NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Goaltender Lauren Demarchi helped lead the Vanderbilt women’s soccer team to an SEC championship last season. A few months later as a summer intern at BetaFits, she built a website for the healthcare start-up.
Now in her senior season for the Commodores, Demarchi is prepared to build on the experience she gained and the success she achieved last year not just on the soccer field but in the workplace. And that’s exactly what Vanderbilt Athletics’ innovative summer internship program is all about.
This past summer, 65 Vanderbilt student-athletes participated in the program, interning at area businesses, nonprofits and even around campus at Vanderbilt. The program, administered by Vanderbilt’s student-athlete development office, was created five years ago to address a challenge that historically has faced student-athletes around the country: due to the off-season demands of their sports, they graduate with no internship experience, putting them at a disadvantage when searching for their first job.
Vanderbilt Athletics worked within NCAA rules to develop an internship program where interns are compensated by Vanderbilt (in the form of room and board), removing the possibility of the improper benefits that had always been the NCAA’s concern.
Under the Vanderbilt model, student-athletes work 20 hours over four days per week at their employers, and then meet Fridays as a group on campus for workshops on topics such ranging from resume tips to leveraging LinkedIn to build connections and find jobs. At the end of the summer, each participant delivers an oral presentation to the rest of the group highlighting their experience.
“There’s no group of people more qualified on this planet than athletes to go do whatever they want to do,” Adell Harris, chief of staff for the Commodore men’s basketball team, told the group. “You just have to know how to take the skills and go put them somewhere else.”
The work environments were diverse. Football player Cam Robinson wants to go into healthcare administration and interned at Nashville General Hospital. Bowler Emily Rigney of New Zealand interned at the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. Olivia Simmons of the women’s soccer team interned with Select Physical Therapy. Football’s Tae Daley joined teammate Cole Clemens and soccer’s Hannon Eberts at Vanderbilt’s Office of Investments.
Bart Brunk, managing director of operations at the investment office, said his group has participated in the intern program for two years and has had nothing but a positive experience with Vanderbilt student-athletes.
“I have been impressed by their maturity, professionalism, intelligence, and attention to detail,” Brunk said. “It’s clear that they took their assignments very seriously, taking detailed notes and asking intelligent, relevant questions. In addition to being quality workers, they have been, without exception, quality people. They are all very likeable and easy to interact with; they worked well together and with others; they seemed interested in what they are doing, and they were a great fit with the team. Given the right opportunity and situation, I wouldn’t hesitate to hire any one of them.”
Demarchi said that working with a small start-up provided a wide range of invaluable experiences, from the typical intern “grunt work” to some of the company’s most important initiatives.
“My biggest takeaway was to do everything you can to the best of your ability, whether that’s something that’s a big deal like creating a website for the company or just creating a spreadsheet,” said Demarchi. “Make sure it’s professional, make sure it looks really nice, because there’s no better way to make a good impression.”
Demarchi said she feels much better prepared for whatever challenges she faces in the job market.
“I think it’s incredible Vanderbilt offers this opportunity,” she said. “My whole experience with Vanderbilt Athletics has prepared me for the real world, and I’m grateful for all of it.”
Local employers interested in participating in the Vanderbilt Athletics internship program should email Alison Wenzel at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.