Chicago Summer Program Spotlight

By Anna Kobbe 

For students hoping to gain hands-on experience in one of the biggest media and communications cities, Grady offers a fantastic 8-week summer internship program in Chicago. While searching and applying for internships can seem overwhelming and stressful, this program allows all Grady majors to gain experience in real-world communication settings. I had the chance to chat with Elisa Fontanillas about her personal experience with this program. Elisa is a 4th year advertising major with a minor in business administration and is also pursuing the new media certificate. 

Can you tell me a little bit more about what this program entails?

Elisa began explaining that as a small group, students are able to stay in the Loyola University Water Tower Campus dorms just outside Chicago. “You go with a small group

Elisa, pictured left, at her internship Razorfish Health in Chicago.

 of 12 to 13 students, and as a cohort you take two classes and our professor brings in professionals across all different industries,” she said. “As part of their curriculum, they would submit weekly projects that honed in on ideation and curation of ideas.” Elisa also went on to explain that with this class, they had the privilege of touring big corporation headquarters such as McDonald’s and the Chicago Bulls.

What was your personal experience with this internship?

Though Elisa was unaware of healthcare advertising agencies, she worked alongside the company Razorfish Health as an account management intern. When asked what her specific tasks were she talked about her client, Pfizer. “I was working on one of their cancer products, which was very interesting,” she said. “I was on client calls often, helping out where I could, and also making sure the projects were moving smoothly.”

What were some of the challenges you faced during your internship?

Elisa best described this particular internship with a healthcare agency as having very clear and strict policies. “There is an added layer when it comes to pharmaceutical advertising agencies because it is a very regulated industry and it is very strict in terms of communicating with the client,” she said. Because it was a very specific structure, she shared that oftentimes she felt like she was constantly moving and working all the time. “We had to work with a lot of specific medical, legal and regulatory calendars to mark up detailed print and email ads going out to healthcare providers,” she said. “I definitely learned how to be a good communicator and become more decisive.”

How would you say this program helped to hone your networking/PR skills?

Because Elisa worked part-time remotely and part-time in-person, she felt she had the opportunity to practice networking and communication skills both online and in-person. “I learned how to really put myself out there to network with people on my team,” Fontanillas said. She mentioned that most everyone on her team lived in different cities, and when she did come into the office, she was one of few there, which meant she had to be intentional with networking. Another aspect she found helpful was communication between the teams across hybrid forms and also seeing communication between the clients and the company in terms of composing emails and finalizing projects. 

What advice would you give to students considering this program or other internships?

Elisa offered several great pieces of advice. For the specific program, she advised that applicants be intentional with why they want to apply. “When you know what you want going into this, it does help in terms of the application process,” she said. When we discussed applying for various internships, she noted that internships are competitive but to not get discouraged. In terms of networking for the internship search process, she offered that using the Grady network, specifically alumni, is extremely beneficial. “Grady alumni are almost always willing to help; UGA feels like one big connection,” she said.