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What it's like to Intern for SODA

Updated: Nov 3, 2020

Julia Bohlen, Marketing and Stratgy Intern

Julia Bohlen, blog post author and current SODA intern.

When I began working with SODA as an intern in the Summer of 2018, I didn’t know what to expect. I’d never had an internship before, was not yet in college and therefore didn’t know what college chapters would be like. I also knew almost nothing about organ donation—except that I had a sticker on my driver’s license. Where would I start?

Working as a SODA intern was nothing like I could have imagined. I was immediately immersed within the workings of the organization on both the external and internal levels. As I resumed my internship with SODA this summer, I continued to gain real experience working with an organization making a difference. I don’t get coffee or make copies because I work on meaningful projects that are helping SODA’s growth.   

This past semester, SODA’s chapter members at the University of Nevada, Reno held a registration drive on their campus to raise awareness about organ donation while also participating in the second annual Donor Duels. Donor Duel is a friendly competition between students, alumni, and supporters of UNR and the UNLV. The goal is to see which campus can register the most people as donors.

Seeing SODA grow over the last year has been the best part of my experience with the organization. When I started my internship last summer, SODA had just two chapters at Washington University in St. Louis and Marquette University. It was an exciting time because the national team was working to continue expanding SODA’s presence as well as form partnerships with OPOs, so there were constantly new updates and the potential for so much growth. When I went to school in the Fall, I continued to follow SODA’s progress, and it put a smile on my face every time I saw an update that a new chapter was approved. When I returned to SODA this summer, SODA had 15 chapters, and more continue to get approved throughout the summer (today, there are 18 chapters!).  

More than the number of chapters the organization has, the impact SODA is making is inspiring. Almost 2,700 students have been educated and over 650 registered as organ donors through the hard work of young people. It’s amazing to hear the reasons why students are involved with SODA and why they work to make a difference. I had no idea the number of people that organ donation has touched.

Working with SODA is dynamic and exciting. I am constantly working on new projects and revisiting old ones, helping to improve internal processes, outreach, and resources for our partners. My work is interesting because it falls within many different fields, and I am involved in many different areas of SODA’s efforts. I’m able to apply the skills that I have been learning in my classes to my internship, as well as gain useful skills that I know I will be able to apply later in my career such as communicating and giving and receiving feedback on my work.  

This past semester, members of SODA's chapter at Central Connecticut State University held a registration drive in collaboration with New England Donor Services.

During the summer of 2018, my work was largely focused on social media and marketing, as well as market research and improving the internal processes of SODA. Last summer, I set up a social media management platform, created new content for social media, and worked to increase SODA’s impact online. When I came back this summer, SODA had expanded its Leadership Team to include positions focused exclusively on these tasks, but they still use the social media foundations from last summer, and many of the processes I created are now referenced by all new team members.

Another project for me last summer was improving the website and its accessibility. I made the website easier to navigate and emphasized SODA’s commitment to helping passionate students make an impact on their campuses through both the website and the social media.  

This summer, my role is similar in that I continue to improve SODA’s materials for both its chapters and OPO partners, strategize best practices, and improve internal processes. I have also been working more this summer to create new content to benefit SODA’s partners. This work ranges from new sections to add to guides for chapters and OPOs to content for social media to resources and tools designed for internal use. I have also been working more in developing communications with SODA’s partners or potential contacts, as well as working with other members of the SODA National Leadership Team to find sources of funding.  

Members of SODA’s chapter at the University of Wisconsin-Madison attended the Lions Eye Bank of Wisconsin annual Crystal Vision Awards, celebrating advocates of corneal tissue recovery and transplantation.

Each week, I spend around ten hours working on tasks for SODA. I also spend time talking with the President, Sara Miller, to receive feedback on my work and learn about new skills and about SODA’s strategy. I love the flexibility of this internship because it allows me to have another job and spend time with friends, but I also am able to grow professionally by volunteering to help SODA. Although I am always in communication with other members of the Leadership team, we work virtually, and I have never met many of them in person. I appreciate that I can learn as I go; many of the tasks are things I have never done before, so I am always figuring out new ways to do things and learning and growing my own skills while I am working to help SODA grow.  

Working with SODA has been an incredible experience, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to make a difference with this organization.

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