the situation.
  5. Practice your interview responses with friends and/or visit https://www.vanderbilt.edu//career/commodore-exchange/making-connections/interviewing/
  6. Review the list of attending employers and research the ones you are particularly interested in. Research the contact name on LinkedIN so you can customize questions at the internship fair. These steps demonstrate initiative and market research.
  7. Develop a plan of action for the top 5 sites you want to connect with at the fair. It will be crowded and this will ease your anxiety.

During the Fair

  1. First impressions are critical. Conservative, well-pressed, tailored business attire is your best choice.
  2. Arrive early or right on time to the internship fair, as not all employers will stay until the end.
  3. Visit the employers you are most interested in first.
  4. Be open. Be willing to explore sites you may not have researched, but draw your interest at the fair.
  5. When you are meeting with employers, chewing gum, eating, or drinking are inappropriate.
  6. Do not travel in pairs or groups. Employers hire individuals and want to speak with you without your friends.
  7. If you are in line to speak with an employer, wait 2-3 steps behind the person who is currently speaking with them.
  8. Approach an employer with confidence, introduce yourself, and shake their hand.
  9. Do not ask if the internship is paid or not, unless the discussion is prompted by employer.
  10. As you close your conversation with the employer, ask what the next step in the interview process will be and get their business card.
  11. Make notes (on the back of their business cards) after speaking with an employer before moving on to the next one (i.e. name of person you spoke with, important considerations/talking points). This will be helpful for thank you notes, evaluating your options, and preparing for interviews.
  12. Remember, the employers are at the fair because they are looking for someone and they are all hoping that it is you!

After the Fair

  1. Say thank you and thank you again. Write a thank you message to the employers you connected with.
  2. In the thank you card, remind the employer that you met them at the job fair, express your appreciation, and give a short reminder on your qualifications and why you are interested in the job and attach a copy of your resume.
  3. If you are enrolled in the Self-Directed Search class, you must complete the HOD Capstone Internship Fair Worksheet and submit a typed copy on Brightspace with your Brightspace Self-Directed Search class check-in.

Other Resources


Good luck and let us know if you have questions or concerns. The HOD internship office is open 8:30-4:30 Monday-Friday in the Sony Building, 4th Floor.

“A Day in the Life” by Blake Sidon – Distance Learning Internship

Intern Spotlight



Who: Blake Sidon

Fall 2017

Internship Site: U.S. Mission to the United Nations – Geneva, Switzerland


Check out video clip’s of Blake’s HOD Capstone Internship experience:

The Intern Experience

Feel How Gender Shapes Migration

Minimata Convention on Mercury


BS 1


Site description:

The Mission’s formal title is the Permanent Mission of the United States of America to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva. The Mission as it’s known today became active in 1946 after the birth of the United Nations. The central goal of the Mission is to represent the interests of the U.S. at the UN Office of Geneva (UNOG) and other Geneva-based international organizations, such as the Conference on Disarmament (CD), Human Rights Council (HRC), World Health Organization (WHO), World Trade Organization (WTO), High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), International Office of Migration (IOM), and International Labor Organization (ILO). As a bureau of the State Department, the Mission assists in representing U.S. foreign policy goals as well as playing a formal role in negotiating and constructing international law. Additionally, they assist with humanitarian aid coordination and support.


What was your role as an intern?

As an intern for the public diplomacy office, my role changed daily. One day I could be attending a meeting on the Syrian refugee crisis, another day I could be taking notes at an ambassador’s press conference. The work required a high learning curve and an ability to be flexible. Some of the “longer” projects I worked on was developing social media campaigns for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Hyderabad, the US Patent and Trade Office’s Patents for Humanity program, and the 16 days of advocacy for Ending Gender-based Violence against Women.


BS 2


What was your capstone design project for your HOD internship?

For my capstone project, I wanted to focus on the difficulties of working in the foreign service. One common observation was the struggle working abroad and trying to balance work and lifestyle. As I looked deeper into this issue, I realized that the current office culture is not supportive of a culture where work-life balance can flourish. In order to shift the Mission’s office culture, I developed the Cultural Change Agent Network (CCAN). The CCAN identifies employees who healthily prioritize a work-life balance, termed Change Agents. Change Agents are tasked with leveraging their internal networks to facilitate culture change through office activities and events. The CCAN is a cost-effective program that relies on the buy-in of employees at the foundation of an organization rather than the typical “top-down” method of organizational change. This intervention is very beneficial for organizations performing in a high-stakes environment, lacking internal mechanisms for morale improvement, and struggling to retain employees.


BS 3


What was one of the highlights from your internship experience?

One of the highlights of my internship experience was helping organize an event with Ima Matul as a guest speaker. Ima Matul is a survivor of human trafficking and now advocates for the rights of immigrant laborers in the U.S. She also works with lawmakers to develop survivor-centered legislation at the local, national, and international level. The event included guests from Geneva-based organizations, including IOM, UNHCR, and ILB, as well as delegates from different countries. It was an amazing experience to see NGOs, governments, and civil service working together to address an important issue. Additionally, it’s easy to forget how your work affects other people, especially when you’re surrounded by people in suits and leather conference rooms. Listening to the story of someone with first-hand experience surviving the issues we are trying to halt is an influential reminder to the importance of the work being conducted at the U.S. Mission and United Nations.


BS 4


How have you grown as a result of your internship?

This internship has enabled me to grow personally and professionally. It has taught me to take risks and put myself in situations that make me slightly uncomfortable. I’ve also learned the importance of keeping an open mind. Before my internship, I was hesitant on working for the government. However, I have learned a great deal about how the U.S. Department of State works and how important it is for the promotion and protection of American interests abroad.


What are 3 pieces of advice for someone in the process of their internship search?

  1. Do your HOD internship abroad! The HOD internship program at Vanderbilt is unique in that it provides the opportunity to work abroad for a semester. Take advantage!
  2. Don’t be afraid to look at different internship opportunities. There are many opportunities out there and the HOD internship office may not know of all of them. Research your own opportunities in addition to using the HOD internship database.
  3. Try something new! The HOD internship allows you to try working in an industry you may not get to otherwise. Maybe you’ll find a new passion.


2nd Annual London Tea Party

Students interested in pursuing internships in London met with HOD professors and London alumni to discuss the ins and outs of life and internships abroad.

On Wednesday, September 20th, the HOD Capstone Internship Office hosted its annual London Tea Party. Students who are preparing for their Capstone Internship semester were invited to join us in the HOD Internship Office for an afternoon high tea.

The tea party is an amazing opportunity for students who are interested in learning more about the London internship process. Students demonstrated their London knowledge with a round of trivia, got firsthand information from previous London interns, and had a Skype session with the London HOD instructor, Professor Morgan.




“I think it’s such an amazing opportunity. You really learn a lot about yourself. It’s hard to get there but it’s so worth it, because you can really live independently and live in an international city.”  – Natasha Raskin

“The best part of my HOD internship experience was doing a job I loved in a city I loved. I worked for Social Enterprise UK, where I had the pleasure of learning about all sorts of innovative ways that companies are using business methods to solve social problems. It was even better because I experienced a new work culture in another country, spent my nights exploring the amazing city of London, and spent my weekend traveling all over Europe.” – Serena Deutch


Skyping with Kate Morgan, residing London HOD Capstone Professor


“This program is better than any opportunity out there with Vandy, because you get the study abroad cultural immersion type of thing and on the weekends you can travel but during the week you are having this completely immersive work experience. It’s a nice balance because you have the work experience in London and you can travel on the weekend and meet up with friends. It is such a cool growing experience unlike any other abroad programs.” – Aaron Chasan

“The London HOD internship provided an ideal opportunity to further my academic, professional, and personal goals through the internship coursework, international work experience, and travel opportunities.” – Kelsey Laabs




For those interested in completing your HOD Capstone Internship in London, here are some helpful resources:

Critical London Internship Information

HOD London Tips

London Housing Tips

If you have additional questions, feel free to reach out to these past London interns via email:


The Queen would love for you to visit!



“This is not just classroom learning, but world learning”- Interview with one of the first contributors of HOD

Nina Martin, a faculty member in the Human Development Counseling department at Vanderbilt, speaks about her experience contributing to the development of the HOD program, which was called “HD” at the time.

The Early Years:
  • Founder: Bob Innes
  • Called “HD”- the organizational development piece came later, and thus it became “HOD”
  • About 25 students total (it grew to 300 in just 4 years!)
  • Initial Goal: Think about what makes a good learning experience and how to systematically support and document it to ensure that it is of the highest caliber possible.
Interview with Nina Martin:


Nina Martin


Q: How has the HOD Internship Program changed over the years? How has the coursework/requirements of the program changed since the program’s inception?

It has become more organized and systematic with greater numbers of assignments and structure to enhance the academic portion of the experience. The number of sites increases seemingly yearly, especially as more sites in cities outside of Nashville catch on to this opportunity.

Q: What did you hope interns would gain from this experience? Is this still the vision for our interns today?

Ideally, students will gain a sense of what it actually means to be in the world as the program is applied in nature. Students will gain an understanding of how organizations work, use research to inform real-world application, and close the gap between academic and applied experiences so that each one enhances the other and ultimately expands critical thinking. These experiences inform research while research simultaneously informs students as to the best ways in which they can understand and impact organizations. Nina’s hope for students is: “you will apply what you are learning in a real life laboratory out in the world”.

Q: How has the job market changed as far as where we place interns?

It now seems to be more important to be able to read organizations quickly and effectively; with high job turnover, it is critical for new employees and interns to integrate into the organization quickly, conduct a needs assessment, be a team player, and move forward as needed.

Q: What skills should interns focus on building during their site experience?

Academic skills, such as learning about how organizations work, what developmental stages people are organizations are in, enhancing critical thinking, practicing public speaking and giving presentations, and continuing to work on writing skills; creativity; flexibility; adaptability; sense of humor (key!); and the ability to learn and receive feedback.

Q: In your opinion, what are the strongest qualities of the HOD Internship Program? What sets it apart?

First and foremost, it is academic in nature, and rigorous at that. This is not just an internship but an experience grounded in intentionality around creating thoughtful and prepared students whose skills include ethics and organizational development, to name a few. Students produce goods in the form of a portfolio, project, and other elements along the way to end their culminating capstone. Thus, they are able to prove learning through documentation and, with the help of distinguished professors, are appropriately critical of what they learn.

Q: How do you think this sort of internship prepares students for future occupations?

It is hard to imagine how this program wouldn’t enhance your potential to work in any job as it provides students ways to learn how to integrate themselves rapidly and identify needs within organizations, while understanding how to apply best practices from research in the service of enhancing those organizations. The skills learned in this program carry forth if integrated well.

Q: If you were to describe the HOD Internship Program to an individual not familiar with it, how would you describe it?

It is an experience that prepares students to be thoughtful, responsible, and intelligent citizens and integrate themselves into the communities and organizations they want to affect. Students are emerging scholars and continually think about how to help people in an intentional, systematic way. Students are able to think about what makes a good boss, a good leader, and a good organizational member and team player, all of which one cannot learn solely in a class, but must also experience in order to internalize.

Nina’s closing words… “You might be changed by the experience as much as you may change the organization itself.”


“A Day in the Life” by Dana Alloy – Distance Learning Internship

Intern Spotlight


Who: Dana Alloy

Summer 2015

Internship Site: Heart Capital – Cape Town, South Africa




What was the highlight of your experience (i.e. projects you worked on, people you met, events you attended)?

The best part of my experience was being able to be immersed in the culture of Philippi, the township where I worked, without feeling like a tourist. My afternoons selling vegetables through the maze of streets with my coworkers, Monwabisi and Justice, eating “smilies” and amagwenya with the whole team, or learning about the lives of my team members were invaluable memories I will never forget.




How does the HOD capstone internship compare to other internships you have had?

Working in the nonprofit space, there is always an aspect of complexity and chaos that is less present in a typical, for-profit business. My internship at Heart Capital was the most extreme case of that – on a daily basis, I faced corruption, gang issues, theft, internal conflicts, and more. The HOD curriculum provided me with frameworks to make sense of a complicated situation so that I could provide more value as an intern.


How do you think you have grown as a professional (i.e. skills, learning to receive feedback, professionalism tips)?

I think the most valuable lesson I learned is the importance of hard data in creating strategic initiatives in low-income areas. Secondly, I learned the importance of listening to and learning from those around me for weeks – if not months- before even beginning to take action when I am in a new environment.




What are the top 3 pieces of advice you would recommend for the internship search process?

1) Go Abroad! My internship was colored by my international experience. It both gave me a greater understanding of the coursework as well as became the most influential time in my life thus far.

2) Seriously, go abroad!

3) Contact me if you want to go abroad! I now work for the organization that placed me at Heart Capital, and I would be happy to help you find an internship in Cape Town as well. You can reach me at dana@vacorps.com


Why did you choose your site for your internship?

I knew I wanted to work at the grassroots level in a township in order to gain more experience. My passion for social enterprise and youth employment initiatives led me to Heart Capital. I also was interested in learning more about food systems, so it seemed like a perfect fit (and it was!).




How will this internship impact your future (i.e. change career, landed a job)?

My time at Heart Capital gave me a perspective that I believe is necessary for my career in the social sector. I also learned the quantitative and qualitative skills required to pursue lasting, data-driven change, and these tools will be necessary for me moving forward.


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