Honors students reflect on knowledge and skills gained through unique, valuable internships

For college students in many areas of study, an internship experience may be a requirement for graduation from their program or an otherwise necessary step to reach the next stage in their education and their eventual careers. Regardless of whether or not it is required, students in all majors can benefit from having a quality internship experience with a company or organization relevant to their field of study and desired career. Many Honors College students at Kent State take the opportunity to complete unique internships to supplement their academic work and prepare them for the future.

An internship can be a great way for students to gain exposure to different career possibilities. Evan Harms, an Honors College senior environmental studies major with minors in park management and digital media production, completed an internship in 2019 as a naturalist with Cleveland Metroparks through CanalWay Center, a special nature center located along the Cuyahoga River in Cuyahoga Heights, Ohio. Evan learned of this opportunity when he was searching for similar internships throughout the region, and in addition to the relevance to his studies, he says he was also drawn to the environmental justice component of CanalWay Center: many of the school groups that visit the center are composed of urban children who generally have less access to natural areas and the benefits they provide, and Evan says that to be able to inspire these kids through nature “can have huge impacts for communities down the road.”

Evan was also very pleased to know that the Honors College would accept his internship for honors credit. He had a vision of what he wanted to do and how his internship experience would coincide with his major, and he says that Brittany Thomas, his honors advisor, provided him with “all the logistical support and information” that he needed to accomplish his goals. Mathew Blasio, an Honors College junior musical theatre major with a dance minor from Cleveland, Ohio, also says that the additional educational opportunities provided by the Honors College helped prepare him for rigorous internship work, such as the Honors College’s partnership with the School of Theatre and Dance that allows for more intensive training and coursework for honors students.

During the summer of 2019, Mathew was a cast member at the Woodstock Playhouse in Woodstock, New York, where he acted in four productions: “Mamma Mia!,” “Newsies,” “Hair,” and a version of “Alice in Wonderland.” This kind of production schedule throughout the summer is referred to as “summer stock” in the theatre community, and it is commonly sought after by college students. According to Mathew, the most valuable skill he learned from his internship was how to prepare for a show in a limited amount of time. He says that if he were casted in a currently touring Broadway show, he would have five to seven days to learn an entire track, and he would need to be able to perform it perfectly on stage the next week. This timeline may have scared him in the past, but now he has experience learning at a similar pace and he knows he is capable. Mathew is also grateful for the numerous professional connections he made in New York City in addition to his contacts in other areas of the United States.

One major advantage of completing an internship is that it can help students clarify their career path, something Honors College junior Elise Rickert knows well. Elise, who is majoring in speech pathology and audiology, interned at Akron Children’s Hospital during the summer of 2019 as a pediatric research scholar. She began her internship thinking that she wanted to be a speech pathologist working in some area of the medical field. Through her internship, she was able to shadow multiple different specializations, and that helped her realize that she did not want to pursue a career in speech pathology after all, and her current plan is now to attend graduate school to study audiology. Elise says that her internship helped her discover her passion for audiology, and it solidified that she definitely wants to continue doing research.

Elise also knows firsthand the multiple ways in which Kent State and the Honors College supports and encourages students who are completing internships. In addition to allowing her to receive honors credit for her experience, the university also has money allotted to assist students such as Elise who plan to travel to present their research, so they do not have to worry about the cost of doing so, which Elise says “is a really big help.” She submitted an abstract to the annual Undergraduate Research Symposium at Kent State, and she also recently submitted an abstract to be considered for the American Epilepsy Society conference next year.

While an internship can be a great way for students to discover new career interests, it can also help students reaffirm their interest and gain hands-on experience in their desired career field. Matthew Fowler, an Honors College junior majoring in public health and sociology from Brewster, Ohio, is currently completing an internship with the Kent State LGBTQ+ Center. His responsibilities include contributing to annual events and furthering the center’s health advocacy initiatives, both of which help connect the internship to his academic studies. Matthew says that he has gained numerous invaluable skills through his internship, such as being okay with needing to ask questions and not knowing everything, which he says is a “monumental step” in his professional development. The internship has also helped him learn how to come up with creative solutions to complex issues that affect the student population that the LGBTQ+ Center serves. Lastly, Matthew says that the internship has helped him greatly improve his networking skills, and that he feels more confident talking on the phone or meeting with administrators of different departments. All of these skills will benefit Matthew in his future career as a researcher and public health official.

Rachel Karas, a junior journalism major with a minor in photojournalism, anticipates that her internship during the summer of 2020 with the Columbus Dispatch will help her gain a better idea of what aspect of the journalism field she should pursue after she graduates. As a “metro” intern, she will be assigned to cover anything that happens in the downtown area or that is related to the community, and she is excited to gain experience in the field conducting interviews and reporting stories. While Rachel has worked in a variety of positions in student media at Kent State, she hopes to gain from her internship “a better idea of what it takes to be a real journalist.” Her peers’ endorsements of the Columbus Dispatch based on their own internship experiences encouraged her to seek an internship with the newspaper. Some of the details of Rachel’s upcoming internship have changed due to the coronavirus pandemic: the start date for the internship has been delayed, but she still expects to work at the internship site for twelve weeks. Her supervisors have also been very transparent and communicative and have expressed that they are willing to be flexible given the circumstances. Rachel says that the newspaper has treated its incoming interns like “fellow journalists” while being mindful of the struggles that students may be facing during this time, and she adds that the manner in which the Dispatch has handled the changes has reinforced “all the good things [she] heard about them that made [her] want to apply in the first place.”

For students who are considering an internship or are seeking internship opportunities, Mathew advises students to remember that “the person on the other of the side of the table is rooting for you and wants you to be amazing.” Other pieces of great advice include pursuing as many opportunities as possible, reaching out to organizations that students are interested in working for directly in addition to using job search sites such as Indeed and Handshake, and not being intimidated by the number of applicants a position receives. As Elise says, “If you’re passionate about something, it’s worth it,” she says.

Kent State’s Career Exploration and Development provides students with multiple resources to aid in internship and job searches, including help crafting and revising resumes and mock interviews. Students who are interested in pursuing an internship opportunity through the Honors College should talk to their advisor and visit the internships page on the Honors College website.

POSTED: Wednesday, April 8, 2020 - 12:44pm
UPDATED: Friday, April 10, 2020 - 11:37am
Nina Palattella, Honors College writing intern