Alumni in NYC Organize Remote Internships for Vols

Category: News

As many student summer internships were put on hold because of COVID-19 and economic uncertainty, UT’s New York City Alumni Chapter quickly organized a virtual internship program for future communications professionals. The VOLs Remote Internship pilot program paired five interns from the College of Communication and Information (CCI) with social media and digital communication roles at nonprofit organizations dedicated to education.

Jamie Lonie (’10), president of the chapter, said the idea for a digital internship program was born at a 2019 CCI Board of Visitors meeting and became even more necessary as entire industries started relying heavily on remote work in March.

Interns were also matched with young CCI alumni already working in communications and digital media. The mentors, all working in for-profit industries, provided concrete feedback on digital communications best practices and career advice on navigating the industry.

The new program was open to rising seniors and recent graduates. The alumni organizers hope to host the program again next summer and welcome more nonprofits and interns, with a particular emphasis on recruiting first-generation college students and students from low-income communities.

“As most communications professionals shifted to online work, we saw remote social media work as a way to make internship opportunities more accessible and equitable for all students,” said Lonie. “They can still gain real-world work experience, even from home.”

Read more about the students and how the internship impacted their education at

2020 Interns

Tadezja Maxwell

Tadezja Maxwell

Social Media Intern, Comp-U-Dopt
Hometown: Lewisburg, Tennessee
Major: Public Relations (Plans to graduate: Fall ’20)

Comp-U-Dopt was founded in 2007 with the goal of ensuring every child has equal access to education and opportunities. The organization fills this need by providing home computers and digital training to students in low-income communities. In addition to opening job and educational prospects to students, Comp-U-Dopt also fulfills an environmental need by repurposing used hardware that would have likely ended up in landfills.

Maxwell: “Before the social media internship, I had never truly understood the analytical side of engagements and reach. I was able to use this performance data to create better posts. Also, I leader how understanding the language of an organization is most important. You can’t make great content if you don’t know the organization’s voice.”

Chazni Darden

Chazni Darden

Social Media Intern, Teach for America Houston
Hometown: Nashville, Tennessee
Major: Advertising (Plans to graduate: Spring ’21)

Teach For America’s goal is to ensure that every child in the country has access to an excellent and equitable education. In an effort to expand opportunities for low-income students, Teach For America recruits people to commit at least two years teaching in a public school. Darden specifically worked for the Teach for America Houston region.

Darden: “I learned to use Sprout Social, a useful tool keep track of what you’re posting and look at the results to know what’s working. Some of my posts were more engaging than others, so I took that audience feedback to figure out how to make future content work best.”

Alana Peery

Alana Peery

Social Media Intern, Teach for All
Hometown: Memphis, Tennessee
Major: Advertising (Plans to graduate: Spring ’21)

Teach for All is a global education program whose goal is to develop leadership in communities to improve education and expand opportunities for children. Fellows at network partners around the world commit to at least two years of teaching in schools in areas of need. After her Teach for All internship, Peery accepted a new internship with BigWheel, a Knoxville-based creative agency.

Peery: “I learned so much thanks to my manager Daniela, the communications team at Teach for All, and my mentor Beau Cobb. Most importantly, I learned how to use what the organization wants to say and create content for them. Starting out, it was difficult for me to find out how to use the proper tone in my social posts, but over time, I learned how to find the client’s voice and use it in my content.”

Kyle Basila

Kyle Basila

Social and Growth Intern, Understood
Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia
Major: Public Relations (Plans to graduate: Spring ’21)

Founded in 2014, Understood is a nonprofit that assists people with thinking and learning differences to thrive by providing them with helpful digital resources and communities. The organization has also helped thousands of people with all types of disabilities succeed in school and find employment at inclusive companies.

Basila: “I feel like I learned the most about social media writing, and I’m a stronger copy writer now. On Facebook and Twitter, you don’t have space to throw paragraphs out there. I gained a good understanding about how to get a point across and make it engaging.”

Josh Witt

Josh Witt

Digital Marketing Intern, GBC-Education via Amplifi
Hometown: Knoxville, Tennessee
Major: Journalism and Electronic Media (’19)

The Global Business Coalition for Education builds connections and cooperation between businesses, government agencies, foundations, and civil society organizations with a goal to ensure that every child has a great start to life, a safe place to learn, and skills for the future of work. Witt had previously interned as a writer with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which helped him translate complicated scientific material into writing that was easily understandable to the public.

Witt: “Getting to use a professional social media management product like Sprout Social was really helpful for me, especially learning to leverage the social listening features to monitor what our nonprofit audience was thinking and sharing.”