Covalent bridges internship gaps, supports Illinois small businesses

Apr 7, 2021, 10:30 AM

Gies students and alumni are banding together this spring to simultaneously help small businesses and create digital marketing internships for undergraduates.

Covalent grew out of the COVID-19 Business Fellowship Program, launched last year as a way for students to gain experience after the pandemic shut down summer internships in 2020. That need continues, according to co-founders College of Media graduate Walker Post (JOUR ’18) and Alex Littleton (FIN ’18), who remains on its board of directors.

Applications for 2021 student fellowships, mentors, and businesses are open now through April 26. This year, Covalent is also seeking corporate sponsorships to underwrite stipends for the fellows.

“The Gies network prevails. I love having the opportunity to lift people up while trying to give back,” said mentor Haley Ehrlich (FIN, Marketing ’18), associate growth marketing manager at the National Basketball Assn. “I try to teach them how to apply the skills they learn in class to relevant topics like email cadence and how to present results. I also share how to improve their soft skills so they can convey they’re not just a smart kid, but someone who can drive impact really fast."

To date, the program has engaged 98 fellows and supported 69 small businesses; 139  professionals around the country have served as mentors. Covalent estimates Illinois small businesses saved an estimated $250k in digital marketing services.

Senior Doug Howard, a Gies marketing and information systems major, said the experience has improved his ability to pursue sales and marketing positions.

“A year ago, my internship in the marketing department of United Airlines was canceled. When Alex reached out, I knew I wanted to stay busy during the summer and actually learn something. I also wanted to make an impact on the community during COVID-19,” said Howard.

He and partner Advait Patel, a senior studying economics, were mentored by Gies alumna Rose LaBelle (Marketing & Business Process Management ‘18), a human capital consultant at Deloitte Consulting. They were paired with a Chicago-based start-up focused on robotic process automation, helping to set up A/B testing for email messaging and identify the best web design app to use.

“Going forward, we’re committed to creating a diverse pipeline of talent and helping our fellows land their dream jobs. We're pursuing partnerships with corporations that not only see the value Covalent brings to local communities and businesses, but also the value that our fellows could bring to their company," said Post.