Catawba Students Embrace Experiential Learning Opportunities
November 20, 2009
Catawba College Provost Dr. Rick Stephens believes experiential learning "puts flesh on the bones of classroom teaching." He and his faculty colleagues urge students to seek internships and experiential learning opportunities to round out their classroom experiences.
"Classrooms are where you get concepts and structures in place, but you also need to sample outside the classrooms, in the community," Stephens explains. "Students need to be thinking about their lives beyond college, not just in the last semester, but all through their years in college. They need to sample opportunities and make adjustments."
Most students today seek out internships and experiential learning opportunities to get a real life taste of their academic majors and to have something substantive to put on their resumes. Across Catawba's campus, students from all disciplines embrace such opportunities as a chance to network and make valuable contacts – contacts that will be useful to them when they begin their job search after graduation.
In a recent Michigan State University survey, employers indicated that 50 percent of their new hires completed internship and/or co-op within the company. An additional 40 percent of employer respondents indicated their new hires had interned with another company. Some employers responding to the survey indicated that they would not consider a candidate without internship experience.
National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) findings in an Experiential Education Survey showed that 35.9 percent of employers report hires from their internship program and 23.3 percent from their co-op programs (source: www.naceweb.org). A 2009 Job Outlook report from NACE indicated that 76.3 percent of employers prefer candidates with relevant work experience while 18.9 percent prefer any type of work experience, relevant or not (source: www.naceweb.org).
This past summer, from the School of Arts and Sciences at Catawba, biology majors Kyle Ganow of State College, Pa., and Max Vinograd of Bethesda, Md., sought out internships which gave them both a chance to work in their academic field.
Ganow spent 10 weeks in Canyon, Texas at West Texas A&M University studying how topography (shape of land) affects the activity of bats. His internship was made possible by a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) grant from the National Science Foundation to Dr. Ray Matlack at WTAMU. Ganow worked under the supervision of Dr. Matlack, using anabats, devices that record the sounds produced by bats during echolocation, to determine the flights of various types of bats along the walls of canyons and on the plateaus.
In the region of Texas where Ganow spent the summer, wind is increasingly being used as a source of sustainable production of electricity, but these wind turbines can be potentially harmful to bats as they fly in search of food. A greater understanding of the behavior of bats may lead to placement of turbines that are beneficial to humans and safe for bats, Ganow explained.
Vinograd spent the summer participatinig in an internship in biomedical research at the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Md. Under the guidance of Dr. Alan Koretsky, Vinograd worked on a project utilizing magnetic fields to guide the movement of cells. He introduced magnetic particles into cells and used magnets to manipulate their movement. He noted that his work was important because "being able to influence the way cells move without pure force or chemicals could make medical technology less harmful and less invasive," possibly providing for safer, more efficient treatments for diseases.
In addition to the hands-on experience in both the field and the lab that Ganow and Vinograd gained, they also had the opportunity to communicate the results of their internship work. Vinograd authored a poster and Ganow made a conference presentation about his experience. Both believe their summer internship was a valuable component in their overall education and in their preparation for a career in science.
Another Catawba student, Cindy Cook who is majoring in mathematics, also had a productive summer internship experience made possible, like Ganow's experience, by a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) grant from the National Science Foundation. It allowed her to spent the summer at UNC Asheville where she participated in "Math in the Mountains." She studied random graphs created by the Use It or Lose It tree and used the Markov Theory to find the expected diameter of these graphics. Cook said her internship opened up the world of math beyond Catawba.
Into the World of Business
A summer internship at Rowan Business Alliance gave senior Christopher Beal a chance to make contacts with people in the local business community.
"Having the opportunity to gain real world business experience via an internship with Rowan Business Alliance has truly been an enriching experience. Although many things can be learned in the classroom, certain skills and lessons can only be obtained in such an environment as an internship. I have gained an experience that I am sure will benefit me as I enter into my career field after graduation and I know I will be better prepared for the obstacles that I will face," Beal explained.
This fall, Allison DeRhodes, also a business major in Catawba's School of Evening and Graduate Studies, is working at the Veterans Administration Hospital thanks to an internship she landed in the human resources department there. It is opening her eyes to all the potential employment options a degree in business will afford her.
Bryan Applefield, Interim Dean of the Ketner School of Business, is proud of the business students who have sought out the internship opportunities and feels these experiences add relevance for their classroom learning and make them more "employable."
"Employers today are looking for potential hires who have some practical experience," Applefield said. "One of the most valuable tools we can give our students is a chance to experience the real world of business before they actually enter it after graduation."
Catawba College senior Lisa Easter landed one of the more unusual internships this past summer. The music business major and California resident landed an internship with Hopeless Records, an alternative music label based in her home state. She did the merchandising for Attack Attack!, a hardcore electronic band, as part of the Vans Warped Tour, a summer festival for alternative music. The experience gave her a true taste of life on the road with the band and showed her that there were other parts of the music business outside of performing. Now, Easter's pondering a career as a tour manager or booking agent.
And the List Goes On and On….
So many Catawba College students are participating in experiential learning opportunities that they and their internships could not all be included in this article. Following is an abbreviated list of students and their recent internships to indicate a range of experiences that Catawba students have enjoyed:
Joe Manser and Nathaniel Griffin
Summer internship under Visiting Scientist Program at FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Va.
2009-2010 academic year Undergraduate Biotechnology Research Fellowship through
the N.C. Biotechnology Center to work with a research associate in the laboratory
of Steven Zeisel at the UNC Chapel Hill unit on the N.C. Research Campus in
Summer internship at N.C. Transportation Museum, Spencer, N.C.
Summer internship with Peter Francisco Soil and Water Conservation District,
Forsyth County, Environmental Affairs Department, Winston Salem, N.C.
Summer internship with the Center for the Environment, Catawba College
Summer internship with Great Lakes International Marine Training Centre, Georgian
College, Owen Sound, Ontario
Fall internship with GIS Division, City of Salisbury, N.C.
J. Todd Watkins
Fall internship with GIS Division, City of Salisbury, N.C.
Fall internship with Land Trust of Central North Carolina, Salisbury, N.C.
Fall internship with Office of Waste Reduction & Recycling, Catawba College, Salisbury,
Fall internship with N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Division of
Water Quality, Mooresville, N.C. office
Summer internship with Environmental Working Group, Washington, D.C.
Summer internship at Rowan Nature Center, Dan Nicholas Park, Salisbury, N.C.
Summer internship at Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C.
Summer internship at Veterans Administration Hospital, Salisbury, N.C.
Summer internship as Operations Specialist at Packaging Corporation of America
Summer internship as Sales Specialist at Aaron's
Summer internship in human resources/Hispanic Coalition at City of Salisbury,
Summer Internship at Lakeside Building Products
Summer Internship as Operations Specialist, Catawba College Basketball Camp
Summer internship at Rowan County Department of Finance, Salisbury, N.C.
Summer internship at Carolina Pool Management
Summer internship as Technology Specialist at Office Depot
Summer internship with Human Resources Department, Town of Mooresville, N.C.
Summer internship Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Charlotte, N.C.
Summer internship with Birnbaum Property Company
Summer internship with Gary Davis Accounting Firm
Summer internship with Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce
Looking for Interns?
Career and Academic Support Services Marcia Miller encourages area businesses in need of interns to tap into Catawba's student population. "If there are area employers willing to give students valuable work experience in their business, we are interested in helping them connect with the right student for their experience," Miller explains. "My office serves as a clearinghouse for the campus in terms of making students aware of available opportunities. Our students understand that some internship opportunities are unpaid and to gain the experience, they are still willing to put in the work without pay."
Experience does matter: NACE's 2009 Student Survey found that graduates who had taken part in an internship fared far better in the dismal job market than their peers who didn't. Overall, just 19.7 percent of the Class of 2009 who had applied for jobs had one by the end of April, but grads with an internship under their belt beat that average — 23 percent had a job in hand. For those who didn't do an internship, the job market was especially unwelcoming: Just 14 percent of those who hadn't been interns landed jobs.
Catawba's Office of Career and Academic Support Services serves Catawba students with their individual career development — from making "major" decisions to experiential learning opportunities, to finding that first "real" job.
Contact Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (704) 637-4384.