In days not so long ago, an internship ranked as a rare plum on a student’s resume, a unique and coveted experience that few could claim.
Not anymore. According to a recent survey by the CALS Office of Undergraduate Programs and Services, 43 percent of students who graduated from the college last spring had completed at least one internship for academic credit before earning their degrees. And Christina Klawitter, CALS’ former director of career services, says that interest in internship opportunities is continuing to rise among both students and employers.
“I see students interning everywhere from small, family-owned farms to multinational companies and everything in-between,” says Klawitter, who helped build up the internship program before accepting another campus job last fall.
For students such as Josh Burling, an internship can connect classwork with real-life experience in meaningful ways. Burling, who hopes to pursue a career in forestry, spent last summer working with Nicolet Hardwoods, a 100-year-old, family-owned business headquartered in Laona, Wis. Shadowing veteran forester Steve Guthrie gave Burling an insider’s view of the industry from the forest to the mill floor-a perspective that no textbook could recreate.
“It gave me good real-world experience with the economics of the wood industry and how the market affects what you’re doing in the field,” he says.
Chelsea Cervantes had similar luck with an opportunity much farther away. Cervantes, who is double majoring in soil science and agricultural and applied economics, made contacts on her own to set up an internship with the German Protestant Institute of Archeology in Jordan, where she worked on a wetland irrigation project. The experience has helped define her career goals, which include working for an international company on water issues.
“It actually created more opportunities than I ever imagined,” Cervantes says.
But students aren’t the only ones who benefit from internships, says Klawitter. For employers, interns can bring a fresh perspective and a needed hand to take on neglected projects. And while many interns are paid, others work for academic credit or are supported by gifts from donors, making hiring students an economical option for companies.
“To me, internships are win-win-win: good for the companies, good for the universities and good for the students,” she says.