Every few years, the NFL reaches out to DeVry University to help fill a number of internships in the weeks leading up to one of the greatest spectacles in the world—the Super Bowl.
This year, six DeVry students and recent graduates with IT networking degrees are spending three-plus weeks working to support the biggest event in American sports, both onsite and at locations around the city of Atlanta, where the big game will be played Feb. 3.
While they’re doing mostly behind-the-scenes work at off-site locations, that hasn’t stopped one intern’s family from spreading the word. “My wife has been bragging to her colleagues that her husband is working the Super Bowl,” says DeVry graduate and Super Bowl intern Joseph Cudjoe.
Aside from school and family pride, DeVry’s sourcing of IT interns for the Super Bowl provides real world, experiential work and education for students, even if football isn’t exactly their thing. “I’m not a football fan but, honestly, it’s a great feeling to be behind the scenes and see what goes on leading up to the Super Bowl,” Cudjoe says.
As far as we here at The Fuse can tell, the relationship between the university and the NFL was started by a DeVry alum working with the league and has provided Super Bowl interns in 2009, 2010, 2015, 2016, and now 2019. “They reach out to us 4-5 months in advance to the (DeVry) team close to the Super Bowl city, give us specs of what they’re looking for, and we identify ideal candidates in their niche,” says Kathaleen Emery, employer relations-senior regional internship advisor with DeVryWORKS, DeVry’s business-to-business arm that oversees the internships program. “They’re looking for traditional IT, networking, wiring, security.”
Real World Experience & Learning
Cudjoe graduated from DeVry in February 2018 with a degree in networking and information systems. So far, so good, he says of the temporary NFL gig. “The first day we did software installation and networking in the rooms where they have phones and computers for the media,” he says. “We also made it so that the NFL logo comes up when any of the computers are turned on. There’s always a new challenge, something to learn.”
He’s finding the hands-on experience critical and is taking advantage of the career networking options too. “I feel like this internship is showing I can do this work and the people that work here have given me a lot of good advice,” he says. “I ask them questions all the time.”
Some of those questions have had to do with which area of IT he wants to work in and what certifications are necessary to do so. “They’ve been really helpful in terms of giving me advice on where I want to take my career next,” Cudjoe says. “I feel really honored and privileged to be part of something like this and the guys I’m working with share the same feeling.”
For his part, Cudjoe says it’s not just his wife and family who are excited about his work with the Super Bowl. “I’m surprised and impressed by this and the opportunity for this internship.”
Another of the six DeVry Super Bowl interns, Acodell McCloud graduated from DeVry’s College of Engineering & Information Systems with an emphasis on project management and is using the internship for both the experience and as a résumé-builder.
“I’ve been doing networking tasks here, wiring together laptops, printers, etc.,” McCloud says. “There’s a lot to grasp in this position, but what I’m really doing is paying attention and learning because I want to be a coordinator or project manager.”
The Game Plan: NFL & DeVry
As exciting as it is to be at the big game, the interns aren’t getting Super Bowl tickets as part of the deal, so friends and family, don’t start reaching out asking for perks. It really is all about the university’s strong background in IT, says DeVryWORKS’ director of employee relations and internships, Terri Wallman.
“DeVry is involved because the NFL approached us to help source talent for these [Super Bowl] positions specific to IT,” Wallman recalls. “DeVry students, and some alumni, are available year-round for part-time, full-time and project-based assignments like this.”
From that point, things moved quickly. “[The NFL] flew in the first week of December for onsite interviews and made an offer to everyone they interviewed from DeVry,” Emery says. “They’ll be working meet and greets, press interviews, and floating around to do whatever they need to do on the tech side.”
This year’s interns are excited to be on the job and others are wishing they were involved. “I’ve had students asking why they can’t do it, tremendous excitement to get involved,” says Dr. Jalal Raissi, former dean and current senior professor in the College of Engineering and Information Systems in Decatur, Ga., outside of Atlanta. “It looks good on their résumé, too. Self-confidence, helps them see it in action. Tremendous benefit building up their confidence and that’s very helpful.”
Making IT Happen
The interns are mostly doing what Raissi calls “networking light.” He explains: “The ideal candidate should know how to install and configure laptops, set up Microsoft operating systems, printers, networking, and some general stuff.” As he calls it, “networking heavy” involves diving deeper into the back end of things and the time will come for that.
But, for now, “Interns know the theory but they haven’t established the practical aspects, and this is an avenue for them to gain experience at a paid internship and practice critical networking duties,” Raissi says, noting that past students have benefitted from similar hands-on partnerships with companies like Microsoft, Cisco, and even the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. “It is our philosophy that our students gain much by being exposed to the latest technology in and out of the classroom.”
Which makes the Super Bowl internship program a win for all!