Liberal arts students share internship experiences, thank community partners

(Left) Sarah Aisenbrey, a graduate student pursuing a master's degree in public history shares her recent internship experience with one of the dozens of community partners who attended the Internship Celebration Breakfast.

The testimonials from eager and thankful liberal arts students painted a clear picture—they value their chances to shine in professional environments as much as they value their entire educational experience.

“It made me well rounded.”

“I learned what to expect for my career.”

“It opened up networking opportunities for me.”

“My internship helped me find my passion.”

During the 2013–14 academic year, the College of Liberal Arts saw 200 of its students participate in internships. The hard-working group logged nearly 25,000 internship hours.

Students thanked representatives from community companies, organizations and nonprofits at a breakfast April 29 that included college leaders and about 50 employers from the area. About 150 community partners are currently working with the college to supply internship opportunities that are often required.

“Internships are exceedingly valuable.  What we do in the classroom prepares students for what’s going on in the real world, but the hands-on experience they gain during an internship is a critical part of the learning process,” said Kristin Sobolik, dean of the college.

The college aims to give liberal arts students the critical thinking, problem solving and communication skills that employers crave.

Brittney Riviello, a senior mass communications major interested in working in public relations for a professional athletics organization, shared her invaluable experiences.

“Both internships have helped me become more assertive,” said Riviello. “Before, I was a little standoffish. I kept to myself. I didn’t want to give input. Now I’m more likely to go up to others in a professional environment and I’m better spoken.”

Riviello concluded her internship with Major League Soccer (MLS) in the Fall Semester and just concluded a second internship with local news station WKEF/WRGT-TV.

Seth Marshall’s time at the National Museum of the United States Air Force was not his first experience working in a museum, but he said the experience was in line with the benefits he was expecting: practical experience.

“It’s important I think to have practical experience in what you want to do. Maybe that means discovering that you want to do something else or maybe it just affirms that you are choosing the right career for you, but it gives you that practical experience in the field,” said Marshall.

Poised to earn his master’s in public history, Marshall affirmed that internships are just as important for liberal arts students as they are for students learning in the STEM disciplines.

“I think they’re extremely critical because the difference between liberal arts and STEM is that perhaps in science, technology, engineering or mathematics you get more hands-on laboratory work whereas in liberal arts, and more specifically in my discipline of humanities and in film theory, it’s very much about book study,” said Abigail Sorensen, a first-year graduate student who just concluded her internship with FilmDayton.

Sorensen helped organize the Sun Dog Film Festival, a film festival for area high school and middle school students. Sorensen pointed out that she could feel a difference in how she’d experienced working on what was her second film festival in contrast to the first.

“In my first internship experience, with that film festival, I observed a lot more and helped complete tasks. This time I was leading and working on bigger projects, helping to pull the whole event off,” said Sorensen.

It’s that kind of trajectory that college and community partner leaders are targeting. A recent survey of companies and organizations that use interns said the No. 1 reason they do it is to recruit full-time employees.

“Internships are kind of like practice camps before going to a job,” said Marshall. “And if you do well, you might just come out with an offer if the timing is right.”

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