Robert F. Smith hopes more minority students can follow in his footsteps, like this young Black man in a green plaid shirt, working on a laptop

internXL Creates Equity for Minority Students Aiming for STEM and Business Careers

Internships can be life changing for young people without family or community exposure to professional-level employees and business. Robert F. Smith, the founding director and President of Fund II Foundation, said that his own internship at Bell Labs while in high school provided him with a formative experience that set him up for success in college and beyond.
“[Bell Labs] helped me understand the process of unpacking problems and thinking through the solutions,” Smith said in a February 2021 interview with BlackNorth. He also described walking through the halls at Bell, noticing that there weren’t many Black or Brown faces. But Smith also saw all of the projects that employees worked on and the problems they solved. They inspired him to want to become an engineer.
Top paid internships traditionally have gone to the rising stars of Ivy League institutions or the well-connected scions of business or industry. These students are then on track to begin their professional lives miles ahead of their peers. They “rub elbows” with C-Suite executives who might recommend them into career launching positions. How then can gifted students outside of these fortunate circumstances have a chance to participate and land career making opportunities following graduation?

That’s why internXL, a Fund II Foundation program, was created to level the playing field by matching a pool of the most talented and skilled Black and Brown young people with top-level employers, for the benefit of all involved.

Students, Employers and Collaborators for internXL

We know now that what fuels innovation and a positive company dynamic rests, in part, on the diversity of that business’s personnel at every level. With internXL, employers have access to “highly qualified, pre-screened entry-level talent,” and underrepresented students have access to “on-ramps to 21st Century quality jobs.”

The internXL program is a free, highly efficient service creating a pipeline to STEM and business internships for young adults across the country. Students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) such as Morehouse College and Jackson State University are participating through collaboration with Student Freedom Initiative. Companies such as Vista Equity Partners, a global leading investment firm founded by Smith, who is Chairman and CEO of the company, matches with interns through internXL. Companies such as Vertafore, AT&T, Price Waterhouse Coopers and Deloitte have also participated.

Vertafore, a technology company in Denver with a long-standing relationship with internXL, received the Denver Business Journal’s inaugural Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Award in May 2022. The CEO, Amy Zupon, shared her thoughts on the role of business in expanding diversity. “As a leading technology company, we have a responsibility to create a diverse and inclusive environment where employees can bring their whole, true selves to work every day.”

Facts for Students Interested in internXL

The internXL FAQ page contains details that interested students will want to know, including the following:

  • Pay: These internships are paid opportunities.
  • Eligibility: Students from ethnically underrepresented groups entering their sophomore year of college and postgraduate students.
    • Students must have maintained at least a 2.8 GPA.
    • Some employers may have additional requirements.
  • Major: Students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) or a business concentration should apply.
  • Timing: There are summer, spring and fall cycles. Employers recruit on a rolling basis. Apply ahead of time.
  • Application: Students can prepare to apply to internXL using the internXL Learning Management System. The system’s intent is to support students and help them succeed during the application interview process and when they enter their internship.
Learn about other education reform programs and initiatives Smith has helped to develop.