Celebrating the Class of 2022; OUR Clemson

A decade of building student work experience: UPIC celebrates its 10th anniversary

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At Clemson University’s spring commencement ceremonies held May 12 and 13, 158 graduates will share a defining experience of being the 10th cohort of the University’s UPIC program.

Amanda Hollowell, a senior management major with an international business emphasis and minor in brand communications who worked as a UPIC intern for Campus Reservations and Events, credits UPIC for improving her ability to adapt to a professional, fast-paced work environment.

“As I enter the job market as a Clemson graduate, my experiences as a UPIC student prepared me because I learned the value of prioritized effort and time management in a real-work environment,” Hollowell said.

10 Years in the Making

The Center for Career and Professional Development manages Clemson’s University Professional Internship and Co-Op Program. The program provides Clemson students the opportunity to work closely alongside University faculty, staff or administration in paid mentored internships. These internships offer students valuable hands-on experience in preparation for their future careers.

Troy Nunamaker, chief solutions offer, is excited at what the UPIC program has accomplished in the last decade, providing new experiences and educational opportunities to students in all seven of Clemson’s colleges.

“I couldn’t be prouder of how we’ve continued to grow as a campus community that embraces experiential education. Engaged learning is central to the internship team’s everyday efforts and we are honored to have a high-impact practice on campus,” Nunamaker said.

“I’m particularly proud that we have dedicated funding and resources over the last decade to help break down the barriers historically prohibiting specific and marginalized populations on campus from having an internship. Built within our budget is a line item dedicated solely to helping students with unique and special circumstances secure a paid internship at no expense to the hiring mentor.”

Things weren’t easy for the UPIC program at first. Initially, there was no office space, budget or staff when the initiative began. But the program became fully operational in just under eight months and started with an inaugural class of 20 students in the Spring semester of 2012.

Assistant Director Jenna Tucker Grogan began her career at Clemson as a graduate assistant for UPIC in the Fall 2013 semester and became a full-time staff member in 2014. Having witnessed the program’s growth first-hand, she is proud of the program’s impact on both students and mentors.

“It is amazing to see how many students have been able to grow professionally from their involvement in UPIC,” Grogan said. ”I love hearing stories from past interns regarding the great things they are doing now and how much the program impacted them during their time at Clemson.”

The University Professional Internship and Co-op (UPIC) program had its 10-year celebration at the Barnes Center for UPIC students and their advisors on March 2. Dr. Troy Nunamaker and Dr. Neil Burton with the Center for Career & Professional Development briefly spoke to the audience.

After becoming fully operational, UPIC exceeded its target goal of offering 500 on-campus annual internships by 2020 and now facilitates more than 900 each year. For the 2022 Spring semester, UPIC conducted nearly 400  with 158 senior participants set to graduate next week.  

Alongside its team of coordinators and mentor partnerships, the UPIC program also demonstrated how it could adapt to the changing professional landscape, which was upended during the COVID-19 pandemic when in-person meetings became difficult. Looking to continue providing its interns with the best experience possible, the program pivoted to offer remote experiences and resources for its interns. Associate Director Lisa Robinson was glad UPIC was available to deliver for students during an important time in their educational development.

“During the height of COVID-19, when it was hard for students to work off-campus or abroad, UPIC provided the perfect solution to get an intentional, mentored, professional and paid work experience between classes either on campus or remote,” Robinson said. 

For Tucker Grogan, the program’s ability to thrive during the pandemic also speaks volumes about what UPIC has become and the experiences it can offer in any climate.

“The program has been able to shift throughout the years, including remaining functional and thriving during a global pandemic, and I believe that ability to adapt has and will be essential in the future,” Tucker Grogan said.

In addition to Dr. Nunamaker, Lisa Robinson, and Jenna Tucker Grogan, the staff also includes Associate Director Dr. Caren Kelley-Hall, Program Coordinator Toni Becker, Graduate Assistant Ashley Persson, and UPIC marketing and programming intern Jessica Dionian. Moving forward, Nunamaker and the rest of the staff are excited to continue making UPIC even more innovative for interns and their mentors. With Clemson recognized nationally for its career services, the staff is not content to rest on its laurels. 

“It’s been an honor for us to have the unique opportunity to conceptualize and establish the UPIC program,” Nunamaker said. “The program is recognized nationally as a benchmark engaged learning initiative, and I strive for that trend to continue through the UPIC team’s unrelenting engagement, innovation and professionalism.”