Internships Give Avila Students Professional Advantage
Reaching graduation is just the first big challenge facing college students. Finding a job, or even knowing where to start looking, is the next formidable hurdle waiting for graduates when they receive their degree.
But for students such as junior Colin Hendricks, that upcoming hurdle is a bit less daunting thanks to the internship opportunities and professional resources available at Avila.
Hendricks has been a part of Cerner’s business apprenticeship program since last November as a user interface (UI) designer. While it’s not how he originally envisioned utilizing his skills, he quickly came to appreciate the skills and resources he has gained.
“I felt the past two years I was headed toward more of a traditional marketing career path,” he said. “However, when this opportunity came along, I started to consider doing user experience (UX) design because it’s such an incredible opportunity.”
The Cerner Business Apprenticeship program is a multi-semester internship path toward potential employment after graduation where interns work 20 hours a week during the school year and 40 hours a week during the summer. Balancing the demands of the position with a full course load has been a challenge for Hendricks, but he’s embraced it.
“Luckily for me, my professors have been very understanding about the requirements of the apprenticeship program,” he said. “When I had a work-study position at Avila, I’d already scheduled my coursework around those demands, so it wasn’t a big shift. I’ve been able to take some classes online and some night courses as well to make it work.”
In addition to being a part-time job for some students, an internship can also earn college credit while preparing students to find employment after graduation. Through the Avila Promise, incoming students are guaranteed a research or internship opportunity, giving them a head start professional upon graduation.
“Students who secure an internship or research opportunity during their undergraduate experience have such an advantage,” said Anastasia Caffrey, MBA, director of community engagement. “In my role, I build relationships with companies that can offer our students an experience that fits their career goals and will challenge them to be successful in the professional space.”
According to associate professor Eric Winter, MFA, internships give Avila students an opportunity to introduce themselves to a potential future employer and also allow them to apply their learning experiences to real-world problems.
“(An internship) gives students an opportunity to test out different work environments and inform possible goals post-college,” Winter said. “As a career dominated by ever-changing technology, a design internship is particularly beneficial in exposing students to what the industry is currently using.”
It was thanks to Winter that Hendricks found out about the position. Two months of interviews later, he was selected. His courses at Avila helped prepare him for the demands of the position.
“My professors have structured their classes to be more project-based and also gave us opportunities to work with local companies,” he said. “We met with the clients to discover their needs and vision about a project, and it was on us to implement what we found out. I ended up making a promotional video for a local coffee shop.”
He also credits Avila’s size and emphasis on building strong relationships as being key to him feeling comfortable in a corporate environment so quickly.
“The one-on-one conversations with professors is extremely valuable and so important for learning,” he said. “If you go to a large university, it’s hard to have that sort of friend or mentor relationship with your adviser. I felt very comfortable really quickly when I got to Avila.
“That was really big for me when I started at Cerner because they also emphasize treating everyone similarly, with less emphasis on hierarchy. I’m not treated differently than any other employee. Because of my experience at Avila, I felt very at home as soon as I started at Cerner.”