Students Gain Hands-On Experience Despite COVID-19

Students Gain Hands-On Experience Despite COVID-19

Brisa Ramirez

As COVID-19 affected students in countless ways, Southwestern Adventist University worked to provide as “normal” an experience as possible. From launching the Fighting Food & Housing Insecurity Fund for students who needed financial support, to continuing to pay student workers as the pandemic prevented them from working, SWAU’s faculty, staff and administration made it a priority to support each student.

Thanks, in part, to these adjustments, many students were able to continue with planned summer internships, gaining the hands-on learning experiences valued at SWAU. Numerous internships transitioned to a remote format, while others were shortened or relocated. Despite the modifications, each still proved memorable and educational. Three unique experiences are featured below.

Caleb Minett, a senior nursing major, was one of nine SWAU nursing students selected for a competitive summer internship with Kettering Health Network in Dayton, Ohio. Though the pandemic caused a 10-week program to be shortened to a five-week intensive, the opportunity to experience various hospital rotations alongside future nurses from across the country, was a memorable one. Minett had the opportunity to spend a rotation in the ICU with critical care patients. Witnessing critical situations from this close proximity provided new insight to medical care.

“The experience provided a new perspective to the hard work of medical professionals and provided much more hands-on experience in just five weeks than I expected from ten weeks,” shared Minett. “It was rewarding to see how the knowledge taught during class became tangible with actual patients! I am blessed to be learning during a time where medical services are more critical than ever before.”

While nursing students were learning in a hospital setting, others were supporting mental health, gaining real-world experience through counseling internships. One of these individuals, Michele Kitney, is a graduate student pursuing a Master of Arts in counseling. 

Kitney secured an internship at Capital Area Counseling in Austin, Texas, which was planned as an on-site experience and transitioned to telehealth support. Interns experienced communication in a new form, learning from their supervisors and supporting patients in a virtual manner. While virtual, Kitney still received the tips and tools needed to run her own practice and collaborated with teammates through virtual daily peer groups.

While a virtual learning experience eliminated in-person social elements and in-office logistics, a telehealth experience resulted in earning a certificate in telehealth counseling and resulted in an increased amount of communication among interns.

“I have learned that even under a pandemic, we can all find ways to stay connected and to help people that may not have the same support system that I’ve been able to experience,” shares Kitney. “I am most grateful to Dr. Frantzen and Dr. Jones [two of the professors in the Department of Education & Psychology at SWAU] for their support as I navigate through this internship during these unsure times.”

While the pandemic has strengthened appreciation for essential medical workers, one must not forget the hard-working professionals working behind the scenes in accounting and financial services.

Across the Adventist Church, finance and accounting students served as summer interns at local conferences, unions and divisions, auditing various church entities and gaining a better understanding of the processes and procedures. Tania Schmitt, a senior accounting student, had originally planned to intern for the General Conference Auditing Services at the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada but instead was relocated to the Southwest Union Office in Burleson, TX, where she worked virtually for both unions. 

“I have learned the importance of communication, especially when working remotely,” shares Schmitt. “Being thousands of miles away from individuals I was auditing strengthened my communication skills and I am very thankful for organizations that stayed committed to providing internships and are willing to train new people despite all the changes there have been in 2020.” Schmitt will be completing her final semester at SWAU this fall.

SWAU faculty and staff value experiential learning and make it a priority to give students those opportunities. While these internships all looked slightly different than originally planned, students were able to gain valuable experiences during this unique summer. Remaining committed to providing Christian higher education, Southwestern Adventist University has begun the new school year with in-person, hybrid and online learning options. A preparedness plan in response to COVID-19 can be found at