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Internships

The Value of Internships

In late August, I traveled the short distance from Wofford to the northside area of Spartanburg to meet with Marcos Gomez, owner of Dellfrio, a commercial refrigeration company. Rebecca Parker ’11, who manages the student internship program for The Space, accompanied me.

Marcos’ company is tucked away in a nondescript building on a lightly trafficked street. At first glance you would be hard pressed to believe that Dellfrio conducts business in Germany, Malaysia and Chile, but Dellfrio supplies equipment to foodservice, beverage and ice cream companies around the globe. It also provides logistics services to companies looking to streamline business processes and offers warehousing and asset tracking programs to customers.

Marcos operates a complex supply chain, and he wanted an intern who could handle basic accounting duties. He reached out to Wofford last spring and after interviewing the pool of student candidates Rebecca sent him, chose Kalen Alverson ’16, an accounting major hoping to gain business and accounting experience.

We were meeting that day because Kalen was wrapping up her summer internship, and Marcos wanted to thank Rebecca for her help and allow Kalen to summarize her role at Dellfrio. Between the lobby and the short walk to the conference room, Marcos looked at Rebecca and said, “Kalen has been amazing. She ended up doing so much more than just accounting. I’d hire her right now if she didn’t have to go back to college.”

You would expect a statement like that to thrill an intern and it should. In fact, the results of a recent Forbes survey revealed that 51 percent of student interns list an opportunity for full-time employment as the most desired outcome of their internship. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) goes further and reports that in 2013, 40 percent of new graduate hires came from the employers’ own internship programs.

But internships are about more than just getting that first job. They are about further learning. Learning about yourself and how the world works. Learning about relationships and dealing with success and failure. It sounds a lot like the classroom doesn’t it? It should, because internships are a natural extension of a college learning process, and they are critical for student growth and development, both professional and personal.

From a practical viewpoint, internships are incredibly valuable because they enable students to apply classroom learning in a real world environment and to test drive a job. Students also learn the importance of hustle, organizational culture, contributing to a team, and, quite frankly, doing tasks that are not that much fun but nonetheless have to be completed for the sake of the organization.

At Wofford we are fortunate to have a strong network of faculty and staff that, in addition to The Space, create robust internship opportunities for our students. The biology, computer science, art history, finance, accounting and business departments, just to name a few, have developed strong relationships with individuals and organizations that lead to high-impact internship experiences for Wofford students. The Office of International Programs works with our study abroad partners to create internship opportunities for students in global environments. All of us working together create hundreds of internship opportunities for students each year.

Pair that with generous support from people who help create opportunities that might otherwise not exist and you have a winning combination. Mike Brown ’76, a long-time Wofford supporter, funds 20 internship scholarships that enable students to take internships across the globe without concern for living and travel expenses. Support like this is invaluable and a big reason many of our students are able to participate in unique and life-changing experiences.

Back in the Dellfrio conference room, Kalen walked us through her goals for the internship, her role at Dellfrio, and her takeaways from the experience: “I expected to learn more about the accounting process, and I did,” she said. “What I didn’t expect was how much I would learn about how successful business is conducted. And I didn’t expect to learn about the supply chain, including things like how to create a bill of lading and how to track inventory as it moves across the globe. But the most valuable things I learned had to do with how to communicate with co-workers, customers and vendors both verbally and in writing. It’s given me confidence and a skill set that will make me a more attractive candidate for my next internship experience as well as for my first job out of college… whatever that might be.”

Kalen’s overview of her time at Dellfrio is exactly what students should seek in an internship regardless of the industry: hands-on, practical experience applying classroom learning in a functioning organization, communication experience, and lessons on how to handle new, unexpected happenings in real time.

A great internship experience is a learning extension that leads to opportunity. And when you give Wofford students opportunities, they rarely disappoint.

By Scott Cochran ’88, dean of The Space

A Sample of Terrier Summer Interns:

Alex Pollock ’16
Conservation Trust for North Carolina
Pollock conducted fieldwork on land management and conservation land along the coast to restore areas of state-granted land that has weathered and fallen into poor condition.

Casey Geiger ’16, Upendo Makali ’14
Project Transformation, Dallas, Texas
Affiliated with AmeriCorps, Project Transformation gave Wofford students the opportunity to learn while working with low-income children and youth.

Jonathan Franklin ’16
The Bonner Foundation, Princeton, N.J.
Franklin conducted research on how the Bonner Network, national organizations and the federal government play a role in the issue of college access.

Samantha Hemleben ’15
Robotics Department, Oregon State University
Hemleben’s work has entailed creating a model of an air hockey puck as it is tethered and launched by a robot.

Jay Wolfe ’16
Sen. Lindsey Graham’s office, Washington, D.C.
Gaining insight into the legislative process and opening his eyes to a variety of careers in government, Wolfe’s work included researching memos, taking constituents on Capitol tours and handling constituent communications.

Mariya Mohammed ’15
University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio
Mohammed completed an internship in biomedical research. She tested the effects of a novel anti-progestin on the proliferation of breast cancer cells.

Donovan Hicks ’16, Annie Currin ’15, Michelle Green ’15, Joe Nelson ’16
Manipal Technologies, India
In addition to gaining work experience, the group learned to expect the unexpected and communicate more effectively while living in and enjoying the culture of India.

Caroline Winn ’16
National Building Museum, Washington, D.C.
Winn worked with the marketing and communications team on press previews, ad campaigns and social media outreach.

Emily Bacher ’15
Dr. Marvin Miller’s research group, University of Notre Dame
Bacher conducted research on the synthesis of different molecules as potential antibiotics in fighting diseases such as tuberculosis, cancer and malaria.

Ferdinand Harerimana ’15
Undergraduate Research, Geoscience & Engineering, Stanford University
A Rwandan Presidential Scholar, Harerimana wrote computer codes to develop ground motion intensity measures in order to understand structural responses to earthquake ground motions.

Flora Yazigi ’15
Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, Ohio
Yazigi explored different facets of a pathology laboratory and speciality, including working alongside physicians during their diagnosis of cases and attending educational lectures.

Connell Anderson ’15, Bria Johnson ’15, Maggie Stroud ’15
The Aspen Institute, Aspen, Colo.
Working with some of the world’s most influential people, including Madeline Albright and Tony Blair, Wofford Aspen interns gained perspective as global citizens and young professionals. The internships are made possible by Wofford Trustee Mike Brown ’76.

Jie Min ’15
Citigroup, Hong Kong
A summer analyst in the Citi Treasury and Trade Solutions department, Min worked on the cash management team and with the product development process. He helped launch a corporate banking platform that will be implemented across the globe. (The film Transformers featured the office building in which he worked.)

Mary Katherine Keiser ’15, Laura Levy ’14
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Ga.
Keiser and Levy served as curatorial interns learning what it takes to become a museum curator.

Haiwen Zhang ’16
Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, S.C.
Working with a mentor, Zhang conducted research on the effective therapeutic siRNA delivery to human oral cancer cells. Dental clinic shadowing also has allowed Zhang to gain insights into a career in dentistry.

Sara Futch ’16
Georgia State’s Language Research Center & Zoo Atlanta’s Primate Department
Futch spent her internship in hands-on research with chimpanzees, monkeys, lemurs, guenons, tamarins and even sloths (the only non-primates) and in the lab setting up and conducting experiments. The combination helped her experience both sides of primate research.