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Internship Coordinator Jennifer and Office of Engagement and Career Development Interim Director Chris LaGrow, in the Career Development Office in Gregory Hall.
Internship Coordinator Jennifer and Office of Engagement and Career Development Interim Director Chris LaGrow, in the Career Development Office in Gregory Hall.

Internship Coordinator Jennifer Wilkins and Office of Engagement and Career Development Interim Director Chris LaGrow, in the Career Development Office in Gregory Hall.

  • May 30, 2024
  • Roger Coda

So, you’re a college student who’ll graduate in a year or two and are beginning to wonder how you can possibly stand out in a large pool of fellow graduates in the job market.

The Career Development Office has a solution to this dilemma. Complete an internship to get that invaluable hands-on experience.

“When a student goes to apply for a position, yes, they need to have a degree, and they need, more importantly, to have hands-on experience,” said Jennifer Wilkins, the CDO’s internship coordinator. That’s the perspective Ms. Wilkins has honed over the more than 12 years coordinating internships for SUNY Fredonia students.

“An employer can more easily determine if a student would be a good fit, based on past practices, so when a student can demonstrate that ‘I’ve used that technique, or I can show you an example of my work,’ that is a lot more powerful than just ‘here’s my degree, GPA and a list of classes.’ Those credentials are essential, but they don’t necessarily demonstrate preparedness for the workplace environment,” Wilkins explained.

“Classroom learning sets the foundation, but employers need to hire people who can have an immediate impact,” she said.

A significant number of internships actually culminate in job offers from the business, non-profit or organization where the student does an internship, or give students a solid foundation to advance to graduate or health professional schools. And in nearly all cases, internships affirm a student’s career choice.

That was the experience of recent graduates whose degrees reflect a diverse sampling of academic fields – accounting, history, biology, music industry, sport management and computer information science – according to a survey compiled by the CDO.

An internship is a short-term supervised experience in the workplace related to the student’s major or career goals that integrates classroom knowledge into that particular workplace setting. They are credit-bearing experiences – the number of hours determines the number of credits – and are undertaken in fall and spring semesters, the J-Term as well as during the summer.

“The course work provided a foundation of knowledge that helped me to apply towards my internship,” said Victoria Bugenhagen, a 2023 graduate who earned a degree in Accounting. Her hybrid internship was as an audit intern with Lumsden McCormick CPA, a large accounting firm in Buffalo, NY. She performed various accounting and auditing tasks to ensure accurate and reliable data; communicated with clients and assisted professional staff in performing controllership and bookkeeping services for clients.

“These (internship) skills have helped me to further develop my knowledge and social skills,” Ms. Bugenhagen said. “Being able to work during a busy season helped me to clarify that I want to work in public accounting.”

HIST 202 Applied History, which focused on a collaborative digital history project, prepared Kristin White, who graduated in 2023 with a major in History, for an archives internship at the National Comedy Center in Jamestown, NY. She familiarized herself with accessing digital archives and ArcGIS StoryMaps, a vehicle that transforms maps and geographic information systems work into interactive content.

During the in-person internship, Ms. White gained proficiency in the use of Audacity, a popular audio editing and recording app, and Finding Aid, a document written by archivists to describe an archival collection, to pull artifacts for display and for reference purposes. She also gained experience in creating dynamic and visually pleasing exhibits, while properly handling all media within the exhibit.

It’s that hands-on opportunity to create new exhibits that White found to be most exciting. These skills will help her to stand out among her peers.

“This internship has helped me to clarify my career goals by solidifying my desire to become an archivist,” White said. “To have the hands-on opportunity to create a new exhibit was exciting.”

For Natalie Wilks, a hybrid internship at Alyson Kelly Design provided an opportunity to apply what she had learned about promotions from two courses, MUSB 420 Student Record Label and MUSB 425 Music Marketing and Promotion. It also positioned her to pick up simple Canva social media graphics skills and learn how to be consistent on social media.

“I applied myself as much as I could in those two courses and found myself promoting and marketing musicians [in addition to] the annual (HAIL! Fredonia Records) Dog Walk fundraiser,” noted Ms. Wilks, a 2023 graduate who majored in Music Industry.

Working as a digital media specialist taught Wilks a completely different approach to marketing and promotion for businesses. She’s also advanced her skill set in basic graphic design and built on the social media skills she gained from the music marketing course.

“My biggest takeaway was learning how to create a cohesive social media plan that lays out the entire month’s worth of social media content for a company,” Wilks said. She also learned to “scaffold” individualized content and assisted in the creative direction of content shoots for clients, scheduled and posted approved content on social media, and managed client questions and concerns and worked to effectively solve them as a team.

In addition, she found a new passion for real estate after working with some incredible agents in the Buffalo area, and indicated she’ll work towards a real estate license.

Wilks is still passionate about the music industry, and plans to work to incorporate some aspect of the music and entertainment industry into a job after graduation. “The skills I have been able to learn through this experience do translate perfectly into the music industry,” she said.

Benjamin Kelly, a 2022 graduate majoring in Sport Management, was a marketing and tournament operations intern for the Western New York PGA. His customer service skills “astronomically increased” through the experience of communicating to people multiple times and connecting with them. Golf knowledge and skill were also enhanced and technology skills became more efficient.

His PGA experience confirmed Mr. Kelly’s career choice. “I now know that I 100 percent want to be in this industry.”

Tyler Dorey, who majored in Computer Science, indicated course work gave him the foundation needed to understand and think through the solutions he needed to develop on a day-to-day basis during his internship at Paychex, Inc., a provider of integrated human capital management solutions for payroll, benefits, human resources and insurance services.

“This internship has solidified my confidence in myself as a software engineer and has piqued an interest in both Deployment Scripting and Cloud computing solutions, both of which I very much hope to continue learning about and working with as I move forward with my career,” said Mr. Dorey, a 2022 graduate.

Dorey said he developed strong working relationships with team members, designed and utilized FullStack Solutions to address provided problems and became accustomed to learning new technologies and leveraging them to develop solutions during his remote internship.

“Finally, the field of software engineering and computer programming is a constantly evolving field and I believe my experience learning new technologies and programming languages in a work setting will serve as evidence that while I may be freshly out of college, I have the dedication to continually improve in the field.”

Course work in Biology helped 2023 graduate Courtney Campese to understand and follow conversations with doctors that involved medical terminology and diagnosis during her internship as an ophthalmic technician at WNY Family Eyecare. Studying in groups for classes aided Ms. Campese to become a good team player and have good communication skills.

During the internship, Ms. Campese enthusiastically observed and assisted in traveling geriatric optometric exams, successfully operated ophthalmic testing equipment and obtained patient data, and promptly prepared charts and completed pretesting for the optometrist.

“These skills will help me stand out among my peers by giving me first-hand experience in the optometric world. The things I learned at my internship will give me good talking points in my interviews for professional school. My dedication and interest in the field can be shown on my resume,” Campese said.

“This internship made me realize this is definitely the career for me. I was excited to go to work every day and learn/see new things.”

Internships also impact a student’s future in other ways.

In virtually all feedback from student surveys following internship experiences, students report they established networking contacts, developed skills needed to apply for future internships and/or other professional opportunities, and enhanced graduate school credentials.

A sought-after outcome of these students who shared their internship experiences with the CDO resulted in a common goal: A job offer.

The saying “the more, the merrier” easily applies to internships.

“I encourage more than one internship, especially as more majors and programs require the internship experience as part of their degree requirements,” Wilkins said. She also issues a challenge to students. “If everyone in your degree program has an internship requirement, how will you set yourself apart?”