Campus internships a diamond in the rough for GCU upperclassmen

Senior Hope Hilgenberg is one of many Grand Canyon University students interning with Black Diamond Networks at Canyon Ventures.

Photos by Ralph Freso

There might not be many opportunities as enticing as serving an internship on your own campus with a chance for full-time employment at the same company following graduation.

But that scenario exists, thanks to a partnership between Grand Canyon University’s Colangelo College of Business and Black Diamond Networks, a company specializing in life sciences, engineering and information technology staffing.

Black Diamond selected 15 CCOB students to serve as interns in the sales and marketing departments. They are working at the Canyon Ventures Innovation Center, part of GCU's business and education complex at 27th Avenue and Camelback Road, for the spring semester.

The internship program started Jan. 22, which lined up with students set to graduate this spring, though juniors also are serving as interns.

“I've already had my kind of fair share, like understanding the basic concepts of sales, and then going into a hiring firm with high tech and those specific areas,” said junior entrepreneurship major Brendan Bobersky, a company intern who also worked for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Arizona Coyotes.

“That's not only going to help boost my skills but also the ability to go out in the workplace as a 20-year-old that not other people have. I'm really grateful for this opportunity, and I'm really glad that I was able to be part of this team.”

Ryan Mahan, Black Diamond Networks' director of talent acquisition, spoke at GCU last fall and made a favorable impression on Bobersky and Hope Hilgenberg, a senior scheduled to graduate in April with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and advertising.

Junior Brendan Bobersky juggles a heavy schedule to intern with Black Diamond Networks.

“(Mahan) gave the whole (overview) of what Black Diamond does, broke it down in a simple way, and I got interested after that,” said Hilgenberg.

Bobersky believes interning in sales and hiring under the life sciences and technology division of of the tech business will diversify his profile.

He has navigated around a heavy academic workload and bowling club commitments, such as a trip to Las Vegas, to fulfill his internship obligations.

Black Diamond provided scholarships to the college and Canyon Ventures, Hawk said, and 25% of the company's Phoenix office is GCU alums.

“We're very focused on providing strong career opportunities for our students when they graduate,” said the business college's senior associate dean, Dr. Allison Mason. “This (program) does exactly that. For the ones that are successful, they get the experience, and then they already have a job.

“I think it's a dream of any college graduate to have a job the semester before they graduate. A job offer, you're in the money. That’s a great thing.”

Said Hilgenberg: “To find a company that is investing into students while in college is amazing to find. And they’re obviously looking for students who will graduate, and maybe if everything works well, move on and work with them full time.”

Hope Hilgenberg believes her internship with Black Diamond Networks will diversify her resume.

Seeds of the partnership were planted when Black Diamond representatives attended career fairs on campus. GCU development officer Harley Hawk expanded communications with the company's representatives.

There was enough potential to convince executives to form an internship partnership with the University last summer.

“The GCU students were prepared and ready to go,” Mahan said.

Assistant professor Chuck Jarrell worked on the curriculum content for the program. Robert Vera, founding director of Canyon Ventures, provided space and the necessary technology at the innovation center, Hawk said.

“Because our students are so strong when they graduate, they make a great name for us,” Mason said. “Then these companies want to come back and get more of our students. And combine that with our ability to try new things. As Harley said, if there’s a good idea and it makes sense, we’re willing to give it a try and see if it works.

“Maybe it’s a great idea, or we might need to rethink things, but I don’t think there are a lot of universities that are as willing to try.”

It is not axiomatic that Black Diamond is hiring interns for the sole purpose of providing full-time jobs to them immediately after graduation.

Junior Brendan Bobersky, an intern with Black Diamond Networks, relishes the experience he's gaining in sales and hiring.

But Ezekial “Zeke” Taylor, a GCU graduate, was hired by the company in August 2022 and already has been promoted to sales development lead in the engineering division.

“It’s more about us being able to partner with a company and the commitment,” Mason said. “Grand Canyon just happens to be the location. If we had another location on campus, that would be great, too.”

Hawk emphasized that Black Diamond Networks is cultivating talent, not necessarily looking for developing talent now, “which is awesome that they’re able and willing to step into the curriculum that already is happening with our students, and then say, ‘We want to help people and cultivate them into strong professionals.’"

GCU stood out among the West Coast universities under consideration by the business, which also selected Bryant University in Rhode Island as part of its college sales and recruiting development program.

Mahan acknowledged access to a working space like Canyon Ventures helps, but recruiting students who prefer to stay in the Valley bolsters the arrangement between the University and the company.

In the end, GCU’s selling points were too enticing for Black Diamond Networks to pass up an agreement.

“It’s hard to find anything close,” Mahan said. “The innovation is top notch.”

GCU News Senior Writer Mark Gonzales can be reached at [email protected]

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