During fall 2019, The University of Texas at Austin launched UTNY, an internship-based experiential program in New York City. There, students learn inside and outside the classroom, gaining the skills required to “make it” in a dynamic urban environment.
Michael Wilson, assistant dean for professional programs at the Moody College of Communication, has been involved with UTNY since its conception.
“It’s not a new idea,” he says. “It’s something that many on campus have envisioned or dreamt about.”
Wilson says Moody College, the College of Fine Arts and the McCombs School of Business began collaborating a few years ago to make a program in New York — “the focal point of our student aspirations” — a reality. After gaining support from the provost and president, Wilson and his colleagues began looking for a space for UT in the city.
The semester-long program, which is now also supported by the College of Liberal Arts, is offered every fall, spring and summer. Students take courses in the UTNY offices but spend much of their time interning; program staff members and alumni have helped students secure positions at companies such as ABC and Food Network. UTNY also offers networking and career-building opportunities for its students.
After a successful inaugural semester in fall 2019, when 45 students lived, worked and learned in New York, the spring 2020 semester had to go virtual due to COVID-19.
“It was very disappointing to have to go virtual in 2020 after the momentum of 2019, but our No. 1 priority is the safety of our students and staff and faculty,” says Laura Brown, UTNY program director and assistant professor of practice in the Department of Communication Studies. “We have been able to support students in securing New York-based virtual internships and have stayed in close contact with employers who are excited to host UTNY interns in person as soon as it is safe to do so.”
“Perseverance is key to a successful life in NYC, and we forge ahead,” Wilson says.
Brown teaches the common course, Leadership and Urban Engagement, for everyone in the program.
“I really like to create an energetic, positive learning environment,” Brown says. “Of course, that’s possible in a traditional classroom setting, but it’s going to be even more dynamic in New York City. My hope is that the city itself can be the classroom.”
Brown, a UT alum, says she hopes that each of the components of UTNY will help students to gain the confidence and skills needed to launch their careers.
“I want to prepare students for translating their academic experiences into career success wherever life takes them after graduation,” Brown says, “whether that’s staying in New York or returning to Texas or elsewhere.”
Wilson, who lived and worked in New York for 25 years, says he wishes that the program had existed when he went to college at UT. Knowing how to live there, he says, will prepare students for a job anywhere.
“It’s truly a special place,” Wilson says. “It’s not easy — it’s hard — but the reward is immense.”