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Geo-Launchpad, RESESS, and the UNAVCO Student Internship Program Go Remote in 2020: Facilitating successful online internships for geoscience students from under-represented groups
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  • Kelsey Russo-Nixon,
  • Donna Charlevoix,
  • Heather Thiry,
  • Andria P. Ellis
Kelsey Russo-Nixon

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Donna Charlevoix
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Heather Thiry
University of Colorado-Boulder
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Andria P. Ellis
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UNAVCO internships provide unique opportunities for students from underrepresented populations to develop their technical and communication skills while aiming to broaden participation in the Earth sciences. UNAVCO, a non-profit that operates the National Science Foundation-funded GAGE facility, has the opportunity to facilitate multiple internship programs, engaging students from across the United States. Prior to 2020, all internship programs were in-residence in Boulder, Colorado. Internship programs included project work and in-person professional development as well as cohort building, multi-level mentoring, and professional networking in the science-rich Boulder area. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and ‘safer-at-home’ directives nationwide, we successfully converted our three internship programs to a remote format with fully online programming. We present our strategies for successfully planning, managing, and facilitating three online internship programs with 12 student participants ranging from community college to undergraduates to graduate students who all participated from their home locations. We also share our considerations for converting our internship programming to an online format, expanding our interns’ mentoring network and opportunities, and increasing our programs’ flexibility for interns who were personally impacted by national events. We present our process of identifying and engaging online learning experts and working collaboratively with all stakeholders to ensure each of our internships continued to be of the highest quality and our student experiences were not diminished. By offering the full length and robustness of our programs through a remote platform, we kept our promises of education, career advancement, monetary compensation, and community connection to our full 2020 intern cohort. In addition to offering geoscience projects and research experience to each intern, we implemented a robust suite of synchronous, online professional development courses that occurred weekly, including technical writing workshops, Geoscience Career Circles, and Communications Seminars focused on soft skill development. We also describe the support and training that we offered project mentors as they virtually guided students through successfully completing rigorous science projects and a suite of project deliverables including scientific posters, oral presentations, and technical manuscripts.