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.


“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.


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.


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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 10-15 minutes before the start of the event.
  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.


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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.


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 Mayborn 104.

(Pictures are courtesy of Peabody Career Services and their 2016 LPO Symposium Event)