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Media moguls in training: J. Seldric Blocker ’01

While looking for internships at Clemson, Seldric Blocker was plucked for a program with First Union. But not for banking or financial needs; it was human resources. Now he’s the director of campus recruiting, shaping paths for future generations of network newsies and entertainment execs as the director of NBCUniversal’s talent acquisition campus programs, Campus2Career.

Each year he fields more than 42,000 applications for about 2,000 spring, summer and fall internships. In the last three years he’s managed more than 5,500 interns, including 300 added to cover the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, Brazil.

Part of Blocker’s job has entailed streamlining the Campus2Career program so there is a standard NBCUniversal experience at each campus they visit, and across all internships and all markets, including their London and Singapore programs. “Flawless execution” is how Blocker defines it. “We want them to have a great experience, even if they decide this isn’t what they want to do long term,” he said. “We want them to leave more curious than when they came in. We want them to have fun.”

Lessons he learned from his own academic and career experience very much inform how he mentors others. He encourages those that come through his office to take advantage of study abroad, be more ambitious and take more risks. One of the ways Blocker and his team allow interns to have fun and take ownership of their internship is through NBCUniversal storytelling. “The students are digital natives, and we encourage them to craft and tell the NBCUniversal story through a multifaceted approach, whether that’s Snapchat or some other social platform. They have their fingers on the pulse of what’s happening next and are brand ambassadors for future generations of interns.”

Blocker is also focused on building diversity across NBCUniversal’s platforms. “We are looking for people who have demonstrated their leadership on campus. We employ a wide variety of majors and backgrounds. They don’t just have to have a passion for media and the entertainment industry. We want to know what you can take from your background and bring to the table to help us tell a more well-rounded story,” said Blocker.

Even after hanging strong in the financial sector through the economic downturn of 2008, Blocker said navigating the media industry at first was a new, interesting beast. “It was tough at first. In the media you have a lot of creative people who have a competitive edge, and you’re managing a first-impression for a major media brand,” said Blocker. Blocker said the experience at NBCUniversal has taught him to meet people where they are, and that being relatable is a skillset that transcends any workplace environment. “[Clemson’s] academic environment did a good job of fostering a sense of responsibility and ownership and made me feel like I belong,” he said. “I want to give others that sense of feeling like they belong, too.”

The Experience of an Internship, Right Here on Campus

Josh Groppe likes to build apps. But not just any apps. Apps with a purpose, apps that will provide something valuable to the user.The past year and a half, he’s had a chance to do just that for Clemson. “I wanted to continue to learn about mobile app development, and I love Clemson. This internship allowed me to bring two of my passions together,” said Josh, who has been interning with the Clemson Mobile Innovation Team for four semesters now.

Groppe is just one of hundreds of students who have jumped on board a relatively new campus internship program that puts students into a job on campus that allows them fantastic, paid, on-the-job experience. The program is called University Professional Internship/Co-op Program, or UPIC (pronounced “you pick”).

“These UPIC internships are mentored and intentional. Students are working side by side University professionals to develop their skillset,” said UPIC Director Troy Nunamaker.

And students are recognizing the opportunity — and the impact. When UPIC began in 2012, they hoped to have 500 internships by 2016. In 2014, they will have more than 600 positions available — more than double their original target for the year. “This internship gives them the experience of what it’s like to work on real projects in a real work environment,” said Sam Hoover, manager for the Mobile Innovation Team within CCIT and Groppe’s UPIC supervisor.

Part-time internships consist of 160 hours a semester, and the pay is more competitive than a typical campus job — $10 per hour the first semester, then $11 and $12 for subsequent semesters. UPIC funds half the student’s salary and the department hiring the student funds the other half. Full-time co-op positions are also available. For a student like Groppe who’s putting himself through school, having a well-paid internship within minutes of his classes and within the scope of his planned career path is an incredible opportunity.

“I pay for school and my bills. So having this job helps me with life. I couldn’t do everything else without it,” Groppe said.

UPIC leaders manage the HR aspects of the program and help the departments promote and fill their open positions. To get a position approved, the department has to apply for the opportunity, assign a supervisor and provide the UPIC staff with intended learning outcomes.

“The best part has been building my ability to perform in a team and do it well,” said Summers Binnicker, a double major in financial management and marketing. Binnicker has spent the past three semesters working on a marketing team — almost entirely of students — within the Regional Entrepreneurial Development Center. The team works with entrepreneurs to help develop business and marketing plans, do market research or simply provide any resources they need to make their idea a reality.

“I always considered myself an individual worker, but in this environment we have to divide and conquer responsibilities. Plus, I have had to learn how to present or decipher information and translate that into a product that has value to the entrepreneur we’re working with,” she said.

Groppe echoed Binnicker’s sentiments. “There’s value in talking something out, in really working and thinking as a team. When it comes to school I tend to go it alone. But I’ve learned there’s tremendous value in working and talking through a project with someone else.”

Having to tie the internship back to key takeaways has been vital for both UPIC staff driving the program and students participating.

“The format of the program really keeps you accountable. The reflection questions we have to answer really make me stop and think, ‘What did I really learn?’,” Groppe said. “I might forget these if I didn’t write it out.”

As Groppe and Binnicker prepare to graduate and begin looking for full-time work, these internships and experiences are going to place them ahead of the competition. In fact, according to the Career Center, Clemson students are 13 percent more likely to gain full-time employment if they have completed an internship. So what started as a simple idea — increasing the number of on-campus internships for students — has turned into much more. And its impact is growing into much more for students like Groppe.

“I like knowing that what I’m learning (in the classroom) has real-world application,” he said. “That drives me.”