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Elon in New York City program remains (mostly) the same in its third year

Last year, the three faculty and 18 students who were part of the renewed Elon in New York City program considered the nine-week summer internship experience a resounding success. That's why, coming into this summer, the returning instructors decided to leave the program mostly untouched.

“We made a conscious decision to keep it as similar as possible,” said Lynne Bisko, a non-print librarian who spends the first two weeks with the students in New York. “We’re still using the same overall formula, the same assignments, the same structure.”

The program will remain largely unchanged this summer, but a couple of additions were made to enhance the experience, including increasing the number of students in the city from 18 last year to 29 this year and plugging in assistant professor of marketing Michael Rodriguez to give the program a business grounding it was lacking last summer.

Just like last year, students in the Elon in NYC program took a bus tour of Manhattan on one of their first days in the city.

“The business part of the program has been enhanced in a really big way,” said assistant professor of Communications Dan Haygood, who taught in the program last year. “Michael’s experience and presence adds credibility and opens doors for us. He’s really going to be able to provide a unique insight into New York business.”

Rodriguez, who has 14 years experience working on Wall Street, said Associate Provost Connie Book reached out to him and asked if he’d be interested in joining the Elon in NYC team.

“It seemed like a pretty good fit, a pretty good balance to the program,” Rodriguez said. “They needed someone from the business background.”

Rodriguez will spend the final two weeks in New York teaching the “Wall Street” portion of the class, which will give the students insight into the business world. Performing arts associate professor Bill Webb will lead the “Broadway” weeks to teach students about how Broadway productions go “from page to stage,” he said. Haygood heads up “Madison Avenue” and leads discussions about marketing and advertising. Bisko kicks off Elon in NYC and explains the history of the city to the students.

The faculty members address targeted areas of New York, in part, to help students navigate the four-credit course they take on Mondays called “The Streets of New York City.” (Students complete their two-credit internships Tuesday through Friday. Check out a map of their internships.)

All the students have chosen a street, neighborhood or region to study during their summers. They’ll research the history of the area, talk to people who live or work there and generally observe the action and surroundings. At the end of the program, they’ll produce an ethnographic study that will detail their specific corners of Manhattan. (Check out the streets the students are studying.)

The final project is a big one, but the students typically enjoy it because it allows them, quite simply, to be free in the city.

There are 29 students in this year's Elon in NYC experience. Last year, 18 were in the program.

“I think the thing I’ve most enjoyed is the freedom we have,” said Hollace Jeffords, a theatre design and production major who’s interning for the actor Alan Cumming and musician Lance Horne. “The faculty trust us to go out and find ourselves in the city and be safe and know what we’re doing. It’s all about freedom and taking what you want from the experience.”

Austin Williamson, a junior accounting, finance and international studies major who’s interning with UBS, said the Elon in NYC program lets students assimilate quickly to the historic city. (Read the Elon in NYC blog to learn about the students' experiences.)

“The program, in general, has been a really great experience,” Williamson said. “I come from a small town in North Carolina, and I haven’t traveled much in my life, so coming up here I was very nervous. But the program integrates you into the culture very well. Not only are you learning about your internship, you’re learning about the culture of New York, which is really great.”

In addition to studying their parts of New York, students also tour advertising agencies, visit PR firms and business organizations, walk through the New York Stock Exchange, learn how to navigate the New York Public library, view Broadway productions and take backstage tours, and meet with alumni, some of whom serve as mentors to the students during the summer.

That alumni component has been especially fruitful to the undergraduates, according to senior strategic communications major Danielle Hatch, who’s interning with Synaptic Digital.

“You can see how (the alumni) got to be in New York and how they like living here,” she said. “You wouldn’t be able to get that if you weren’t in the program and just living here and doing your internship. It gives you a lot of opportunities to network.”

Overall, students appreciate the extra experiences they gain from being in a structured summer internship program. They’re not simply heading to New York just to complete an internship. Instead, they’re actively learning about and engaging with the city and its people.

“I get to do so much more,” said senior strategic communications major Brittany Cadwallader, who’s interning with Summer Stage. “I get to have so much richer of an experience this summer by learning about other aspects of the city. I’m really happy about the program so far.”

Colin Donohue,
7/15/2011 8:40 AM