ASU students.

Internship program helps IS students develop real-world business skills

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona is partnering with W. P. Carey to prepare students for career success.

Molly Loonam

From internal service platforms to member-facing healthcare portals, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona (AZ Blue) is in a years-long process of updating and integrating modern technology into the everyday lives of its employees and members. It's a massive undertaking for the insurance provider.

"We have a lot of IT work to do, and we're always looking for talented people," says Bret Wingert, AZ Blue vice president of program management and ASU Information Systems Executive Advisory Council member.

To meet the non-profit's increased need for IT and information systems (IS) professionals, Wingert partnered with Assistant Chair and Master of Science in Information Systems Management Faculty Director Dan Mazzola to develop an internship program within AZ Blue's 500-person IT department. Since launching in 2022, the program has helped over 35 interns build critical professional and business skills and ultimately acted as a pathway to full-time employment, with approximately 50% of interns receiving job offers. AZ Blue expects to welcome 16 more interns to the program this summer.

"If students show up after graduation with some real-life experience, they'll be miles ahead of other folks in terms of competitiveness," says Wingert.

"Partnering with Bret to create this internship program was pivotal in bridging the gap between academic knowledge and practical, real-world IT applications," says Mazzola. "This collaboration not only enriches our students' learning experience but ensures they're industry-ready, embodying the kind of tech-savvy, problem-solving professionals that today's businesses, like AZ Blue, are eagerly seeking."

The 12-week program offers participants real-world experience in project management, robotics processing, cloud infrastructure, development, portals, business intelligence, and data centers to support the company's thousands of employees, partners, and members. Prosano Health Solutions, a new series of AZ Blue clinics offering Arizonans easy access to primary care physicians, also requires IT professionals to maintain the clinics' internal interfaces and on-site health care machinery.

Wingert oversees every step of the program, including coordinating role availability, intern onboarding, and compiling participant feedback to improve future programs and professional development opportunities. Throughout the program, interns learn about AZ Blue leaders' roles and responsibilities during weekly roundtable Q&A sessions, participate in service events, and complete a DiSC Leadership Assessment. Interns are assigned staff mentors to guide them through the program and identify how their skill sets can contribute to meaningful work within the organization.

"Internships are invaluable for students, acting as the crucible where theoretical knowledge meets practical application," says Mazzola. "This internship program in particular offers a comprehensive immersion into the IT field, nurturing leadership and professional development skills that are critical for the workforce. Through hands-on projects, mentorship, and leadership assessments, students emerge not just as candidates for a job, but as dynamic contributors ready to make an impact in the tech landscape."

Alum Brayden Nail (BS Computer Information Systems '23) participated in the program during the summer of 2022. Now an AZ Blue project coordinator, Nail leads a team of project managers to complete audits for the Project Management Office and other internal projects.

As a native Arizonan, Nail wanted to work for a company that shared his values of supporting the local community. He describes his internship experience as "fantastic."

"This internship helped me understand project management while working on projects that provided real value to the company. By the end of the internship, I had the necessary skills to lead my projects," says Nail.

While his education at W. P. Carey helped him develop many important skills and a successful work ethic, Nail's internship experience was instrumental in refining his communication and collaboration skills to complete projects as a team.

"College is a great way to learn general concepts," he says. "But an internship allows you to better understand the intricate details of a particular field without having a more permanent position."

Wingert emphasizes that, ultimately, AZ Blue's IT department is instrumental in driving positive change in Arizonans' lives through the organization's mission to "inspire health and make it easy."

"When you think about the 'easy' part, that's where IT comes in. We're doing things that positively affect over two million of our members in Arizona," he says. "There's a lot of things here you won't find other places."

Learn more about AZ Blue's internship opportunities.

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