SRU security studies majors complete internships by working remotely
First from left, Adrianna Murphy, a Slippery Rock University senior corporate security major, tours an Amazon fulfillment center in Maryland. Murphy was one of many SRU students who completed virtual internships this summer.
Aug. 31, 2020
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — One of the many challenges for college students during the COVID-19 pandemic is completing an internship, but students at Slippery Rock University are finding success through remote-work internships with major companies. As examples, three SRU students in the homeland and corporate security studies program recently completed virtual internships this summer, two of which with Amazon and Boeing.
"These types of internships provided our students the opportunity to learn how to work remotely using new software and how to be part of a team when you're not in-person," said Susan Lubinski, associate professor of homeland and corporate security studies. "Because of COVID-19, businesses are becoming extremely innovative in how they operate and testing how well employees work remotely. Virtual internships can open many opportunities for students who may be living in Pennsylvania but working for organizations both domestically and internationally."
Julie Smith, a senior homeland security major from Muncy, worked as an industrial security intern for Boeing, the world's largest aerospace company and leading manufacturer of commercial jetliners, defense, space and security systems.
Adrianna Murphy, a senior corporate security major from York, interned as a loss prevention specialist for Amazon, the e-commerce and tech giant.
Paige Seeger, a senior homeland security major from Beaver Falls, interned as a technology researcher for Zero Trafficking, a non-profit agency that works remotely with law enforcement and intelligence professionals across the U.S. to fight human trafficking.
With the exception of Murphy making one visit to tour an Amazon fulfillment center in Maryland, the summer-long internships for each of the three SRU students were conducted from their homes or apartments.
"As college students, this was a good learning experience to figure out how to navigate a corporate environment through a virtual experience," Smith said. "Not being able to have face-to-face conversations, we had to learn how to communicate effectively and read people through emails, instant messages and phone calls."
Smith communicated with a project lead, mentor manager and other interns working for Boeing from across the country. The particulars of her job are confidential but she was able to share one project in which she planned and hosted a virtual networking event for Boeing employees at the company's Mesa, Arizona, location, all while working from her apartment in Slippery Rock. After graduation, Smith plans to work in corporate security and the aerospace industry, so the experience with Boeing was perfect for her career development.
Murphy also aspires to work at the company where she interned, but she realized through her experience with such a large company as Amazon that she can apply what she learned to working for other companies, only on a slightly smaller scale.
"It was really interesting to me to see how such a large organization handles these things like theft, workplace violence and loss prevention," Murphy said. "Even for a company like Amazon, if there is financial loss or if there's a lot of product loss, that has a direct impact on the customer, especially with the coronavirus pandemic and people buying most of their supplies online. If I can figure out how Amazon handles loss prevention, that that would help me understand other large organizations as well."
Murphy worked with investigations related to loss prevention and workplace incidents affecting employees, everything from employee harassment cases to employees stealing products at fulfillment centers. During her internship, Murphy and four other interns wrote a white paper and presented it to colleagues. Their topic was determining the adequate number of loss prevention specialists assigned to investigate lapses and cases at global specialty fulfillment sites.
Murphy credits her SRU classes, such as Personnel Security, Corporate Security Investigations and Emergency Management, for preparing her to understand and relate to scenarios she encountered at Amazon.
For Seeger's role with Zero Trafficking, she was assigned projects to detect online activity of previously identified organized prostitution or human trafficking rings and search for markers, such as escort listings. The interns used virtual private networks and other methods to protect their own locations and identities as they sifted through open source intelligence online, sorting through markers that could be prostitution rings, scams or actual human trafficking.
"We would get assigned tasks and then each week we would have Zoom meetings to brief our senior analyst about our findings," Seeger said. "I loved it and I am continuing my internship for them this fall semester as well. Human trafficking is a big issue that most people aren't aware of. It's when people are trafficked for the purpose of exploitation, which includes prostitution, forced labor and even the removal of organs. This a problem that's maybe more serious than what people are led to believe."
After graduating, Seeger hopes to eventually work in human trafficking prevention for a government agency, such as Homeland Security Investigations within the Department of Homeland Security.
"We are proud of these young ladies and their initiative to seek these internships will further motivate their peers," Lubinski said. "Their efforts opened doors for future SRU security majors to obtain internships in these organizations. Most importantly, Adrianna, Julie and Paige have proven themselves and showed these large employers the quality of the security studies program at SRU."
Students in the homeland and corporate security studies program can take three-credit internships as electives. The three students mentioned above found their internships through online postings, but SRU also offers resources like Handshake to connect employers with students seeking internships.
According to Dan Bauer, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, SRU are encouraged to pursue virtual internships and internship decisions for students are being reviewed by faculty advisers on a case-by-case basis.
"A virtual internship is the safest option, and it's thus preferred, but depending on the situation and the discipline, some exceptions may be issued when it's best for the student and the career path," Bauer said. "Some students need to be physically in the field when safety precautions have been factored in intentional and thoughtful ways. The majority of our students are still doing virtual internships, but not all."
For more information about the homeland and corporate security studies programs at SRU, visit the department's webpage.
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