Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, it was still a busy summer for many at Hollins. The university’s Entrepreneurial Learning Institute (ELI) completed its first-ever summer internship program, which offered four Hollins students unique opportunities to work with local Roanoke businesses and startups, nationally respected entrepreneurs, and even a Hollins alumna.
Zahin Mahbuba ’23 interned with a new startup called Learning Pods that, in response to COVID’s impact on educational institutions, provides safe and high-quality learning spaces for small groups (or “pods”) of elementary-level children at home or in the backyard. During this internship, Mahbuba collaborated with Stacey Seltzer, a respected New York entrepreneur and one of Learning Pods’ advisors. Seltzer is also co-founder of the Hudson Lab School, which was featured in The New York Times this summer for its own learning pod offerings. “I met Stacey through the Entrepreneurship class (BUS 330) at Hollins,” recalled Mahbuba. “The people that I had the opportunity to work with were such an inspiration. They made me feel so welcome and valued all of my ideas and contributions. I think what I loved the most was how they trusted me with the work and let me produce results.”
Even though her internship was entirely online, Mahbuba said that she learned a lot from her work: contacting families, scheduling times for them to meet with Learning Pod, and building teachers’ profiles for new teaching positions. “I got to experience what it takes to build an educational system during unprecedented times,” said Mahbuba. “This [internship] helped better my professionalism as I got to work with high caliber individuals who are global innovators and entrepreneurs.”
Chanmolis Mout ’23 was very excited to work with a Hollins alumna and the CEO and Founder of Flewid Capital, Elizabeth Jose ’12. Headquartered in Roanoke, Flewid Capital is a promising startup with the goal of one day creating the largest international community market where users can transfer money affordably, quickly, and securely, even without internet access. Some of Mout’s internship responsibilities included sending out surveys to determine how much people spend transferring their money from one location to another. “Working with Elizabeth was an amazing experience,” said Mout. “On top of having all the great qualities as a leader and founder, she is very patient and understanding. I’m really looking forward to working with the team again in the future.”
Similarly, Grace Davis ’21 honed her business skills working with long-time entrepreneurial powerhouse and Virginia Tech graduate Mary Miller, who serves as the director of Roanoke’s Regional Accelerator and Mentoring Program (RAMP), which helps launch regional startups and create new jobs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
“The experiences and knowledge that I gained during this internship was much more than I could’ve hoped for,” said Davis. “This real-world application was thrilling, because by dealing with a living and breathing company, you learn the urgency and immediacy of the start-up world.”
As for Soha Munir ’23, she was impressed that her internship allowed her to utilize different aspects of her Hollins education. Working on website development with Sara Snider, CEO at BEAM Diagnostics, a Roanoke-based start-up that applies advanced behavioral economics to an array of different fields, Munir pooled her knowledge from various classes combining psychology, programming, and graphic design. “Beam Diagnostics provided me with the freedom and creative environment any artist could ask for,” said Munir. “I realized coding is an art, [and] I learned to allow myself to be creative and trust in my process and skills while maintaining good communication and open-mindedness with the team.”
ELI will again offer internships for the Summer 2021 semester, in addition to a new Innovation Fellowship that’s currently being finalized. For more information on the Institute, visit ELI’s website.
Jeff Dingler is a graduate assistant in Hollins’ marketing and communications department. He is pursuing his M.F.A. in creative writing at the university.