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Today's interns, tomorrow's leaders

By Jacqueline Kelly

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Bradley students meet with potential employers during the annual Job and Internship Fair that attracts up to 130 employers and 1,000 students.

Before Bradley students enter the work force as public servants, researchers, and counselors, they have plenty of test runs as interns in their chosen fields.

Thousands of Bradley students work as interns during their college careers, opportunities that provide invaluable experience and form a foundation for their futures.

“In the competitive job market, internships give students the edge,” says Jane Linnenburger, executive director of the Smith Career Center. “Internships are sometimes the first time students are ever out in the real work world, so it gives them exposure to resume building, formal interviewing, job searches, and the process of finding and keeping a job.”

Students find internships through a variety of avenues, including the Smith Career Center, parents, alumni, and even members of Bradley’s Board of Trustees whose companies have openings. Staff members within the Career Center reach out to graduates and parents, networking with them to provide students with interesting and valuable internship opportunities.

International business and Spanish major Thomas Wrobel interned for U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar in the senator’s Valparaiso, Ind., office.

Job and internship fairs during the fall and spring semesters, one-on-one meetings with career advisers, electronic job postings, roundtable discussions with employers, and on-site interviews give students the chance to find internships that fit them best. Career Center advisers constantly stay on top of the latest internship and job trends by conferring with peers at other universities, attending training seminars, and asking questions of internship advisory panels.

And they tailor their programming to fit individual students’ needs, says Dawn Koeltzow, associate director of the Springer Center for Excellence in Internships, a division of the Career Center. The Springer Center was established in 2008 through an endowed gift from Bill and Marjorie Springer ’81 in part to promote experiental learning.

“Freshmen get an invite to a pizza party and learn about the whole process of finding an internship and turning it into a job,” she says. “For sophomores and juniors, we tell them what they need to know to be successful, things like ethics and professionalism, and what to expect during an internship.”

Sometimes a recruiter comes to Bradley seeking a student with specific skills. After seeing how well that student performs, the recruiter often returns for students in other fields.

“They get exposure to one Bradley student and then they want to branch out and look at other types of majors,” says Linnenburger. “It makes a big difference when they already know our students.”

Students have gained internships from coast to coast, as well as in foreign countries, and have worked for companies like NBC/Universal, Walt Disney World, Atlantic Records, ConAgra, and Exelon.

“We have longstanding relationships with companies, some for more than 30 years,” Linnenburger says. “And we are always excited to see new relationships develop, too.”

Sophomore international business and Spanish major Thomas Wrobel used networking to secure an internship in the Northwest Indiana office of U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar. Wrobel learned of the opening in the office through the head of Sen. Lugar’s office. Soon after, Wrobel applied and was accepted to work in the office in Valparaiso, his hometown.

One of Wrobel’s major responsibilities during the summer was to help organize three back-to-school health and wellness fairs, sponsored by Sen. Lugar and HealthLinc, a nonprofit health organization. The fairs promote proper nutrition and child safety, and provide free sports physicals, dental screenings, and immunizations for underinsured or uninsured children.

International studies and French major Laura Doolin will spend spring and summer semesters working for the U.S. State Department researching Guinean immigration and its effect on the U.S. society.

“I spent the whole summer getting ready for that one event,” Wrobel says. “And finally going to all three of the events and seeing what all that work had accomplished was the best moment of my internship.”

During the internship, Wrobel learned how to organize an office and presentations, and also how to communicate with the senator’s constituents. Often, he was the first person in the office to answer phone calls from concerned citizens.

“I learned what words to use and how to best help solve their problems or take care of their concerns,” he says.

International studies and French major Laura Doolin is spending the spring semester and summer of 2012 working for the U.S. State Department through the Virtual Student Foreign Service. Doolin will be collaborating with a representative from Guinea in West Africa and researching Guinean immigrants in the United States who affect the social, economic, and democratic development of Guinea. She will also identify technology-focused organizations who have invested or may be interested in investing in West Africa.

“I’m most excited to get a firsthand experience regarding how the State Department and USAID works,” Doolin says. “I hope to work in the foreign policy field one day, and this is a great way to get my foot in the door.”

Doolin learned about the internship after spending a semester in Washington, D.C., as part of American University’s Washington Semester Program. The virtual program allows Doolin to be anywhere in the world — she’s studying abroad in France this spring semester — and continue to work with her mentor via Skype.

“At a professional level, I expect to gain better communication skills and email etiquette, as well as research skills that will help me academically and professionally in the future,” she says. “I hope this internship will be a starting point for my post-graduation job search and set me apart from other applicants at the State Department or at other governmental and nongovernmental organizations that deal with foreign policy.”

Internships are a great way for students to gain experience that is required or preferred after graduation, Doolin adds. And employers know that students possess the ability to find a job and do it well.

Counseling graduate student Kimberly Ross completed a clinical rotation at the Beijing BISS International School.

School counseling alumnus and current graduate student Kim Ross spent a semester in Beijing, China, as part of a practicum and internship in the counseling curriculum. Students typically complete their practicum in the United States, but Ross knew she wanted to work abroad and finalized details to intern at the Biss School, an international baccalaureate school that served students in grades 1 through 12.

“The pressure to succeed is so much greater over there,” she says of the school that had a 40 percent Korean population. “There was huge pressure from the parents because of the high-stakes testing, which determines where you go to college.”

As one of the school’s two counselors, she conducted one-on-one and group counseling sessions, and gave presentations on how to treat students who appeared to be different than others based on their background, disabilities, or language. She learned much about different cultures, religions, and languages.

Ross says that she developed great friendships with teachers at the school, who became her family away from home. Her experience in Beijing helps her every day in her current job as a counselor at Brimfield High School.

“Kids are kids, no matter the culture,” she says. “They still have some of the same issues that cross international lines: parents and sibling problems, neglect and abuse issues. It’s all still there and it doesn’t matter your language or color of your skin.”

An Olympic opportunity

Every four years, the world’s best athletes display their talent and courage on an international stage at the Summer Olympic Games.

And every four years, the country’s top college communication students display their energy and ability as interns for NBC/Universal during those games.

This summer, 10 Bradley students will be among the interns working in New York and London, filling various production roles for the network. Three will head to London; the other seven will work in New York.

“London is where you’re at the games; you can interact with NBC executives and journalists,” says Zach Keesee, a senior sports communication major who will be in London. “It’s a great opportunity to learn the industry.”

NBC informed students they will be working 12 hours a day for three consecutive weeks. Bradley students are looking forward to working hard and getting an inside view of the games.

“These games are what these people have been striving for their entire lives,” says journalism and French major Elise Dismer, who is London-bound. “I’ll be there to witness the last leg of their journey to try and be the best in the world. That is just mind-boggling.”

Bradley’s Department of Communication and NBC/Universal reached an agreement in November 2010 to offer internships to students; the network also selected student interns from the University of Notre Dame, the University of Southern California, Ithaca College, and Syracuse University.

Dr. Paul Gullifor, chair of the Department of Communication, reached out to NBC through phone calls and visits to the network’s headquarters in New York. After the agreement was made, about 100 Bradley students prepared applications and resumes, with the assistance of the Smith Career Center and other university officials. With the coordination of the Alumni Relations office, alumni in the communications field conducted practice interviews with students to prepare them for the NBC executives.

“Our students made a terrific impression. They were well-prepared, enthusiastic and asked great questions. The NBC folks were very impressed by the caliber of our students,” Dr. Gullifor says.