Summer Internships Give Stillman Students A Competitive Edge
Some students view summer break as a time to rest, while others clean out their residence halls at the end of each academic year and return faithfully to the retail or fast food jobs they held in high school. But many savvy Stillman College students are convinced that having a summer internship is an even better option.
Although most colleges urge juniors and seniors to seek internships that may lead to valuable career and professional school connections, Stillman has a long tradition of encouraging students to intern early in their college careers. After completing their freshman year in May, Shaquitta Dent, Michael Cromartie and Charvla King headed to the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), where they are participating in the Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center Summer Enrichment Program.
King, a biology major from Marietta, Georgia, gives the program high marks. “It’s fun and informative and it’s helping me to determine whether or not I want to be an anesthesiologist—which I’m pretty sure I do want to be—or whether I want to go in another direction in the medical field. We’re learning scientific writing and discovering how it differs from other forms of writing, exploring different medical careers, and learning how to increase our MCAT score and plan for the future by developing a career roadmap.”
Christopher Ruffin, a journalism major from Birmingham, Alabama, decided that the only thing better than a summer internship was two summer internships. Before completing his freshman year in May, he sought and found internships with NBC 13 in Homewood, Alabama and with the City of Birmingham’s CARE program.
“Many journalism students don’t seek internships during their freshman year, but I felt that having an internship would put me a step ahead of the competition. I don’t want to look at it as a competition, but we will have to compete for jobs,” says Ruffin. “Through my CARE internship, I am learning more about campaigning and elections. At NBC 13, I’ll be shadowing reporters, working on my writing and editing skills and learning about what goes on behind the scenes. This will distinguish me from other journalism majors, and help me to develop job connections.”
Career Services Director Tasha Washington says, “Internships stimulate personal and professional growth and create unlimited opportunities.”
Upper classmen Eartha Blount, Lindsey Payne, Karen Salanguit and Joseph Pough agree, which is why they chose to intern in the University of South Alabama College of Medicine’s DREAM program this summer. Pough, a Mobile, Alabama native who would like to be either an orthopedic surgeon or an anesthesiologist, says, “I enjoy the rigor of the program. It’s helping me to prepare for the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test), and I plan to continue studying for the MCAT every day when I return to Stillman in the fall.”
Pough believes that students sometimes purposely choose majors that are perceived to be easy, and fail to consider fields that may be more likely to provide long-range career satisfaction. “Young people need to see role models in different professions—not just athletics. But if they aren’t exposed to other options, they may not realize that there are options,” states Pough, who also believes that internships can help students develop a realistic understanding of the demands of their chosen major.
Payne, who is from Chelsea, Alabama, adds, “We are in class from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, for eight weeks. We take six classes—organic chemistry, general chemistry, biology, physics, verbal reasoning and a reading comprehension course. We have to read about 30 pages a night for each subject. After classes, we eat and spend the rest of the night studying. Every other Saturday we take a practice MCAT test. This is definitely not for someone who wants a summer vacation.”
Like Pough, she was drawn to the program because she knew that it would help her prepare for medical school. “I called constantly during the application process to make sure they received everything they needed from me. They were probably tired of hearing from me, but I knew that this was a great opportunity.”
Robert Crosby, a senior from Collins, Mississippi, is currently interning in Washington D.C. with the Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). “I have an internship in budget administration. I am comparing what our labs in the Department of Energy estimated they would spend on conferences to the amount they actually spent,” Crosby states. “This is not directly related to my biology major, but I’ve discovered that many science majors who take non-science internships with the NNSA are still able to secure positions in laboratories after graduation. And once you finish your undergraduate degree, there is a one-year internship that allows you to complete graduate school online.”
No one can fault a hard-working student for enjoying a stress-free, relaxing summer break. And there is certainly nothing wrong with college students working at restaurants, clothing stores or other establishments each summer. But, for students who hope to make connections, hone skills, and gain a competitive edge, a great internship is priceless.
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