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The Beacon

William Paterson University's Official Student-Run Newspaper

The Beacon

The Importance of Internships for College Students: WPU Edition

William Paterson University students, alumni, and career advisors consider internship experiences critical for students to have before graduation.
Associate professor Lorra Brown and the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences internship coordinator Tia Cherry stand with Dr. Yoo thanking William Paterson University alum Zachary Hertz for recruiting students at a public relations career and internship fair. Photo courtesy of Sahira Duran-Lopez.

WAYNE – Sidal Yurt, a graduate student studying clinical and counseling psychology at William Paterson University, did her first internship in Turkey during the summer of her senior year.

She worked in an internship position at Sone Psikoloji, a mental health care institution that provides individual, child and adolescent, couple and family counseling services. She had previous experience in doing research as an undergraduate student, and her work was published in Turkish literacy magazines and online platforms.

“My internship experience, coupled with my previous writing background, has proven invaluable,” Yurt said. “I gained insights into psychologist-client relationships and deepened my knowledge of mental health disorders.”

Today, she works as a graduate assistant for the university’s marketing department where she specializes in web development, content managing systems and content management. The skills that she uses in her job have come from what she has learned from her internship.

Doing internships in college is essential to an undergraduate student’s education so they have hands-on experience in their career path. Students have worked alongside professors and career advisors every semester in building toward job applications and creating resumes to be hired.

“It is essential that students go above and beyond passively searching and applying to any opportunity they see,” said Lorra Brown, an associate professor and previous internship coordinator for the Department of Communication. “Identifying some key target organizations and aligning skills and strengths to those positions is a much more effective strategy to secure a coveted internship position.”

Universities work to ensure that students receive professional development opportunities. The Career Development Center helps educate and prepare students for career success through a variety of activities.

Our core services include one-on-one career coaching on topics including major/career exploration and career preparation,” said Mary Alice Barrows, the director of the center. “Through our campus recruiting program, we build relationships with employers who want to hire WP students for internship and job opportunities.”

Additionally, students are given opportunities by department chair members to take courses that require them to intern. Tara Barr, a graduate student studying public health, interned at the U.S. Department of Labor OSHA to fulfill her requirement of taking a two-part internship course.

Barr worked alongside the administration and safety team to complete office tasks including filing, processing fees, and calling businesses. She also worked with the industrial hygienist team and attended site visits to companies in Bergen County.

“My experience was great,” Barr said. “This internship introduced me to a new experience within public health and showed me how important networking is while working in the public sector.”

At WPU, students are required by the dean to have at least 59 credits in select departments to apply for an internship that gives college credit. As a result, many students would struggle to get internships and jobs after graduation because of the amount of experience that they need to gain.

“A lot of internships have high expectations out of students,” said Brianna Rodriguez, a senior studying media studies, public relations and women and gender studies. “Many students may not have professional experience yet, and those students are not always given a chance because companies look for the applicants with the most skills.”

According to Westmont College, more than half of employers expect college graduates to have at least two internships related to the job they’re applying for. In fact, many people have up to four internships.

“Employers are seeking candidates with relevant experiences,” said Alma Diaz, the assistant director of the Career Development Center. “To be competitive in the job market, students should have one or two experiential learning opportunities before graduation. Thousands of students are graduating with similar degrees each year and applying for the same jobs.”

Every day, students are encouraged by their professors and advisors to receive internship experiences that will help them determine where they will work. Keandrei Tarver, a senior studying media production and media studies, emphasized the importance of working in internships to find belonging.

“Internships give students the opportunity to test the waters and see what they really do like when it comes to working in their field,” Tarver said. “Not only does it make you more certain of where you belong, but it allows you to build a large network and broaden your resume for the next thing you happen to apply to.”

For Yurt, her summer internship influenced her career path and demonstrated how meaningful internships are for students.

Internships are a bridge between academic learning and professional success, thus crucial for students,” she said. “Working in a professional environment can be invaluable in helping students make career choices and establish realistic expectations for their professional future.”

The Career Development Center is open Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. To meet with a staff member, please schedule an appointment by contacting the main office at 973-720-3291 or by visiting Handshake.

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Rochelle Estrada, Contributing Writer

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