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ODU Students Thrives in Remote Internships, Gaining Valuable Experience

by Erica Howell

As remote work continues to reshape the world of education and professional opportunities, students at Old Dominion University (ODU) are making the most of remote internships, proving that distance is not a barrier to gaining valuable experience and making a positive impact. Amy Prusinski, a BSPH to MPH 4+1 alumna in the ODU School of Community and Environmental Health, has exemplified the possibilities and successes that can be achieved through remote internships.

Prusinski's journey began in 2018 when she joined the BSPH program on campus. However, in 2020, her husband received orders to Camp Pendleton, prompting her to transition to a fully remote learning experience from her new home near San Diego. Despite the physical distance, Prusinski remained determined to make meaningful connections, expand her network, and secure an internship aligned with her career goals.

"Even as a fully remote student, I was able to network, make friends, and go to virtual events," Prusinski said. "You have to put in the effort, but know there are people happy to help you along the way."

Prusinski's focus in her MPH program was global environmental health, and she set her sights on finding an internship with the federal government. After months of searching, she discovered the Pathways internship program and successfully secured an internship with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

One of Prusinski's main projects involved creating a survey to assess employee knowledge about occupational and environmental health hazards associated with remote work. The insights gathered from the survey would allow her to develop tailored educational materials to address gaps in knowledge, making remote work safer and healthier for FDA employees. She also aimed to connect individuals with federal, state, and local resources that can help them identify and mitigate any hazards they may encounter in their remote work environments.

Another crucial aspect of Prusinski's internship focused on the environmental sustainability of remote work. While remote work may appear inherently eco-friendly due to reduced emissions and energy consumption associated with commuting, Prusinski shed light on the often-overlooked transfer of energy use to the home environment. She also highlighted the environmental impact of purchasing office furniture for home offices, which can undermine sustainability efforts, including transportation emissions.

To address these challenges, Prusinski embarked on creating educational materials to promote environmentally sustainable remote work practices accessible to a broader audience. Her goal was to offer viable options that would not impose financial burdens or evoke guilt, while providing resources to facilitate individuals' efforts to make remote work environmentally sustainable.

Reflecting on her experience, Prusinski offered advice to new students: "Get involved. It is easy to just go with the flow, but if you want a feeling of community, strong letters of recommendation, and a robust resume to secure your desired internship and job, you need more than just a GPA." Prusinski highlighted the importance of joining student organizations like the Public Health Student Association (PHSA) as a stepping stone towards building a network, forging friendships, and participating in events. She took an active role in the PHSA, serving as the Membership Development Officer and later as the President, which provided her with valuable leadership experience.

After graduating from ODU in May, she transitioned to full-time employment with the FDA, thanks to the opportunities presented by the Pathways internship program. She expressed gratitude for working with a supportive team that genuinely wanted to see her succeed and provided her with ample opportunities for professional growth.

As she prepares to relocate to the Quantico, VA area following her husband's military orders, Prusinski looks forward to aligning her work schedule with her office's time zone, eliminating early morning starts. While her academic journey at ODU started on campus, Prusinski's transition to a fully remote learning experience has proven that distance does not hinder one's ability to excel and make a difference in their chosen field.

As the world continues to evolve, ODU students and alumni like Prusinski are leading the way, proving that remote internships offer unique opportunities for growth, experience, and the development of lifelong connections.

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