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COVID-19 sidelines summer plans; Boilermakers adapt

"I told myself in high school that I wanted to make a change in the world,” said Sneha Jogi, a senior in agricultural communication. “While I can’t change the entire world, or an entire issue for that matter, I know I can make an impact on communities, families and their lives.” 

Jogi accepted a sales internship with Hormel for this past summer. “I wasn’t sold on sales because I enjoyed my previous internships in communications and marketing, but I convinced myself I should give it a fair shot.

“Once COVID-19 spread, the internship moved online. I was relieved to hear it wasn’t canceled, but I was also scared to do a virtual internship before my senior year. I didn’t think I would be able to get a good grasp of the company. 

 “I ended up learning more about Hormel than I would have in-person,” said Jogi. “I wanted to see many parts of the company and I was able to reach out to all of them.” 

Originally slated as a consumer product sales internship, Hormel shifted the focus to e-commerce. There, Jogi dove into sales data, making recommendations to her assigned retailer, Kroger

“I worked with their Natural Choice brand, which has a partnership with Feeding America. It was a perfect fit for me,” Jogi explained. “I got a clear look at the hunger relief work Hormel does and how they use their resources to help others. 

“I was excited to learn about opportunities to do non-profit work within a corporate setting, and the company was thrilled to find an intern with such specific interests.” 

Sneha Jogi holding Hormel pepperoni
Sneha Jogi

The COVID-19 pandemic also affected Clayton Hicks’s summer plans. A sophomore in biochemistry, Hicks spent his spring semester studying at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom. 

Originally scheduled to stay in Europe until the end of May, Hicks returned to Indiana in March. Fortunately, he was able to complete his classes online. 

“I’m so thankful for the opportunity I had going abroad, even though it was shortened,” said Hicks. “The classes I took, the new academic system I experienced, the people I lived with and the places I saw were so meaningful that no part of me is stuck wondering what I missed.” 

Hicks’s summer internship at Elanco was also impacted. The animal pharmaceutical company originally offered Hicks an internship with a research group in Indianapolis. The internship was shortened by four weeks and moved online. 

Though Hicks did not get to work in the lab, he was able to do the same work remotely. The focus remained largely on data analysis and bioinformatics. 

“It gave me a surprisingly clear view of what the actual job would be,” said Hicks. “All the employees were still willing to have conversations with me about their roles, what they did each day and the company’s culture. I feel like I still got the full Elanco experience.”

Clayton Hicks

Angel Donlon, a junior in animal sciences, was looking forward to a summer internship with Columbian Park Zoo in Lafayette. After her initial meeting, she realized working at the zoo was not going to include everything she had hoped. 

“They told us because of the outbreak, they had to cut back 75% off their normal activities,” said Donlon. “I felt disappointed. They offered to delay my internship until next semester, or even next year. I considered it, but I realized being resilient and flexible at a time like this shows a lot about your character. I want to put my best foot forward, even when times are scary.” 

The interns were given a month to prepare for visitors as regulations prevented the zoo from opening until June 14.    

Donlon served as an on-grounds interpreter, giving short presentations to guests about conservation and held animal encounters. 

The zoo resumed its camps and classes in June with added precautions. Some were held online while others took place in the zoo’s classrooms.  Between presentations, Donlon sanitized classrooms and helped with the camps. 

“My internship was a wild ride,” said Donlon. “It was severely impacted, but I took away more than I ever expected.”

Angel Donlon

The three students anticipate their adaptability will be equally important this fall. 

Jogi received an offer to stay on with Hormel. She will balance her classes with remote work for Hormel’s social responsibility department. 

Hicks has started discussions with the Agricultural Student Council to implement Protect Purdue guidelines in upcoming events. 

And, with several courses moved online, Donlon plans to make the most of remote learning, reading her daughter Elizabeth (who was born this past February) animal science textbooks while she studies for class.

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