Campus Alamance students, partners gather to celebrate summer internships

During summer 2023, the innovative program saw more than 40 Elon students working with a range of Alamance County businesses and organizations through university-funded internships.

Students and community partners who participated in the 2023 Campus Alamance cohort reunited on campus on Wednesday to share about the successes and challenges of the summer internship program while looking ahead to how the program can continue to expand in the years ahead.

Brooke Buffington, left, the assistant vice president for the Student Professional Development Center, talks with a community partner during an Sept. 27 Campus Alamance event.

Campus Alamance marked its third year in 2023, with more than 40 Elon students participating in intensive internship experiences at Alamance County businesses and a range of community, religious and governmental organizations. Students worked at least 30 hours a week through the internships and received a $2,500 stipend while gaining a host of professional skills and experience.

Along with their work with their specific business or organization, students participated in regular panel discussions with community leaders and in weekly professional development sessions. The program is funded by Elon and reflects the university’s commitment to building and enhancing community partnerships while preparing students for a variety of experiences after graduation. The initiative is led by the Student Professional Development Center in partnership with the Kernodle Center for Civic Life.

President Connie Ledoux Book discusses the Campus Alamance program during a Sept. 27 event about the program for participants and community partners.

President Connie Ledoux Book shared at Wednesday’s gathering that the launch of the program in 2021 was part of an intentional effort to help students think about their future careers and how those careers might support the surrounding community while fostering stronger relationships with those partners in the business, governmental and nonprofit sectors. The program is funded by the university’s endowment, with returns from the investment of targeted gifts to the university funding the student stipends.

Robin Kazmarek with the Student Professional Development Center, who has headed the Campus Alamance program, offers a welcome at the Sept. 27 event.

“We are working hard to grow this program,” Book told the students and community partners gathered in LaRose Student Commons for the event. “Students are already making plans for next summer and we want to get in front of them about this program so they can apply.”

Book expressed appreciation to the partners for playing a role in the professional development of these students through the summer internships. “It’s a real courtesy for you to take time to talk to these students about the work they’re doing, what you’re seeing and participating in those mentoring conversations to help them move along in their own development,” Book said. “The goal of this program is that some of them would choose to stay in Alamance County.”

Lizzy DiGrande participated in Campus Alamance for a second year during summer 2023 and worked this year with the Alamance Community Foundation. “I was able to gain that professional experience while also feeling like I gave back to the community,” DiGrande said. “I went out into Burlington and into the greater Alamance County community and I think that has affected my Elon experience. I’m grateful I got to do that.”

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Nora Wilkes ’24 plans to pursue a career in criminal justice and said her summer spent working with the Burlington Police Department has helped her gain a broader perspective on the criminal justice system. She went into the internship not sure what level she wanted to work within in the criminal justice system — federal, state or local — and her experience made her realize she’d like to work at a more local level. “I want to be able to impact the community in ways that I can see it and not just tangentially,” Wilkes said.

During her work with Habitat for Humanity of Alamance County this summer, Maddie Johnson developed a clearer understanding about what it is like to work in the nonprofit sector, which is something she is considering following her graduation next spring. “In this internship, you get the opportunity to go into a nonprofit and see day-to-day what it is like,” Johnson said. “That day-to-day work is very different from what we talk about in theory, and so this experience has helped me better understand that.”