When COVID-19 gripped the nation, there was no choice but to adapt. For the University of West Georgia, resilience and ingenuity led the way. Along with assistance from impactful partners, students were able to fulfill internship requirements which otherwise would not have been possible.
Dr. Jeannie Pridmore, associate professor in the Richards College of Business (RCOB) at UWG, said when the pandemic hit, several companies and individuals came forward to help ensure Master of Business Administration students could complete their work practicum course requirements.
“We have been very blessed with how many people came together from different organizations to work with us and to help ensure our students become successful and gain real-world experience,” she said.
The new Early Executive Track in UWG’s MBA program focuses on leadership, professionalism and experiential learning. During the process of earning the degree, students have numerous opportunities for internships, working with organizations and workshops.
As part of the track, the Work Practicum course is a collaborative course that offers two options: a local internship or a work abroad option to work with the University of Münster, the European Research Center for Information Systems and a German organization to work on a strategic project.
“Around 70 percent of our MBA students are coming straight through from their undergraduate degrees,” she said. “Our plan with this new MBA track is to help them be intentional during their MBA program to set in place a plan to help them become as marketable as possible upon graduation and to realize who they are and where they want to go in regard to career planning and professionalism.”
When the pandemic started, Pridmore said she initially was very concerned because many of the students lost their local internships as businesses went into lockdown.
“It was late in the game - probably the first or second week of April - but we needed to help these students complete the requirements for the Work Practicum course once their internships fell through,” she said.
RCOB Associate Dean Monica Smith, who works with Southwire on their Leadership Academy, had the idea to reach out to them. Southwire was happy to help, and their SPEED department put together a special, enriching project for UWG students that would take the place of their lost internships. The two-week project allowed students to gain relevant knowledge and experience, which culminated in a presentation to Southwire executives.
“They got on board right away,” Pridmore said. “They seemed very excited about it and set up meetings to help us make something happen. It was a resounding success.”
SAP, an enterprise software company with whom the university has partnered, was scheduled to do an in-person Design Thinking workshop for the students. Within a couple of weeks, three SAP Vice Presidents created a virtual Design Thinking workshop for not only UWG’s students but also for the German participants.
“We ended the Work Practicum course with a virtual training session from the SAP Leonardo Center in Paris,” Pridmore said. “There were 38 of us total from across Germany, the U.S., and even one of our students was home in Colombia. The representatives from SAP were amazing and worked so hard for us.”
Furthermore, Cronos – the company that provided the project for UWG students who were supposed to travel to Germany – also switched to a virtual platform, allowing the 10 affected students to gain the experience of working with a global virtual team to complete a real business project.
These necessary academic adjustments were so successful that some will remain in place in the future.
“Moving forward, we will add a local project option to the Work Practicum course with Southwire as an alternative to the German project,” Pridmore said. “So, the options would be the German project, an internship or a local project.”
Pridmore said she is immensely thankful to everyone who came together to make certain UWG students were able to successfully complete their Work Practicum course.
“It’s been such a blessing for our students,” she said.