July 25, 2016
Numerous Tech student-athletes using summer to gain experience for future professions
The Office of Student-Athlete Development helped to facilitate opportunities for certain internships
Virginia Tech Student-Athlete Summer Internships For a slideshow on where some of Tech's student-athletes are doing internships this summer and what they're doing, please click here.

By Jimmy Robertson

BLACKSBURG – Student-athletes use their summers to do any number of things, including working, taking classes, or working out in hopes of becoming a better athlete.

But the truly wise ones use the time to gain experience toward their future careers because, as most know and the NCAA slogan states, student-athletes often go pro in something other than sports.

Numerous Virginia Tech student-athletes are taking advantage of the summer months by working internships, including a small collection who are working in the athletics department as part of the Hokie L.E.A.D. Internship Program. This program, established by the department’s Office of Student-Athlete Development, began in 2015 and provides unpaid opportunities to select Tech student-athletes with an interest in pursuing a future career in intercollegiate athletics.

The “L.E.A.D.” acronym stands for learn, experience, achieve, and develop. The 10-week program provides more than just experience. It provides networking and mentoring opportunities, thus making Tech’s student-athletes more marketable for future positions in college athletics.

“We found that a lot of our student-athletes had an interest in perhaps working in athletics administration, so we developed this program as a way to mentor them and to help them develop the skills necessary to work in college athletics,” said Reyna Gilbert-Lowry, Tech’s associate AD for student-athlete development. “Student-athletes who are interested can apply for one of the seven spots in the program based on his or her interests. Then the department heads select the best candidate based on their needs and the qualifications of the candidates.”

The student-athletes participating this summer include Jordyn Brock (women’s soccer), Blayne Fink (women’s soccer), Adriana Grabski (women’s swimming), Maggie Gruber (women’s swimming), Katie Kennedy (women’s cross country), and Sansitha Nandakumar (women’s tennis). Fink and Nandakumar work in HokieVision – the Hokies’ video office – while Brock works in marketing, Grabski in student-athlete development, Gruber in the Hokie Club, and Kennedy in the ticket office.

“I wanted to work with the individuals that make college athletics possible at Virginia Tech and I am very interested in pursuing a career with an athletics department at a university,” said Grabski, a communication studies major from Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania. “I have noticed that I have been able to apply a lot of my communications skills I have learned in the classroom towards my internship and that is very rewarding.”

“In the future I would like to do brand management,” said Brock, a public relations major. “I want to work for a company, organization, team, or an athletic brand such as Adidas or Nike and really push their motto, what they stand for and their overall brand of how people view them. With that being said, a big part of that is the planning and the layout of ads and such. I feel like marketing ties into that.”

Of course, the six working in the athletics department only comprise a small number of Tech student-athletes working internships or shadowing other professionals this summer. Many of them are doing some really “cool” stuff, too, in various fields.

Actually, one of them, David Prince, is doing an internship in college athletics – just not at Virginia Tech. Prince has helped the Tech athletics department in various capacities over the past couple of years, including working for the Hokie Club. But he decided to branch out and get another perspective. He landed an internship with the Bulldog Club at the University of Georgia.

“I reached out to a couple of schools in the SEC about an internship in development,” Prince said. “The associate AD for development at the University of Georgia emailed me back and we kept a dialogue for a while before finally deciding that I was going to intern with them for the summer.”

Prince, a Roanoke, Virginia native, has spent the summer working on a variety of projects, mostly of the research variety. He gathers information on other SEC and Power Five schools and compares them to Georgia. Then he presents the information to his supervisors, allowing them to gain an understanding on where Georgia rates among its peers with its fundraising efforts.

“I have a better understanding of premium seating, transfers, thank-a-thons, annual fund, major gifts, social media presence, and development as a whole,” Prince said. “I have made numerous connections, not just through the University of Georgia, but also people at other schools whom I have been in contact with for projects. As I meet people in the profession, I understand that everyone is connected in some way.

“I definitely want to continue working in fundraising. It started out as an option, something to put on my resume that I was doing in college. I have learned so much from the people in the Hokie Club and I am very thankful for the opportunities and doors they have opened for me. Since then, I have gained a passion for the field and plan on working with many other branches of athletics down the road.”

As for those outside of athletics, Caroline Buscaglia, a women’s swimmer from Midlothian, Virginia, works for Virginia Senator Tim Kaine at his regional office in Roanoke, Virginia. Ashley Kowalski, a softball player, is interning with the Sussex County Sheriff’s Office in Newton, New Jersey, not far from her hometown of Stanhope, New Jersey. She shadows detectives and deputies.

“We will go out on warrants and find the individuals who have warrants for their arrests,” Kowalski said. “I have booked and logged arrests, called many individuals regarding outstanding warrants and such. I have sat in on court cases that have ranged from domestic violence to murder. I have worked with the K9 unit as well as the traffic unit. The detectives have gotten me into a lot of the stuff that they do every day.

“I love it. It really has peaked my interest and I almost want to go to the Academy and start working right away with them. It has peaked my interest to work for a sheriff's department of some sort. However, being a state troopers is my ultimate goal.”

A couple are exploring futures in the medical field. Logan Williams, a women’s swimmer from Chesapeake, Virginia, interns at Sentara Heart Center in Norfolk, Virginia. She shadows an anesthesiologist. Amanda Swaak, from Vienna, Virginia, works at UAB Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama shadowing those in the medical department.

Sydney Curtis, a women’s soccer player, chose to work an internship near her home in Cary, North Carolina. She works for the Raleigh-based Kay Yow Cancer Fund, helping with community outreach. Yow was the former women’s basketball coach at NC State who passed away from cancer in 2009. Her charity organization raises money for scientific research.

“I have been conducting research for them on Fortune 500 companies that have philanthropic missions that align with cancer and women's cancers since that is the mission of The Kay Yow Cancer Fund,” Curtis said. “I have also been putting together a spreadsheet of all the contact information of women's basketball coaches at the Division I, II, and III levels.

“I want to do philanthropic/outreach work after graduation, preferably with a sports team or a Fortune 500 company. I chose The Kay Yow Cancer Fund because of the ties it has with sports and college athletics.”

Part of doing an internship sometimes includes learning what one doesn't want to do. Curtis found that out during her internship.

“I have enjoyed my experience with the Fund,” she said. “It has opened my eyes to the process of running a non-profit, which has been a great, but it has also shown me that I do not want to work in non-profits post graduation. I do, however, love the philanthropic aspect and know that is what I want to do.”

These young men and women figuring out their futures is exactly what the athletics department, and on a larger scale, the university wants to see. The summer time presents an opportunity – and Virginia Tech student-athletes are taking full advantage of it.

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