Before she took an internship in the spring of her junior year, Wren Satterley ’12 had not even considered human resources as a possible career choice. Now, with the connections she has made, she is pursuing the field and hopes it will be her first job after graduation.
Satterley is just one of the students who has participated in and benefited from the local internships offered by the Sherman and Gloria H. Cohen Career Center. The program began in the late 1990s and gives students the opportunity to learn about their chosen field of employment firsthand.
Tiffanie Rosier, assistant director of the Cohen Career Center, took over the program in the fall of 2010 and claims that it is one of a kind.
“The really great part about the local internship program is that whether or not you’re looking for a really specific experience in a field you know you like, or if you’re just looking to explore, the employers are very aware of that and they are open to that. I think that’s what makes this program very unique,” Rosier said.
In Satterley’s case, exploration was one of the most important aspects of the program. She had the opportunity to learn about a variety of positions and, according to her, the ease of the application process made the experience that much more positive.
“I am the biggest advocate of this program, and I think the best thing about it is how easy it is to apply,” Satterley said. “You just need to get your resume approved by the Career Center, upload it online, and apply. I applied for ten positions and fell in love with the one I was offered.”
The internships offered are specifically designed for the college student’s schedule and do not demand more than 10 hours every week. The companies are told beforehand that students are not expected to work during breaks scheduled by the College.
The companies looking for student help vary from year to year, but in the past they have ranged from a position at a local radio station to a Herpetology internship at the Virginia Living Museum.
“We work throughout the year to create partnerships with local businesses, and then we allow the students to sign up for those positions,” Rosier said. “The companies are always really excited to work with William and Mary students.”
A majority of the internships available to students are within city limits, so transportation is rarely an issue. Even certain College departments have become involved in the program.
Susan Mongold, director of training and development in the College’s office of human resources, has been utilizing student interns for the past two years, including Satterley.
“I really believe that at a college, you should find every way you can to involve students,” she said. “Just because I’m in administration doesn’t mean I can’t use the work I’m doing for employees to help out what students are doing. So it’s just a nice way to make a complete picture. My work is employee-driven; I’m here to serve the employees. When I involve the students, they have a different perspective, and it makes it very rich.”
It was Satterley’s experience with Mongold’s department that inspired her to pursue the field as a possible first job after graduation. She started in the spring of her junior year, then requested to stay on for the summer and her senior year.
“I loved the program,” Satterley said. “I would tell anyone to join it just because I decided to do it on a whim, and it ended up being applicable to my major. I was given projects that catered to the exact preferences that I requested in the interview ⎯ I could even pick my hours.”
One of the best aspects of the program for Satterley was its proximity, as it was on-campus. She claims that the overall experience she received was invaluable.
“I can’t speak for all the internships, but in my case at least, I was doing everything hands-on,” she said. “You’re not there to stuff envelopes ⎯ you’re able to gain real life experience that you wouldn’t get at other basic internships.”
Sophomores and juniors are the program’s most frequent applicants, but Rosier says it is open to all social classes. Oftentimes companies impressed with their interns will ask them to stay on for future semesters, sometimes advancing them to paid internships, which freshmen could potentially benefit from the most.
Rosier has also seen students offered employment after participating in an internship, which, without a doubt, would be motivation for a senior participant.
“One of my student interns used me as a reference for another job she was applying for,” Mongold said. “I was able to use examples from her time working with us, and I believe she got the job.”
Ultimately, the program aims to help students gain the experience necessary for making career decisions after college. And, according to Mongold, it succeeds.
“I think it gives you a taste of a real world job,” she said. “It lets you see the work environment. Maybe you don’t want to be in an office after you intern in one. You start realizing what you do and do not want to do. It helps you refine what your career goals are.”