Career Services Center, new student organization partner to tout the benefits of internships and co-ops related to fields of study
Kathy Hallmark is on a mission to get students to work.
A career counselor at the Coles College of Business, she wants undergraduate business students to get real-world experience while pursuing their studies. So over the past few months, Hallmark has made in-class presentations touting the virtues of internships and co-ops, recruited about 50 students to help drive the message to their classmates, and even hosted intern and employer panels alongside pizza parties and ice cream socials.
“The message I am trying to get out is this: Don’t graduate without experience in your field,” Hallmark said. “The job market is tough, and doing an internship or co-op will give students an edge when they are ready to enter their career. Internships open doors that aren’t open to other job seekers.”
Most KSU students work part-time or full-time jobs while attending school, but few do a formal internship or co-op related to their field of study. About 1,500 KSU students completed a co-op or internship last year. At the Coles College of Business, only about 10 percent of undergrads currently do an internship or co-op for academic credit, said Hallmark, who is in charge of experiential education for the Coles College of Business. The main problem, she explained, is that many students do not know about the benefits of internships or co-ops.
So Hallmark, who has worked with undergrads at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Southern California in helping them acclimate to college life, went straight to the students this fall to spread the word. At a November panel titled “Money & Mocktails,” about 20 economics and finance majors showed up to hear the experiences of four Coles College students.
Senior Justinas Bartkevicius said he went knocking on the doors of insurance agencies and other small businesses in office parks in Roswell and Marietta. He ended up finding an internship as a financial analyst with asset management firm Lindner Capital Advisors. “There were many rejections,” he said, adding that he got two offers out of 10 visits.
A visit to the Coles College’s accounting career fair in the fall led Bartkevicius to a second internship, with Turner Broadcasting System, for the summer.
Camille Sockwell, who is interning as a real estate agent with a broker for Prudential, says she is able to write contracts and pre-approve mortgages. She has put into practice what she learns in her finance classes. “We talk about the real estate market in almost every class,” said Sockwell, a senior. “The real estate market is so correlated with my finance degree.”
The two other panelists were senior Lauren Whitehead, who is interning with MetLife producing marketing materials for three agents, and junior Nada Encisco, who was able to arrange for an internship at Kimberly-Clark, where she works full time in a different department. The internship as a financial analyst, Encisco said, gave her a better understanding of how her regular job affects the company’s financial performance. “It gave me a completely different perspective,” she said.
There are many benefits to doing an internship or co-op, Hallmark said. For starters, depending on their major, students can earn one to 12 business-elective credits and most of them also earn a salary. The top companies where Coles College students do their internships include The Home Depot, Coca-Cola, Turner Broadcasting System and many of the accounting firms, including the Big Four.
“These students get experience in the field they are majoring in, which allows them to narrow down their career options,” Hallmark said. “And they gain self-confidence that comes from making the transition into a professional business environment. In addition, many of these students are offered full-time employment after they graduate.”
The KSU Career Services Center wants more students to understand the benefits of internships and co-ops. So earlier this year Hallmark proposed launching a student organization, Iota Chi Epsilon, whose main goal is to promote experiential learning by having students tell other students about it while helping them develop the skills and professional polish to land an internship or co-op. “Word of mouth is advertisement,” said Karen Andrews, director of the Career Services Center.
For the past few months, Iota Chi Epsilon’s 50 dues-paying members have worked in developing career search skills, putting together events such as a mock career fair and a resume blast. Iota Chi Epsilon members walk around campus with black T-shirts emblazoned with their group’s slogan, “Internship/Co-op… Don’t leave Coles without it!”
Hallmark also has approached professors and made 20 PowerPoint class presentations to accounting, finance, economics, marketing and management majors. In November, she ratched up her efforts by holding various information panels with names such as “Hot Chocolate & Co-ops and Candy,” “Management Pizza Party” and “Marketing Ice Cream Social,” featuring talks by student interns and employers such as the retailer Kohl’s, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and regional CPA firm Decosimo.
Students can do a co-op as early as the summer of their freshman year as long as they have completed 30 credits and have a minimum grade-point average of 2.5. Internships typically last one semester and are done once students have been accepted in their majors. Co-ops and internships take from 10 to 40 hours a week.