A reimagined Paul Projects brought enriching summer internships to UNH students and local businesses during COVID-19

Thursday, October 22, 2020

downtown durham view from above

DURHAM, NH - by Alexa Gagne '21

When COVID-19 struck the U.S. in March, many plans changed, including critical summer internships for college students. Faculty and staff at the Peter T. Paul College of Business of Economics at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) decided they weren’t going to let their students go without. So Director of Career Services Kim Clark spearheaded an initiative to make it happen: Paul Projects.

According to Clark, Paul Projects was originally an internship program run in the spring semester involving a handful of businesses and student collaborators. With a little reimagining to adapt to the students’ needs in unforeseen circumstances, she took that foundation and built it into a complex program comprised of 12 teams of 35 upperclassmen, each team working with one local business.

The students were able to earn Business in Practice (BiP) credit while working closely with businesses in need of assistance in the ever-changing COVID-19 situation. Some participants included Emery Farm, Plaistow Public Library, the town of Durham, and the UNH Memorial Union Building (MUB). It was a true variety at students’ fingertips.

Clark said in the “mad dash” to organize the summer Paul Projects that everyone she approached was eager to help. Faculty and staff were willing to assist, businesses needed the extra hands, and dozens of students applied. Clark called it a “Paul Pride effort.”

In the end, all parties benefited from Paul Projects. According to Clark, students involved developed critical thinking skills and built their resumes. College staff were able to get to know each other better and work more closely with one another. The student interns became instrumental in helping their partner businesses survive the trials of COVID-19.

For Durham in particular, Town Administrator Todd Selig said he was pleased at the prospect of the university and the city working harmoniously to get through the pandemic.

Students involved in Paul Projects said they gained new connections within Paul, developed better communication skills, learned how to build strong client relationships, and, most importantly, got hands-on experience translating skills learned at UNH into real-world situations.

“This was the first time I’ve been a part of something like this,” said Christopher Gillen ‘21. Gillen also emphasized the uniqueness of the program. “We all learned so much about remote communication, which is so valuable in today’s world because of the emergence of COVID-19.”

Although these students may not have done what they planned this summer, they gained an experience that will set them apart when they leave UNH and pursue their careers.