It is a program that has already matched 174 student interns with real-world problems in more than 80 separate local businesses and organizations. They have invested thousands of student hours, completed hundreds of tax returns for qualifying residents, and helped strengthen the role of the School of Business in regional economic and workforce development. This is the Smullin Foundation Internship, the latest program in the almost thirty-year partnership between HSU and the Patricia D. and William B. Smullin Foundation.
Carol Anne Smullin Brown, chair of the Foundation, has expanded on the legacy first established by her father. “We are committed to the well-being of the North Coast,” she said. “Our family has deep roots here.”
Her father, William B. Smullin, was a well-known visionary and philanthropist who brought broadcasting to the North Coast in the 1930’s. His company, California Oregon Broadcasting, Inc. grew to include radio, television, cable television, and microwave in northern California and southern Oregon. Mr. Smullin died in 1995.
An Almost Thirty Year Partnership
The collaboration between the University and the Foundation began in 1990, when the Foundation took on the oversight of the Smullin Scholarship Endowment. The endowment, which had been established by William B. Smullin in 1987, has continuously awarded scholarships to eight HSU students every year. There are now over three hundred Smullin Scholars.
The Smullin Internship program was established in 2012. Each spring semester, twenty-five student interns (consulting interns) complete field placements in local businesses, governments, and non-profit organizations to tackle a problem or a project that needs attention. Areas of interest have included marketing, social media, cost analysis and feasibility studies. At the same time, another fifteen interns provide free tax return assistance for between 150 and 200 qualifying residents through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.
“This program is an excellent fit,” said Sandra Brown, VITA coordinator. “The hands-on experience helps students identify their passion for accounting and for tax law. The community sees its value as well, especially the accounting firms.”
All of the student interns are paid for their work.
“We have talented students here at Humboldt and local businesses that deserve to flourish,” writes Kevin Smullin Brown, Board member at the Foundation and son of Carol Anne. “The work these students can do for Humboldt County businesses has value that everyone recognizes. One of these values must be money.”
Key Community Player
The Smullin Foundation’s contributions to the welfare of our region are far-reaching. As part of the North Coast Grantmaking Partnership, they help ensure the widest reach for available funding through collaboration with other local foundations and grant-making organizations. And with thirty years of experience in the field, Ms. Smullin Brown has helped many other funders and nonprofit leaders with her guidance and counsel.
The Foundation is currently in the second year of a pivotal strategic initiative focusing on community presence and succession. With new board members seated, a new local office, and their first-ever non-family executive director, they are poised for the future.
“The work the Foundation does is exemplary,” said Laura Olson, whose work as executive director began in January. “I’m thrilled to be on their team and look forward to getting to work more closely with the University.”
A Time to Celebrate
Ms. Olson and most of the Foundation’s Board of Directors will be on-hand to meet faculty, local businesses, and current interns at the annual Intern Reception on April 27.
“We are fortunate to have a partner like the Smullin Foundation,” says Denise Vanden Bos, Director of Project Development for the College of Professional Studies. “The internship program is a triple win for the school, the students, and the community. And we have seen businesses hire the students after the internship is over, which is, of course, value added.”
Smullin Interns and Smullin Scholars were asked about their experience and couldn’t agree more.
“This internship is incredible,” said one student. “You not only get the business experience but you are also freed up to focus on the internship and grades because of the honorarium.” Another, whose internship was with the Small Business Development Center, realized his passion for a business career. He especially appreciated that the program allowed him to be innovative. Still others talked about the value-added that comes with including the experience on their resumes, and the impact of being paid for the work.
Cory Busher, who graduated as a Smullin Scholar in 2012, has abundant thanks for the Smullin Foundation. “I am so proud to have been a Smullin Scholar,” she writes. “The funding helped me to graduate debt-free, and the experience challenged me to look at my beliefs about free enterprise and personal responsibility. I will always be grateful for the Smullin Foundation’s support.”