Sharing Opportunities

Virtual internship brings together Grinnellians for the summer.

A laptop keyboard photographed zoomed in and from a low angle.

From three cities, one team worked on health care data analysis.

When Grinnell College shifted to remote learning in mid-March due to the pandemic, many students who’d been focusing on jobs, internships and post-graduation travel quickly found their plans upended. Hyunmin Kim ’20 couldn’t return home to South Korea to visit her family before starting a job in the fall, and two internship opportunities that Syamala Gumidyala ’21 was counting on were both retracted.

Adam Lorton ’07
  Adam Lorton ’07

That’s when Adam Lorton ’07, a health care data analyst, stepped into the picture.

“Because of coronavirus I anticipated that internships would be cancelled, and I might get access to some really bright people, and that certainly turned out to be the case,” says Lorton, who founded and runs a health care data consulting company, Analytical IQ.

He submitted a job description to Grinnell’s Center for Careers, Life, and Service (CLS) for a 10-week long, virtual internship. Since in-person internship weren’t possible this summer, the CLS has helped facilitate a number of virtual internships. A new webpage, Sharing Opportunities, has been set up to help connect internship and job openings to Grinnell students, recent graduates, and the broader alumni community.

Kim, who’s based in Chicago, and Gumidyala, who spent the summer in Grinnell, responded to the Analytical IQ internship notice.

“I was immediately drawn to this internship with Adam,” says Kim, a math and music major who in September will begin a job with Morningstar investment research. “He made it very engaging, very Grinnellian – he said if ‘you don’t include a Harry Potter quote in your cover letter’ he wouldn’t consider it. So I had a blast writing the letter. It’s always good to talk to a fellow Grinnellian even if we never shared a day on campus together.”

Syamala Gumidyala ’21
Syamala Gumidyala ’21

Gumidyala, a computer science major with an American studies concentration, is interested in data analysis and social justice, and health care is a big part of that, she says.

“Before COVID-19 I had a few internship offers, one with Target and one with Slate magazine in Washington, D.C., but they were retracted and it was the last month of school,” she says. A friend forwarded her the information about Analytical IQ. The internship started in early June.

Each morning the two interns – who didn’t know another previously – checked in with each other to discuss what they were working on, and several times a week they met with Lorton, who’s based in Traverse City, Michigan, where he lives with his wife and two young kids. Thursdays was a team meeting/presentation day.

While most internships take place face-to-face, Lorton says he’s primarily worked remotely for the last decade. “I’m very accustomed to remote collaboration tools, and I figured this internship would be remote even before coronavirus made it mandatory.” He made use of the collaboration tools, which gave the interns a taste of what Lorton calls working in a distributed company (rather than remote), which he thinks people will do more and more in coming years.

The two interns spent much of their time researching health care topics, including various models of health care, racial and socioeconomic disparities in Medicare, behavioral health, and why there are so many uninsured Americans. Their presentations ended up on Analytical IQ’s YouTube channel, which is viewed and critiqued by industry experts.

The internship’s structure and flexibility worked well for Gumidyala, who is the vice president of student affairs for the Grinnell College Student Government Association. She spent much of the summer splitting her time between the internship and figuring out everything related to how the pandemic is going to affect campus and student life in the upcoming semester.

Hyunmin Kim ‘20, right, and her friends posed for pictures at Saint’s Rest graduation photo booth before the students left campus in March.
Hyunmin Kim ‘20, right, and her friends posed for pictures at Saint’s Rest graduation photo booth before the students left campus in March.

“The internship was pretty enlightening to say the least,” says Kim, who grew up in a nation with universal single payer health care. And although she wasn’t used to working at a job from home, it worked well. “We are three Grinnellians working together so it was a lot easier to talk about what we needed,” she says. “There’s an undercurrent of friendship just because we are Grinnellians so that really helps.”

Lorton is pleased that the internship helped fellow Grinnellians learn about health care inequities. “I really do think we need more smart people solving the problems of health care,” he says. “It’s not where Grinnellians might look at first for work, but it’s where they could make a huge impact if they choose to.”

Do you work for an organization that is hiring for interns, contract roles, or part- and full-time positions? Find out how you can help the CLS get the word out to Grinnell students and alumni by visiting the Sharing Opportunities webpage.

— by Anne Stein ’84