Interns join the U’s emergency response team

Last year shined a spotlight on emergency preparedness. An earthquake, a windstorm and an ongoing pandemic were some of the events that characterized 2020.

In fall 2020, Emergency Management partnered with the Hinckley Institute of Politics’ Hope Corps internship program, a platform that connects students with local organizations. In November, two students were incorporated into the division, allowing interns to be part of the U’s COVID-19 Incident Management Team in the planning section, a group that coordinates information sharing about the pandemic with the U’s senior leadership. These briefings informed decision-making about adjustments to campus operations and policies.

During their internship, students performed several tasks, including compiling data from multiple sources and entering it into a tracking system to help connect COVID-19 cases worldwide to those found on campus. Interns also attended important meetings, working with partners on and off campus.

“Our student interns had an interesting year,” said Stuart Moffatt, interim director of Emergency Management. “They got a peek at global and national events related to COVID-19 and worked with the state of Utah and Salt Lake County.”

The internship program not only provided students with an inside look at emergency management but also allowed students to develop leadership and problem-solving skills and network with individuals from a variety of fields and agencies.

“Emergency Management is all about partnerships—asking for help and supporting others,” Moffatt said. “The students are seeing that and learning that in a real-life scenario.”

From a student’s perspective, the experience offered advantages beyond what can be learned in a classroom.

“I applied to the program because I wanted to learn and play a part in helping throughout the pandemic,” said Esther Aguiar, one of the student interns in the program, who graduated this spring in Kinesiology. “The program taught me about how our campus can support students, faculty, and staff by providing resources such as free COVID-19 testing, and it showed me how much our leaders care about students’ emotional well-being during this pandemic.”