Summer Internship Series: Helping Students Prepare for College

Mike Angelo ’19
Summer Completion Coach, College Forward, Austin, Texas

My name is Mike Angelo, I am a junior Environmental Studies major with an Educational Studies minor.  This summer I had the privilege of serving as a Summer Completion Coach at College Forward in Austin, TX.

College Forward is a non-profit college access organization that serves students across Texas in an access program and across the country in a persistence program. The primary focus of College Forward is to equip low-income and first generation college students with the tools and support to graduate with a college degree. Among other things, College Forward mentors, teaches, and empowers their students beginning junior year of high school. This summer I worked in a summer bridge program designed to assist students preparing to enter their first year of college. The cohort of interns I worked with did some typical intern activities, filing and organizing to mention some, but we were also given ample opportunities to participate in committee work and projects.

My principal responsibility was contacting students in my caseload. This was an intimidating responsibility–calling students who were only two years younger than me sounded like an awkward task. And I’ll admit, it was! However, College Forward was such a conducive environment for me to develop and enhance the necessary skills and before I knew it, I was comfortably calling students left and right.

My supervisor, Melissa Aleman, was phenomenal, to say the least. With every meeting, it became more and more evident that Melissa cared about my growth professionally. She was extremely helpful with guiding me on setting personal goals throughout the summer, and she was sure to help me get the most of my experience with the company. She also helped me translate my many ideas into action items around the office, which really made me feel like I was making a contribution to the company. Ultimately, I think the most important thing I learned from Melissa is that a supervisor isn’t someone to fear or be intimidated by, they are someone who really is there for you.

This summer I had the opportunity of interviewing candidates for the full year position. This was as daunting as it sounds. After a couple training sessions with HR, I was ready to sit in on an interview. Due to timing, I was only able to participate in one interview, but there was an extremely unexpected learning opportunity from this. Being on the interviewer side taught me that interviewers are just normal people who are looking to have a conversation with you. This experience was the single best professional development opportunity I received this summer, and I believe that it will really help me in the future relieve the stress of an interview.

I also had many opportunities to take leadership on projects this summer. One highlight was creating a resource guide for the full-time employees to learn and relay information about beneficial programs in the area to their students. I volunteered to lead this project to gain experience leading a project in an office setting. I was able to learn how to lead productive meetings and effective ways of communicating with my team. This was also my first experience setting deadlines and preliminary deadlines in a professional setting. At the end of this project, I felt a sense of accomplishment among the other interns on the team as we presented our final resource guide to our supervisor.

My summer at College Forward has helped me guide my professional goals and give me an insight into my future career. I know now more than ever that I want to work in an environment where I can help students and my experiences at College Forward have helped solidify that decision.

I would like to thank Melissa Aleman and her fellow Program Managers, Rachel Van Middlesworth and Ashley An along with everybody at College Forward for an enriching experience this summer.

Reflections from an intern: Granville Chamber of Commerce

by: Marc Weaver, Denison Intern, GACC Spring 2017
Foreword by: Steve Matheny, Executive Director, GACC

Recently the Chamber had the benefit of engaging Marc Weaver, a Denison University Theatre Major,  as an Intern during the Spring semester which has just completed.  Marc was part of the Knowlton Center for Career Exploration’s Radius Intern Program which provides an amount of grant funded income to selected, and eligible, Junior and Senior year students.  At the conclusion of Marc’s internship,  we asked him to provide a summary of his experience which appears below in his own words.  From the Chamber’s perspective, we have benefitted significantly from Marc’s involvement and we encourage additional Chamber businesses to think seriously about engaging talented student interns.  Denison is already attempting to pair up businesses with interns for the Fall semester.  Please reach out to Liz Morrison, Denison’s Director of Networks and Communities, at morrisone@denison.edu for additional Radius Program info and details.  –  S. Matheny

When I discovered that I would be interning at the Granville Area Chamber of Commerce, I must confess that I was taken aback. What could I learn from business and trade that would help me? As a highly impractical and passionate theater major, I felt like I was mismatched. I don’t have an interest in working in finance or commerce. I wanted to be paired with a site that would deepen my knowledge of the arts. This internship did not align with my professional goals at all. Or so I thought.

When I first met Steve Matheny, he had me for coffee at Village Coffee. I didn’t really know what to expect, but when I read his quiet, thoughtful demeanor, I was put at ease. It’s unusual, in my past experiences, to have a personal conversation with my supervisor before getting to work. He asked me about the usual laundry list of questions: what I was studying, where I was from, etc. But our conversation went beyond that and he asked me more specific questions about what I wanted to do when I had first developed my passions and what I wanted to learn more about. Not only did he gave me plenty of space to share my story with him, but he reciprocated by telling his journey from being a liberal arts grad to finding a career in human resources and eventually becoming the Executive Director of the Granville Area Chamber of Commerce.

The conversation gave me a better idea of what the Chamber actually is. It’s not a secret meeting place where high-minded men in suits and ties met to stroke their beards and played the stock market. I began to understand the structure and real purpose of the organization. Consisting of hundreds of members, the Chamber is a support network for small businesses to grow and make connections with each other. The Chamber also planned events like the Farmers Market and the Art Walks, things that I have enjoyed in my time in Granville as a Denison student. Suddenly my first ideas of where I would be working dissolved. I learned that the Chamber exists partially as a tourist agency but mostly as a way to bring business- and people- together.

The bulk of my work has been in materializing a vision that Steve had for the Farmers Market which meant creating placards that would highlight the people and the places represented in each participating vendor. They would also serve a functional purpose of identifying whether a vendor accepted credit card payments, an issue that Farmers Market customers brought up from previous years. I used Google Slides to create a template for the placard, which we mulled over for a while, then created fifty signs unique to each vendor. The process of which breaks down to over hundreds of tiny edits. The placards will be on display at each booth in this year’s Farmers Market.

The rest of my work has been in helping to run the monthly luncheons that are for the members of the Chamber, held in a different location each month. In March, it was held at RevLocal and in April, it was held at the Granville Inn. One day, as we were packing up for the luncheon, Steve was going over the name-tags that get passed out at the beginning of every meeting. “The devil is in the details,” he said to some effect. People feel appreciated when an event is organized properly and when they are recognized. This often occurs in the small details. It was a privilege to attend these luncheons and to meet so many inspiring driven people gathered together in one room. Despite my lowly status as an intern, I was greeted with genuine smiles and enthusiastic conversation. It was fascinating to hear stories of men and women starting businesses in their home and trace their trajectory to a fully operating business. 

At the March lunch, I remember Susie of Susie’s Sunshine Sweets was the chosen person to speak for three minutes about her bakery. She spoke candidly about surviving through her first year as a small business. I felt a shift in the room. I could sense the empathy emanating from every person in the room, as I suspect that this is something that everyone related to. It struck me that these businesses consisted of friendly people complete with families that go through their own struggles and with goals of providing a product or service that they can be proud of.

Some of my favorite memories at the Chamber were at the luncheon and the happy communal atmosphere of people talking, laughing, eating and sharing with each other. As I reach the end of this internship, I find that saying farewell to the Chamber will be more difficult than I thought it would be. At the heart of it all, Steve orchestrates the Chamber will precision, humor and wisdom and I have learned a lot from being under his wing. 

While the threat of the real world looms near and my liberal arts education comes to an end, I think about the kind of skills I need to survive in this changing world. Having the ability to communicate and connect with people who have different interests and goals is an important skill to have in a pluralistic economy in order to have a broad-based network of support. I learned this first hand through the people I met. Executing tasks using technology, such as on Excel, PowerPoint, email, etc. is a good skill to have no matter what industry you work in because we depend on computers so much to deliver and share information.

Finally, I think the most important skill of all that I have learned is one that Steve models in his day-to-day life. He models that no matter what you are working on, you must always ask questions and think critically before making decisions. A healthy attitude of skepticism can save you from problems that might lurk in the future. No matter what profession I go in, I will carry these skills with me.

Thank you to Steve Matheny, Michelle Newman Brady, Jerod Long and Jodi Melfi of the Chamber, Melanie Murphy, Liz Morrison and Richard Berman of the Denison Center for Career Exploration and the many members of the Granville Area Chamber of Commerce, who dedicate their entire lives to what they do for the community.

This post originally appeared on the Granville Chamber of Commerce website.

Think how you spent your summer isn’t important? think again!

Make an appointment!
Check out some great advice from Michele Doran, Associate Director, Knowlton Center for Career Exploration!

 

While having an internship at a Fortune 500 company or conducting summer research certainly stands out on a resume, not every student, for various reasons will participate in that type of opportunity. So what DID you do this summer?  I am always surprised at how sheepishly students bring up the fact that they didn’t have an internship over the summer. In most cases students had a “summer job” and unfortunately, many seem embarrassed by that.

 

Summer internships and research can be very valuable with regards to career preparation, however, students should not discount the importance of other types of summer experiences. The important thing is to reflect deeply on how you grew over the summer.

 

Travel?

If you traveled, did you learn to problem solve, get more comfortable with other cultures, step outside of your comfort zone? Perhaps this is the only time due to academics that you had the time to travel, no need to apologize for that. Traveling and experiencing new places can be very influential to your overall personal growth.

 

Employment?

Maybe you had a less-than-glamorous summer job. What did skills did you develop?  Did you develop a work ethic, work with a diverse team, gain an understanding of the importance of deadlines and maybe get exposure to a career field that you never thought of? Spent your summer as a nanny or babysitter? Consider time management skills developed getting multiple children to different activities at different locations, conflict resolution (when dealing with sibling squabbles) and negotiating skills (no one drives a harder bargain than a truculent teenager).

 

Time to update that resume!

When you are updating your resume at the end of summer make sure to take the time to reflect on your experience. Ask yourself what instances made you stretch yourself, what seemed most important to you and how might these learning experiences be transferable to other fields? It isn’t too late to start a journal to take notes. When adding to your resume remember to focus on your accomplishments and not necessarily each individual task for which you were responsible.

 

Of course, the staff from The Austin E. Knowlton Center for Career Exploration is ready to help you wade through these questions, regardless of what how you spent your summer—we can’t wait to see you soon!