Experiential learning, or learning from experience, is more than a buzz word — it’s a reality. Stony Brook University is proactive about helping students get that experience outside the classroom, whether it is through a career-related internship, co-op, volunteer opportunity posted on ZebraNet through the Career Center, a research opportunity with a professor, or through networking events coordinated with Stony Brook University Alumni Relations.
Traditionally, college students had little trouble finding a good job based on attending a good college, getting good grades and having a marketable major. Today’s college students need more: Studies show that employers also highly value experience in the workplace.
According to a survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 63 percent of paid interns in the Class of 2012 had at least one job offer when they graduated, compared with only 40 percent for those who had never interned.
Senior health science major Natalie Joseph-Pauline knows all about the value of internships: She was one of ten Stony Brook scholars chosen to be part of the 2011 cohort of the JFEW-SUNY Scholars Program in International Relations and Global Affairs, funded by the Jewish Foundation for Education of Women, which awards students from diverse backgrounds scholarships, monthly seminars and a paid internship in a global organization.
“I learned things I could not have learned in the classroom,” said the Queens native, who interned at the U.S. Department of State.
Joseph-Pauline is in good company: Roughly 1,000 Stony Brook students secure internships annually in every field imaginable, according to Career Center Director Marianna Savoca.
In fact, Stony Brook undergraduates have landed internships ranging from CBS Radio to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. A recent success story includes Janice Tsang ’12, whose accounting internship with Duke Energy Corporation led to a job offer from PricewaterhouseCoopers, a Big Four public accounting firm.
Another Stony Brook undergraduate, biology major Kristin Hayes (2013), plans to become a physician’s assistant. She is doing a part-time co-op (a paid internship that a student earns credits for) at the YAI Network, helping disabled adults in a group home.
Savoca, who said the Career Center’s role is “to bring industry to the campus and students to industry,” works closely with Alumni Relations. “Many of our alumni recruit students for internships, co-ops and full-time positions in their organizations. They also mentor students and connect them to professionals in their field of interest,” she said.
Indeed, “Internships are incredibly valuable to students,” said Sherry Sussman, MD ’91, ’95, president of the Stony Brook Alumni Association. She said that students who intern appreciate that value fully, offer their best efforts to their employers, reflect well on Stony Brook, and deserve to be rewarded.
On February 21 the Alumni Association hosted a Careers in Medicine event, which served as an opportunity for alumni, faculty and community physicians to lead informal discussions with Stony Brook medical students to provide career guidance. Thirteen physicians from a variety of specialties, hospitals and private practices met with 50 first- and second-year students in the Health Sciences Galleria.
“I got the sense that some of the physicians knew me better than I knew myself,” said Hannah Elsevier, a first-year student in the School of Medicine. “Everyone goes through medical school in their own unique way, but having the opportunity to learn from people who have not only been through the process themselves, but have also mentored many students, is absolutely invaluable as we begin this journey.”
On March 6 the Alumni Association hosted an event with the Society of Women Engineers that focused on the student-alumni connection. It was there that biomedical engineering major Susan Mathew ’14 had a chance to network with her alumni advisor Jennifer Millard ’08. Millard, a systems software engineer for the Omnicon Group in Hauppauge, who had been president of the Society of Women Engineers as a student, now serves as president of the New York Section of the Society of Women Engineers.
“I really want to inspire the next generation of female engineers because they’re so underrepresented,” said Millard. “I want to be able to give students a mentor because that’s what I didn’t have — it gives them the real-world experience they need to guide them.”
For more information about these and other experiential learning opportunities, visit the Career Center located at the foot of the Zebra Path walkway between the Library and the Chemistry Building.
— Glenn Jochum