RBDC front desk

While many student’s summer internship plans were cancelled or put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Research and Business Development Center (RBDC) has served as a good alternative for students to continue to fulfill their planned internship credits. The RBDC is a non-profit organization that has been providing BYU-Idaho students with internship opportunities to give them useful experience for their future careers. Due to the changes of COVID-19, the RBDC has moved everything online for students and their clients.

“It was an easy switch to change team composition to all remote. Many of our clients are not in eastern Idaho and had been meeting with the students via video meetings previous to the outbreak,” said RBDC University Relations Manager Rob Tonks.

The Applied Learning Projects (ALPS) offered through the RBDC provide internship opportunities for students seeking experience in a variety of industries including entrepreneurship, finance, HR, marketing, healthcare administration, agronomics, non-profit, state and local government, supply chain, and web/social media marketing. Some of the projects students are working on this semester include creating COVID-19 economic impact weekly business summaries, marketing on social media for regional companies, creating dashboards and other visualization tools for a national genome database used in cancer research, and demonstrating data analytic methods used for point cloud (3D representation) of large warehouses. 

“We have worked with over 850 companies in the past few years and RBDC provides remote internship opportunities for students strive for a lot of repeat business from these larger clients,” said RBDC Executive Director David Merrill.

For many students, their original internship plans were cancelled because of COVID-19. Luckily the RBDC had many options available to meet their requirements. 

“There were many students who found their internships cancelled, some literally at the last minute. We had over 150 new applications in just 2 weeks. We have seen a 115 percent increase in our ALPS programs this spring semester compared to Winter 2020,” Merrill stated. There are three ALPS options offered for students that all provide great learning experience for internship credits.

ALPS|Basic allows for five students to work together in a client-driven project for approximately 8 hours a week over a 13-week period. This semester, 73 students have been participating in this program. ALPS|Advanced works over the course of 13 weeks for approximately 700 hours that often includes upper-class students with previous experience in the selected industry. Eighty-three students are involved in the advanced program this semester. There is also an ALPS|Pro option that currently has 9 participating students, as well as society, co-curricular, and other class projects that include 215 students. 

This semester, the RBDC has had nontypical majors participating in their internship opportunities including students studying computer science, electrical engineering, and mathematics. One student in the program has been participating in a pilot project in ALPS |Advanced to improve his coding abilities for a career in the data science field.

“We also have a number of math majors who have skills in R and/or Tableau that have been recruited to work on a big data project for a startup healthcare company,” Tonks remarked.

The RBDC plans to continue working remotely through the rest of the semester and once circumstances allow, inperson meetings and collaborations will become available again. Even when face-to-face meetings are allowed, the RBDC will still provide internship and experiential work opportunities for remote and online BYU-Idaho students.

“The RBDC has been serving our students through remote work for some time now, and it has become an advantage now that it is the core way of providing projects for spring,” said Student Advancement Managing Director Derek Fay.

For more information on what is offered through the RBDC for clients, alumni, and students, please visit www.rbdcenter.org/.