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On-the-Job Experience Boosts Career Readiness

Internships are an extension of some of the most important benefits of a university education: the freedom to explore, try new things, find out what you want to do (and also what you don’t want to do). The tools to make informed decisions about your life path. The opportunity to network, meet new people and establish connections that may last a lifetime.

Alicia Hazen, Director of Career Services for the School of Human Ecology, says these reasons are exactly why the school requires all graduates to complete an internship: “It gives students a leg up, having that professional experience in a field related to their major.”

In 2015, a team of human ecology career experts gathered to evolve student internship requirements to make them more streamlined and consistent. Today, the School of Human Ecology is the only school on campus that requires students to complete an internship. To graduate, students must complete one, three-credit course that combines a real-world internship with online coursework designed to encourage reflection on what they’ve learned.

The internship requirement is included in a three-part career readiness curriculum that also includes a Leadership Symposium and an online Career & Leadership Development course that sets students up for success in their internship with topics like resume writing and interview practice. Every Human Ecology student is also assigned a career advisor in addition to their academic advisor, someone they can go to for everything from career exploration to negotiating a job offer.

“We place a high value on career education as part of our academic curriculum,” Hazen says, “and this model gives our students a competitive advantage post-graduation.”

Career Services was forced to pivot when the pandemic led to the cancellation of many internships, a decline of approximately 30-40%. Changes included allowing those who were about to graduate the chance to apply for a waiver or complete professional-development activities, such as online learning or assembling their portfolio. Hazen and her team knew it was important to be flexible while still ensuring graduating seniors would benefit from those vital professional experiences and be ready to start their new careers.

“These opportunities often lead to making more effective career decisions,” Hazen says of the impact of internships. “Between the classroom and their internship, our students have the chance to explore positions related to their field of interest and find what we’d consider a good fit: a good fit for their skills, interests and values.”


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