New endowed internship award enables students to take learning to the workplace

Published October 2, 2019
Student overlooking Montenegro bay

Rachel Biton, a senior marine science student, interned at the Montenegro Dolphin Research Program

Trish Schranck got the internship of a lifetime, a summer of coral husbandry and lab work in the Florida Keys, with one flaw—it was unpaid. Turns out, she had the right problem at the right time as an Eckerd College student.

Trish, a senior marine science student from St. Louis, Missouri, was one of the 15 recipients of the inaugural Albert H. Brunner Endowed Internship Award, which can give selected students up to $3,500 to pursue an internship of academic merit. “Without funding from the Brunner scholarship, I would not have been able to pay rent or eat food,” Trish explained.

Brunner, who passed away in 2018, was a member of the First Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and his only connection to Eckerd College was hearing the College’s choir perform at his church. He never attended college himself, but at his minister’s urging, Brunner left a $1.1 million bequest to the College to support scholarships. In the spirit of his wishes, the Eckerd College Board of Trustees approved the creation of the Albert H. Brunner Endowed Internship Award to support students in career development opportunities available through internships.

Trustees left the distribution of the awards up to a faculty committee that took its first applications in the Spring Semester of 2019. Amanda Hagood, assistant dean of faculty for academic special projects, said that from the dozens of applications received, 15 applicants were selected to receive a portion of the $18,000 awarded. “Most students received about $1,000 in support of their internship experiences,” she said.

Student in the lab

Trish Schranck conducted coral husbandry and lab work in the Florida Keys for her internship

Trish used her award to fund accommodations and take care of meals as she worked at Mote Marine Laboratory in Summerland Key, Florida. She conducted a research project titled “Quantifying the stress response in assisted gene-flow Acropora palmata sexual recruits,” which made her responsible for the everyday husbandry tasks of 125 endangered Elkhorn coral colonies. “During my time at Mote, I gained valuable skills in pulse amplitude modulated (PAM) fluorometry, general coral husbandry, 3-D scanning, microfragmentation, coral outplanting, spawning experience, DNA extractions, and Symbiodiniacea collection/preservation,” Trish said. “It was a busy summer!”

Brunner awardees took internships in a variety of fields in businesses as near as downtown St. Petersburg and as far as Montenegro. The inaugural class included: Amanda Arndt, who served as an aquarist intern at the Minnesota Zoo; Rachel Biton, a dolphin research intern at the Montenegro Dolphin Research Program; Meghan Cadden, an advising intern at Boston’s The Steppingstone Foundation; Samantha Cady, an animal care and training intern at the Dolphin Research Center in Marathon, Florida; Brooke Davis, a research assistant at Allied Whale at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine; Emily Fishel, a communications and outreach intern for the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees in New York; Zoe Jeffries, STEM student researcher at the University of Glasgow in Glasgow, Scotland; Annalise Kendrick, a research assistant at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia; Joseph Opaleski, a summer marketing associate at the Tampa Bay Times in St. Petersburg; Daniel Roselli, a chelonian husbandry intern at the Turtle Survival Alliance in Charleston, South Carolina; Annaliese Schrandt, a marine veterinary lab intern at the Alaska Sealife Center in Seward; Jayden Simelda-Longe, a creative intern at the Evolve & Co. creative firm in St. Petersburg, Florida; Sabrina Soarce, a Turtle Conservation Research Program intern at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota; and Nicole White, an environmental educator at the Essex County Environmental Center in Roseland, New Jersey.

Emily Fishel, a senior international relations and global affairs student from Montvale, New Jersey, said her Brunner award covered her transportation to and from New York to work at a non-governmental aid organization.

“I interned for the director of communications and outreach at the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees. I spent most of my time monitoring news coming from Syria and writing blogs about a variety of related topics for the organization’s blog and social media accounts,” Emily said.

Brunner applicants were asked how the internship related to their academic pursuits and how it would help them advance in their understanding.

“This Brunner Award helped me grow not only as a researcher but as a student who strives to enhance her independent research,” said Rachel Biton, a senior marine science student from Chester, New York, who interned at the Montenegro Dolphin Research Program. “This internship solidified my true passion and helped me decide that I want to continue and pursue the rest of my life studying and working with marine and freshwater plants.”

Hagood and the Office of Career Services asked Brunner award winners to pay it forward on September 23 as presenters in the first-ever Internship Fest Fair, where 22 students and two recent alumni talked about their internship experiences at fair-style booths set up in Fox Hall. More than 100 students attended the College Program Series event and heard about the varying experiences and the Brunner award process.

“We already have great resources in our faculty mentors and Career Services, but students hearing from other students in that moment of peer-to-peer learning experience is really invaluable,” Hagood said.

Brunner awards will be available for Winter Term and Spring Semester internships. Applications are due Nov. 1.