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For students, innovative internships are a crucial highlight of the SU experience
For students, innovative internships are a crucial highlight of the SU experienceOctober 31, 2007Kelly Homan Rodoskikahoman@syr.edu
Syracuse University student Stuart Angus stood before the international scientific community this past summer in Granada, Spain, to present his research on Myxococcus xanthus. Samantha Harmon, a junior majoring in sculpture at SU, spent her summer working with professional artists from around the world, including Argentina, Japan, Korea and Peru.
Angus, a senior from Southborough, Mass., who is double majoring in biochemistry and chemical engineering in the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science, and Harmon, a senior in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, were among five recipients of a 2007 Mark and Pearle Clements Internship Award. The awards, made possible by a grant from SU alumnus Mark Clements ’36, provide financial assistance from $2,500 to $5,000 to SU sophomores, juniors and seniors or graduate students with special potential to undertake creative and unusual internships.
Angus used the internship award to continue the research he had begun in Professor Roy Welch’s biochemistry lab at SU and to present at the conference. “I think the first and foremost thing I learned is how to appreciate science and to approach it with more curiosity than confusion,” says Angus. “I also learned a lot about the dynamics of a scientific culture.” He plans to continue his research at the University of Granada in January.
Harmon, of East Syracuse, completed an internship at Sculpture Space in Utica, N.Y. “I learned what it was like to run an artist-in-residence program, which encompasses many art administrative functions, such as showing and selling work,” she says. “In my future, part of what I see as my career as a professional artist will be doing residencies. Seeing how it works from the inside out was a great advantage.”
The Clements Internships are just one example of the hundreds of innovative internships students are undertaking through the Center for Career Services (CCS). Internships at SU, both for credit and for experience only, were previously facilitated through the Syracuse University Internship Program (SUIP). In August 2006, a joint decision by Vice Chancellor and Provost Eric F. Spina and Senior Vice President and Dean of Student Affairs Barry L. Wells led to the program’s transformation from an Academic Affairs program to one administered by the Center for Career Services (CCS) in the Division of Student Affairs. CCS also processes the bulk of for-credit, elective internships in most of SU’s schools and colleges. SUIP staff members joined CCS as an integral part of the transition.
“This transition really continues and amplifies a tradition that began as a response to students’ desire to be more connected to the local community,” says Ronnie Jones, internship coordinator in CCS. “The focus has been on building close, mutually rewarding relationships between the University and all kinds of local organizations. Now, through SU’s Center for Career Services, our internship-related activities build more comprehensive connections with both local and national communities.”
Jones and Gregory J. Victory, associate director in CCS who oversees the internship offerings, say that the transition has been smooth and that the program is a “natural fit” inside CCS. Jones and other team members work to build relationships with local employers in the community and with national employers, and to tailor experiences for students that fit their individual academic needs and professional goals.
“For many students, an internship isn’t a means to an end — it’s a critical part of the career exploration process,” says Michael T. Cahill, director of the Center for Career Services. “It’s like trying on a pair of pants. You won’t really know whether you like them or not until you’ve had a chance to try them on, see how they fit, and take a good look at them in the mirror.” The “trying-on” phase extends beyond graduation for many students; while internship offerings are extended only to enrolled students, the Center for Career Services offers a full suite of career exploration, networking, resume-critiquing, and other services to alumni — essentially, career services for life.
The Center for Career Services also surveys alumni each year for its annual placement report, released each spring. This year’s report, for the Class of 2006, showed that some 95 percent of respondents found full-time work or attended graduate school within a year of graduation, with 94 percent of those indicating the work was directly related to their career goals. Eighteen percent of respondents indicated that their job was secured through an internship.
“As Harvard researcher Dr. Richard Light has found, a majority of students report that their most profound experiences at college take place outside the classroom,” says Wells. “The partnership between the curricular and the co-curricular at Syracuse University is a tremendous example of this — interns taking what they learn in the classroom and applying it to their career exploration, a perfect example of engagement with the world.”
Many of the internships give students unique opportunities they might not otherwise be able to pursue. A legislative internship program puts several students to work in Albany each year. Another program, jointly administered through the Center for Career Services and the Office of Multicultural Affairs, has placed first-year students in SU’s nationally recognized WellsLink Leadership Program in internships with Morgan Stanley in New York City. “First-year students aren’t usually considered for internships this prestigious, but the folks at Morgan Stanley are so impressed with the WellsLink Scholars that they’ve made it happen,” says Victory.
Students and faculty are encouraged to come to CCS with their ideas on internships, and CCS team members will do what they can to make it work,” says Victory. He also encourages SU parents, alumni and friends to contact CCS if they can help in crafting internship opportunities, especially in highly creative fields.
For Clements Internship Award recipient David Taube, a junior majoring in psychology and philosophy in The College of Arts and Sciences and magazine journalism in the Newhouse School, his summer internship at the London-based Philosophy Now publication has encouraged him in working to bring specialized niche subjects to lay audiences. For fellow Clements recipient Dylan Fairchild, a junior majoring in sociology in The College of Arts and Sciences and public relations in the Newhouse School, an internship with the Youth Advocacy Center in New York City taught important lessons.
“My internship was basically a summer course with my experience being the textbook,” Fairchild says. “I was faced with many tests of character, ambition and emotions, and I was constantly forced to re-evaluate and re-educate myself. I don’t believe I would have learned these skills in a real class, because the most influential teacher in my life can only be myself and what I allow myself to experience. I think my internship helped me to realize how I can become an efficient member of any work force.”
For more information on the Center for Career Services’ internship offerings, visit http://students.syr.edu/careerservices/undergrad/internships.htm.