Hi Panthers! My name is Halenne Duran, and I am a senior graduating in the Fall of 2021. I am a Communication Studies major with a themed inquiry in Business and Economics. This summer I worked as a communications and marketing intern at the Santiago Retreat Center (SRC) located in Silverado, California. More specifically, my internship entailed working as an assistant under the retreat center’s executive director.

SRC, is a 501(c)(3) corporation that provides facilities for retreats, marriage encounters, summer and science camps, and special events in a 500-acre outdoor setting. Their mission is to provide guests the opportunity to attend retreats, conferences, and events as well as employees, volunteers, and benefactors, to fulfill their highest calling and greatest happiness in life. Furthermore, SRC’s facilities aim to help its guests grow closer to God and in return, reach out to others with God’s loving care and concern in their own environments and communities.

College students can seek out specific internships according to the industry that they desire to enter; this can be through campus aid, third party resources, searching online, or through means of networking. Speaking of networking, I found my internship through a family member who came into contact with SRC’s Director of Community Relations, Mayra Brown, at a Catholic business networking event. Mayra and I followed up by having a series of emails and phone calls regarding what the internship would entail in order to ensure that the position was a good fit for both myself and SRC. The next step was to come in for a scheduled tour of the retreat center and sit in on a staff meeting, so that I could learn about the staff’s responsibilities and how SRC functioned on a weekly basis.

Shortly before I began my internship, I received an email stating that SRC wanted to offer me the opportunity to intern and receive a mentorship directly under the Executive Director, Mark McElrath. They stated this was so I could explore how the retreat center operated from a management level in addition to gaining a more in-depth understanding of SRC’s and Aguinaga Green’s (SRC’s 2nd property sight) business models. Looking back, I am glad that I accepted the opportunity to intern at SRC, because I succeeded in challenging myself to work in an environment that I would not typically have been drawn to – being that it was a non-profit organization located in a wilderness setting. I believe challenging oneself and taking risks are necessary actions to grow as a leader in the business world.

In continuation, my main responsibilities at SRC entailed shadowing Mark in all of his networking encounters and meetings and assisting whatever needs the directors had in regard to communication/marketing outreach. Some of the tasks I completed were making contact information calls to parishes throughout Orange and LA county, creating brochure pamphlets, helping design logos for summer camps, filing data entry for email blasts, and taking notes for Mark in all meetings.

Since SRC is a Catholic based non-profit, the most memorable part of the internship was being able to witness how SRC has spiritually touched many lives, especially my own. I met many wonderful people from many different walks of life that all happened to end up at SRC for different reasons but for the same purpose – to help evangelize and spread the word of God. The Catholic missionaries and other staff living on site, were few of the many people that treated me with welcoming arms and offered me connections and further opportunities at the retreat center past my end date.

The skill sets I obtained from my major at Chapman helped me be successful in my internship because I was able to help consult on SRC’s internal communication system issues effectively and communicate in a strategic manner when networking with business partners. A few courses worth mentioning that have helped grow my communication skill sets are COM-410 (Organizational Communication), COM-110 (Interpersonal Communication), SCC-415 (Organizational Change), and MKTG-305 (Marketing for Non-marketing Majors).

I strongly recommend students looking to find internships in the communication field challenge themselves to experience opportunities outside their comfort zone. The great thing about acquiring a degree in communication (or anything related), is that it is applicable to pretty much all jobs. I also recommend anyone looking to intern at non-profits, especially religious [Catholic] ones like SRC, begin researching websites and/or get connected with others involved in non-profit events, charities, and network groups. These kinds of first steps will help you get connected and acquainted with people who can possibly provide you with opportunities that can take your career and personal growth to the next level.