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Creighton seeks to draw minority students through state internship program

Jun 28, 2022
3 min Read
Eugene Curtin
HBCU Group
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University students pose for a photo at The Highlander in North Omaha. They are, from left, Aaron Saunders, Gabriel Woodard, Renee Shepherd and Kalen Fling. A fifth student, Trey Francis, is not pictured.


Five students studying at a North Carolina university will explore campus this summer as guests of Creighton University.

The five are all sophomores enrolled at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, North Carolina, which was founded in 1891 and is among the nation’s oldest historically Black universities. The students are interning with some of Nebraska’s major companies, or with the state of Nebraska, and will reside at Davis Hall on Creighton’s campus.

The internships are part of a pilot program developed by Anthony Goins, director of economic development for the state of Nebraska, who says the story of opportunity in Nebraska is “under-told and undersold.”

“It is imperative that employers, educators and stakeholders around our state adopt the ‘think like a coach’ mindset and implement strategic recruitment strategies that educate young opportunity-seekers about Nebraska and build direct pipelines between them and our schools, employers and communities,” he says.

Goins says Creighton stepped up to provide housing, a critical need.

“Our hope is that through our internship program, participating students will be encouraged to choose the state of Nebraska as the place to launch their career after graduation,” Goins says.

This is an opportunity for us to partner with the state of Nebraska to work on building a more equitable, diverse and inclusive Nebraska.
— Sarah Walker, PhD

The student interns gathered the evening of June 16 at the Highlander Dining Room in North Omaha, where community representatives welcomed them to the city.

The students are:

  • Gabriel Woodard, a native of Rocky Mountain, North Carolina, who is studying mass communications with a concentration in multimedia journalism and a minor in business marketing. He will intern at the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, where he will focus on attracting and retaining talent in the state.
  • Renee Shepherd, a native of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, who is studying information technology and will intern at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska in the office of software development.
  • Aaron Saunders, a native of Raleigh, North Carolina, who is studying industrial systems engineering and will intern at the data center with Olsson, a nationally recognized, Omaha-based engineering firm.
  • Kalen Fling, a native of Bowie, Maryland, who is studying business information technology with a concentration in cybersecurity. She will intern with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska as a member of the cybersecurity team.
  • Trey Francis, of the Virgin Islands, who is studying business economics-law and political science. He will intern at Mutual of Omaha in the government affairs office.

Sarah Walker, PhD, professor of marketing and management at Creighton’s Heider College of Business and vice president for equity, diversity and inclusion, said Creighton’s vision for its involvement in the internship program extends beyond providing housing.

“This is an opportunity for us to partner with the state of Nebraska to work on building a more equitable, diverse and inclusive Nebraska,” she says. “This initiative has enabled us to start developing a partnership that we hope enables us to attract individuals into our graduate and professional programs and provides a chance for our students to learn about graduate opportunities as well.”