Students make greater impact in GPEC internships
By Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU News Bureau
Fenced in by 140 characters?
Not Tayler Alonzo-Taggart.
The Grand Canyon University senior and Digital Marketing Intern at the Greater Phoenix Economic Council is in her wheelhouse at 140 characters, the maximum amount allowed for a well-constructed marketing tweet.
But when she landed her internship at GPEC, an organization that works to attract and grow businesses in the Phoenix region, she had to step outside of her 140-character comfort zone.
“In my internship, I get to write blogs,” Alonzo-Taggart said. “I’ve never been someone confident in my writing or who enjoys writing or interviewing people.
“But it’s been interesting — a growing process — and I’m happy that GPEC has given me the opportunity to do that. When I do blogs, I’m not limited to only 140 characters. I can write all day.”
Not that she has all that much time to write.
The busy intern — she’s one of two GCU students (the other is James Fritz) working with GPEC’s movers and shakers — puts together the “What Makes Greater Phoenix So Great” blog. In her blog entry, she writes that what makes Phoenix so great for her is Matt’s Big Breakfast and Joyride Taco House’s $2 happy hour tacos.
She also helps the Digital Marketing Manager with the organization’s newsletters, creates Linked In content, and devises Facebook and Instagram advertising.
“Sometimes I get my own ads, and I think it’s kind of funny,” she said of some of her jaunts on Facebook. “I’m like, ‘Wait! This looks familiar.’”
Touting the wonders of the Phoenix area isn’t something Alonzo-Taggart, who is from Fairbanks, Alaska, ever thought she’d be doing.
With family in nearby Gilbert, Arizona, she got to know the area and had her mind set on attending Northern Arizona University — that is, until her friends in Fairbanks asked if she wanted to go to a career fair with them. That’s when she met a GCU representative who invited her on a Discover GCU trip to visit the campus.
“As cliché as it sounds, so many people talk about how when you first step on a college campus, you KNOW. You feel something inside. When I got to the GCU campus and hopped off the bus … I had that feeling.”
It’s the experiences she has gained as a Lope — and her love of marketing — that helped her land her GPEC internship.
“It’s something I’ve just had a passion for, for as long as I could remember. I was always part of clubs and I loved doing the posters and any of the advertising telling people to come to the events,” she said.
So when she arrived at GCU, she immediately joined the Freshman Class Council, a leadership group that plans plenty of events. She’s also the social media coordinator for the University’s chapter of the Network of Enlightened Women.
“Being involved at GCU was just a HUGE thing that helped me in a lot of my interviews. It wasn’t so much about what I know. They didn’t care that I didn’t know how to use Photoshop or Hootsuite,” she said. “They weren’t worried about what I didn’t know. They were more worried about what I have experience in and what I know how to do. So telling them I was the social media coordinator for a club at GCU, that was a really big thing.”
The really big thing for James Fritz, another GCU student turning up the volume at GPEC this summer, is how he got his position as the intern for the Strategy team.
He had messaged Associate Professor of Computer Science Dr. Isac Artzi, telling him he was interested in getting an internship.
“He gave me some information, just like general information — here’s how you get an internship. But then he contacted me later. What he did is he went to GPEC and pitched a data science internship with me attached. He basically made a new internship for me. That was INCREDIBLE,” said Fritz, a senior majoring in computer science with an emphasis in big data analytics, which involves looking at data sets to find patterns, correlations or, for the business world, to help companies see market trends or customer preferences.
Artzi happens to be a GPEC Ambassador, a community leader who communicates, educates and informs the community about economic development issues and initiatives. He said he was able to connect with GPEC’s data science group at a networking event to open a path for a GCU computer science intern at the economic development organization.
Fritz has spent his summer building internal systems for the GPEC teams. He developed an alert app using Amazon’s servers that lets the Strategy team know when new funding rounds have been announced. The app sends the team information via email “so they can make decisions moving forward.”
He also has worked on market sentiment analyses to gauge how customers feel about products, projects or initiatives.
“What’s been incredible is I’ve basically been given projects to work on and then given free reign,” Fritz said. “They’ve kind of let me learn on the side how to actually build these systems for them. I meet with my supervisor and then I go off and code my own little thing, take it back and then get feedback.
“It’s been a really nice environment to work in.”
Ironically, it has been a remote environment that Fritz and Alonzo-Taggart have worked in, for the most part, since their internships began (Fritz started working for the Strategy team in March and Alonzo-Taggart for Digital Marketing in January).
“I did tour the office once. It was really nice,” said Fritz, though Alonzo-Taggart started heading to the GPEC offices a couple of weeks ago, a sign that the business world, like the rest of the world, is slowly getting back to business post-pandemic.
The two GCU students will be wrapping up their internships at the end of July and are excited to return to campus for the fall for that full, in-person campus experience that they love.
Fritz will be building his portfolio and a personal website for employers to look at as he prepares for graduation and starts looking for jobs. He’s not sure exactly what he wants to do, but he knows he wants to work in big data.
“It lets you tell stories. I think that’s what I like best about it is that data, over time, tells a story, and it’s kind of up to us to interpret that,” he said.
Usually, computer science majors spend their senior year working on capstone projects — final projects that showcase all they’ve learned at GCU. Fritz completed his capstone last semester: a social media site where students can collaborate on projects.
Alonzo-Taggart will return to a campus leadership role as Director of Commuter Connections. She’ll be doing marketing, advertising and social media posts, the same skills she refined in her GPEC internship.
She also plans to “go to every sporting event I can go to,” she said with a laugh — and she said that in fewer than 140 characters.
Senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-7901.
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