I was fortunate enough this past summer to be the public relations intern at Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants at its corporate office in San Francisco.
I gained valuable firsthand PR experience, including maintaining and managing
department resources, such as press and social media hits. I also was able to participate in reading major media publications, editing press releases and completing ad hoc projects.
Knowing that I could potentially end up with a non-paying internship, I was lucky enough to
not only have an internship with an amazing company, but also receive a $500 stipend for
My luck continued, in that a family friend let me stay with them for free in Walnut Creek, and my parents were able to support my decision to not return to my minimum wage job at The Old Spaghetti Factory. They recognized that I needed to gain realistic, skill-enhancing experience that related directly to my major.
Spending a summer at Kimpton opened my eyes to what life was like in the “real world,” and helped me figure out specifically what I want to do after I graduate. I am grateful that Kimpton made me realize that I want to pursue a career in restaurant PR or food magazines.
Without my summer internship I would not have the skills, lessons and confidence I need to find a career after college.
Summers spent bagging groceries at Safeway result in students receiving paychecks. Summers spent gaining experiences in corporate offices may only result in a resume booster. While necessary, many students can’t afford to give up a summer’s worth of minimum wage for an unpaid internship, no matter how worthwhile the experience.
The journalism department’s annual fundraiser, put on through the Chico State call center each fall, is aimed this year at raising money for students with unpaid internships. It will help students gain firsthand experience without sacrificing a summer’s income.
“We have a student call center that is informed and trained about the need, then in the fall they make calls to alumni and explain the need,” said Sarah Fry, advancement director for the College of Communication and Education.
The department recognizes the reality that with increased tuition and the economy, students can no longer afford a summer without an income.
“When companies offer an internship, that’s also a commitment from the company because they’re committing time to mentor that student and for that we are grateful,” Fry said. “But they’re not always able to pay the students.”
Department of Journalism and Public Relations Chair Susan Brockus Wiesinger said holding service industry minimum-wage jobs doesn’t move along a student’s career. Employers want internships to show students can do the job, she said.
“The reality is it’s a tough trade out,” Wiesinger said. “There are not that many families who can absorb a summer’s worth of minimum wage income for a student.”
To help cover costs, the money donated to the department during this fall’s fundraiser will be awarded to journalism students who have secured a non-paying, major-related internship and show that they are giving up a paying, non-major job.
Hands-on, practical experience is what makes a recent graduate stand out to potential employers.
“We’re a skills-based program so students need skills-based internships,” Wiesinger said. “It’s that little piece of the puzzle that gets you a little further down the road and makes you a better candidate for the job.”
With the competitive nature of job
hunting, the department wants to
give students the resources and
opportunities to succeed after
“With the increased tuition, everyone is feeling the pinch so it just seems like a place our alumni, who’ve all benefited from paid internships or the same kind of help, can help our students,” Wiesinger said.
Alumni do not have to wait for contact from the call center to donate;
they can follow this link to give back to the department.
“Alums can donate to all sorts of things,” Wiesinger said. “We have other funds, and scholarships
are always an option.”
There are multiple funds that can be donated to besides the internship award, such as the
journalism foundation fund which includes Tehama Group Communications, The Orion,
Mac Lab upgrades, scholarships or travel.
“Every little bit helps; it’s a tight economy,” Wiesinger said. “We want our students to have all
the opportunities they can have.”