The COVID-19 pandemic paused many student internships, but the Clayton Yeutter Institute of International Trade and Finance at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln refused to let the pandemic disrupt student learning opportunities.
Before the pandemic arose, five Husker student interns were set to work as a team for a leading global food and agriculture company through a partnership arranged by the Yeutter Institute. The pandemic interrupted the project they were to work on, but the institute remained dedicated to providing hands-on learning experiences for the interns.
John Beghin, Michael Yanney Chair in International Trade and Finance in the Department of Agricultural Economics and the Yeutter Institute, alongside Yeutter Institute Director Jill O’Donnell, worked to find a new opportunity for the students. Beghin and O’Donnell partnered with the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, Nebraska Chamber of Commerce, Nonprofits Association of the Midlands and several other agencies to develop an economics- and trade-focused summer internship program.
The five students were split into two groups: One worked to analyze the impact of COVID-19 on the nonprofit sector in Nebraska, and the other created a searchable database of manufacturing exporters for the Nebraska Department of Economic Development.
The group working on COVID-19’s impact on Nebraska’s nonprofit sector analyzed two survey datasets using Qualtrics and Excel, later reporting their findings. The group working on the searchable database used data from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development and D&B Hoover’s business directors to construct the resource in Excel. They learned how to merge datasets, construct pivot tables with searchable fields and produce a technical document describing the database functions and how to update it with new data.
The work gave the students an opportunity to make a real impact. The searchable database of exporters is used by thy Nebraska Department of Economic Development and firms looking into sourcing or selling products internationally. Most of the users of the database are from the private sector, which facilitates opportunities for them.
The work on the nonprofit sector in Nebraska is utilized by nonprofits to better adapt to the pandemic and advocate for their vital roles in Nebraska’s economy and society with policy makers. The information is available to the public.
Beghin supervised the two groups, structuring projects, defining and negotiating deliverables with students and stakeholders, holding Zoom meetings on findings, offering guidance and providing analytical support for Qualtrics and Excel.
The interns were grateful for the hands-on learning experiences. Samuel Wachter-Cass, an international business major who worked on the nonprofit project, said it felt good to work on a meaningful project with real-world utility.
“To have the opportunity as an undergrad student to make an actual impact on something was really exciting,” he said. “As the internship evolved, it became clearer that what we were working on was actually going to help a lot of people.”
Others found the internship to be both a learning experience and time of service.
“I believe this is more than just learning about this, but also serving the community where I live, serving the Nebraska community,” said Savant Nzayiramya, an integrated science major from Rwanda who worked on the database. “It’s kind of a giving back to all of the good times I’ve [had] in Nebraska, or the ‘Nebraska Nice’ welcome that I had.”
Students involved in the Yeutter internship gained credit hours for their participation and received a stipend funded by the Yeutter Institute and the Michael Yanney Chair support fund.
To view the Nebraska Department of Economic Development searchable database, click here.