New workshop program launches to educate interns

New workshop program launches to educate interns
A list of the requirements for Augustana internships taken from an orientation session with Mary Toso.

Students registered for an internship credit this semester will attend Augustana’s first internship workshop series.

Mary Toso, director of internships and employer relations, spearheaded the project which consists of four sessions: orientation, midway check-in, reflection and ePortfolios as well as a small group discussion.

Toso said the workshop series is designed to prepare students for their spring internship and future job opportunities.

“We just want our students to have great experiences, and I think the more they can be prepared for their work experiences, the better,” Toso said.

According to Toso, around 20 students attended the internship orientation on Feb. 9, where she discussed the benefits of an internship and what students should be aware of as they begin their internships.

Senior accounting and finance major Eden Weber is a tax intern at ELO CPAs & Advisors. She said she learned about expectations for her internship at the orientation.

“[It’s] kind of nice to know that it’s good to dress a step up from their dress code or how it’s okay to ask your supervisors ‘hey, is there anybody else I can meet here?’” Weber said.

Senior finance major Nathan Healy, who is interning at Diesel Machinery Inc., said he first heard about the workshop series in January through an email from Toso to students registered for a spring internship.

The email referred to the program as a “required Internship Workshop Series,” but Toso said students and their internship coordinator will decide on whether to include attendance as a grade.

“I am sharing with internship coordinators if students participate. If the internship coordinator chooses or not to use that as a part of the grade, at this point, is entirely up to the faculty member,” Toso said.

Matt Willard, a business professor and an internship adviser, said he plans to omit other required work for his interns who attend the program. Students will create ePortfolios in the third session of the workshop series, so he said he won’t make them complete an updated resume.

“It’s up to me to balance the load a little bit, if that makes sense,” Willard said. “I want their experience to be about the internship, not doing paperwork for me. If [Toso] has them doing a couple meetings, maybe I’ll take out a reflection paper.”

Weber, a first-time intern, said she isn’t sure how the workshop series compares to previous internship requirements.

“I’ve never had an internship before, so I wouldn’t know what it’s like without it, but I feel like it is kind of nice if you don’t ever talk with your faculty. It’s nice to find people who you can have, who you can go to to ask questions about your internship,” Weber said.

Not all students who will attend the workshop series are first-time interns. Healy interned at Diesel Machinery Inc. last summer too.

“I don’t think I’ll take much out of it, but someone else might,” Healy said.

However, he said he still thinks the program will provide him with benefits.

“It makes you have to network, which is always a good thing,” Healy said.

Toso first got the idea for the workshop series after reading student interns’ end-of-term evaluations. She said students told her they wanted to learn more about what to expect before attending their internships.

“Some of the feedback I got over time said, ‘gosh, it would be really nice to get together with other interns to just talk about our experiences and learn from one another,’” Toso said.

When Toso met with faculty internship coordinators last fall, they agreed that a program of this sort would be a great thing to work on.

“Students learn a lot from each other, and so I think [the internship workshop series] is a good opportunity for them to share their experiences,” Willard said.

The second session will be on March 30 and will act as a check-in and networking opportunity for the student interns. On April 27 students will attend the internship reflection and ePortfolio session, where they will learn how to apply their internship experience to their resume.

The final session will involve the spring-intern students participating in roundtable discussions about their internship experiences. Toso said she plans to invite freshmen and sophomores who are thinking of doing an internship to this session so they can learn from students who have completed an internship and “conceptualize what their internship might be.”

As the pilot gets under way, Toso said she is excited for its future.

“There are always ways to make programs better, and we’re just trying to always think of our students and how we can help them get the most out of their signature experiences,” Toso said.