At Zimm/Ed, feeling the learn

The interns aren’t the only ones doing the learning at ZimmEdU.

Every semester, in addition to administrative help around the office, guest lectures from PR and media professionals and other traditional work-study staples, participants in the eight-year-old internship program at Great Neck strategic communications firm Zimmerman/Edelson face a unique task.

The students are given a “challenge project” focused on “some form of communications they have to study and implement, to understand its depth,” according to Vice President David Chauvin.

During the current Spring 2016 semester, for instance, interns are digging deep into blogging – not only posting but promoting their blogs, tracking their return rates and otherwise learning about the ebbs and flows of the medium.

“Now, when they offer that service to clients or talk about it in an academic environment, they’ll have some real-world experience,” Chauvin noted.

The Fall 2015 interns came up with a winner: ZimmEdU, an information-gathering and collating website that tracks past, current and future Zimmerman/Edelson interns. The site is stocked with hot-topic blog posts, profiles of past interns, registration information and more.

It’s a goldmine for PR-track collegians and a diamond mine for the firm, which encourages a steady stream of top-flight interns while studying metrics like site traffic and page views.

Chauvin, a veteran of Long Island government communications who oversees Zimmerman/Edelson’s public relations division, said the firm’s internship program has grown steadily over its eight years, primarily through its relationship with Hofstra University. This semester, the firm is funding the first-ever PR scholarship at Hofstra’s Lawrence Herbert School of Communication.

However, the internship program – which routinely involves four students per semester and a “hard cap” of seven for the summer session – has welcomed students from Adelphi University, Dowling College and St. Joseph’s College through the years. And the range widens considerably in the summer: Interns come from schools across New York State and as far afield as Wisconsin and Michigan.

Many of those interns have landed their first post-graduation jobs at Zimmerman/Edelson, Chauvin added. The most recent was Jill Skuza, a summer intern who joined the professional staff after graduating from Boston University, while other former interns have launched careers in Great Neck that have led to various government and high-level corporate communications posts.

Combined with traditional internship duties and experiences, the challenge projects – which are performed “in parallel to the office work they assist us with,” Chauvin noted – are a key tool for providing interns know-how critical to their future professional selves.

And ZimmEdU is an innovate method for tracking all those former interns and enticing new ones, while “better formulating and quantifying our intern program,” Chauvin added.

“The site shows how [the internship program] is not so much an academic experience, but a chance to take what they learn in the classroom and apply it to real life,” he said.