UNCW Supports Rural Organizations During COVID 

 and Career Center paired 10 undergraduate students with 10 different rural nonprofit and local government organizations through the SECU Public Fellows Internship program amid a global pandemic. When COVID hit, the UNCW team quickly transitioned the internships to virtual ones to keep the students and sites safe while providing much needed support to rural organizations and professional development and applied learning opportunities for our students, said Natasha Davis, Director of QENO at UNCW. Sites and students were involved in planning the transition. 

The summer of 2020 program was funded by a grant of $50,000 from the SECU Foundation. Creative thinking led to changes that were necessary in order to continue the program amid a global pandemic. The program team was committed to providing students with a safe opportunity to grow as professionals, while supplying rural nonprofits with additional support. The program quickly pivoted to an online format to meet UNCW’s & The SECU Foundation’s COVID-19 restrictions. 

All sites offered highly positive feedback for the students, heralding their great work in grant writing, web management, marketing and many other areas. The student interns also reflected positively on their experience. “I’m sad to see this internship come to an end, but very grateful I was able to have this opportunity. Thank you to all of the CIP/QENO staff for being so supportive and helpful throughout this process,” said Amanda Buttner, Onslow Community Outreach intern. 

The SECU Public Fellows Internship, in its fifth year with UNCW, paired students with local government or nonprofit agencies in rural counties. The paid internships enabled students to explore potential careers in their home communities or regions and to learn how nonprofits and local governments help address challenges in rural areas“Through these internships, students have the opportunity to serve their community while gaining valuable work experience that will help them when they enter the workforce after graduation,” said Natasha Davis, director of QENO (Quality Enhancement for Nonprofit Organizations), which coordinates the internships. “In addition, the SECU Public Fellows program allows QENO to provide much-needed support to our rural nonprofit organizations while showing our students that every academic discipline plays a role in the nonprofit sector.” The program emphasizes applied learning and community outreach, both of which are key elements of the university’s Strategic Plan. The SECU Public Fellows Internship program is a joint effort of the UNCW Office of Community Engagement and Applied LearningQENO, the UNCW Career Center and the SECU Foundation. 

Since 2016, the university has received $450,000 from the SECU Foundation and, including this year’s fellows, 86 UNCW students have participated in the program. The students selected represent a broad range of majors at UNCW. 

This year’s SECU Public Fellows were:  

  • Alexis Henry, Salvation Army 
  • Amanda Buttner, Onslow Community Outreach 
  • Amber Taylor, Philippian's Place 
  • Dakota Kiker, Onslow Women’s Center  
  • Hannah Roth, Brunswick Family Assistance  
  • Kaci Choate, Brunswick Christian Recovery Center 
  • Kelsey Avery, Sturgeon City  
  • Stephanie Ruiz, Countywide CDC 
  • Sydney Meadows, New Hope Clinic 
  • Sydney Smith, Brunswick Senior Resources