“We’re here to help students through every stage of their career development,” said Dan Gomez-Palacio, Career Services assistant director. “Internships are fast becoming a bigger part of the undergraduate experience. Employers are looking for candidates with internship experience.”
Gomez- Palacio is part of a four-person Career Services team. The department operates as a standardized, centralized system for the college, bringing both students and employers to one focused place for organized assistance. According to Gomez-Palacio, that centralized system creates a win-win for both groups.
“We help make the job search more encouraging for the student and the employee search easier for the employers,” he said. “Our primary role is to give students the ability and tools to connect with internships and employers.
Each year, Career Services assists approximately 3,500 students and alumni. In addition to working with organizations nationwide, at Columbia College’s main campus based in Columbia, Mo., the department works with between 50 and 60 organizations seeking interns and/or employees, helping them fill their positions with Columbia College’s qualified and ready pool of applicants.
One of the college’s most exciting new internship programs, the Big Lots Corporate Office Internship Program launched in the fall of 2011. The program works with Columbia College to give Columbia College students experience that serves as a pipeline to store management positions within Big Lots.
Christina Pontello, a resident of Syracuse, N.Y., and student at Columbia College-Hancock Field, saw the Big Lots Internship Program as a way to further educate herself in all aspects of business dealings and to sharpen her customer service skills.
Pontello used the internship experience to learn what it takes to run a business. She made it a point to go the extra mile to assist her customers in every way possible.
“Acknowledging customers is such a vital part of the job. By interacting with them they become more open to ask questions and seek your help,” she said.
Pontello also learned that a positive atmosphere was beneficial to her fellow associates as well. She made it a point to promote an uplifting work environment for her fellow co-workers and her peers.
“It’s a very worthwhile experience,” she said about her Big Lots internship. “I think that it will prove to be a valuable program in the future for many students.”
Stephanie Crowley, a native of Wonder Lake, Ill., was among a number of college students who spent her summer in the Big Lots Internship Program.
Crowley, a graduate of Woodstock High School, attended McHenry County College and is currently enrolled at Columbia College-Crystal Lake, working toward a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
“I heard about the job through school and saw it as an amazing learning experience,” Crowley said. “I'm currently training to be an assistant store manager after the 10 week program.”
Much of Big Lots success over the years has come from the company’s dedication to creating the best customer experience possible. As part of her internship, Stephanie was able to see firsthand many of the processes that the store takes to ensure that everyday operations run smoothly.
“The company focuses on what's important now and is very customer driven,” Crowley said.
Much of what Crowley learned about the business came from hands-on experiences and leadership through action.
“I worked with a wonderful staff of patient people. Between, the district manager, store manager, assistant and everyone else, I was able to get the help I needed to be successful.”
Crowley was impressed with professionalism and strong sense of teamwork that worked in a rather small business, a quality that she also likes about Columbia College.
“I'm not cut out for a big time university so this campus was a perfect fit for me,” Crowley said. “I love the intern program and would recommend it to anyone.”
In addition to Big Lots, Columbia College students and alums are taking part in a wide variety of internships. Danielle Gaw, a junior at Columbia College, spent her 2012 summer internship with the Houston Astros . Danielle experiences have given her a look at sports management and marketing (her major) in action.
“It’s been absolutely amazing,” says Gaw.
Gaw is part of a five-member street team for the Astros that undertakes and leads grass roots marketing in Houston and south Texas. She’s gained experience with focus groups and running analytics, plus had the opportunity to represent the Astros at player signings and other public events around town, handing out tickets and interacting with the public. She also helps with pregame festivities, such as the ceremonial first pitch and national anthem.
“I’m not just getting coffee or helping with copies,” Gaw says. “I am seeing how the business side of sports works. It’s very cool to see the whole process.”
Similar to Gaw, Columbia College student Adam McChesney is a sports management and marketing major participating in an internship this summer. Adam was seeking an internship that will allow him to return home for the summer and give him career experience at the same time. McChesney found the perfect fit with the River City Rascals in St. Louis .
McChesney said he started the summer as a ticket sales intern. He’s also gained experience in the team store, in press the box taking care of game music and in public relations sending out press releases. His favorite part of his internship has been the sales experience he’s gained and having the opportunity to work with groups and fans. He expects the sales experience to be very valuable when he is ready to look for a job after graduation.
Ready to enter his junior year in the fall, McChesney said his River City Rascals internship was perfect timing. He looks forward to taking what he’s learned through the experience in the more specific classes for his major as he finishes his Columbia College education. “It will give me a big step forward,” he said.
McChesney plans to use this year’s River City Rascals internship as a springboard to help him land another internship next year, continuing to build his career path. A student-athlete, McChesney will complete his internship Aug. 1, in time to return to Columbia College for the fall soccer season.
Brittany Fischer, St. Louis Crisis Nursery
Recent Columbia College graduate Brittany Fischer has always known what her career path would be. A human services major, Fischer never doubted that she would work with kids, but her 2012 summer internship has helped her hone in even more closely on how she will make a contribution in the world – through helping disadvantaged children.
Earlier this year, Fischer was searching for a job after graduation. Keeping her mind open to any internships that might be a good fit and possibly open doors for a job later, she found the St. Louis Crisis Nursery (SLCN).
“I thought it would be a good place to start out,” Fischer said. “It’s worked out really well. “
An independent, not-for-profit agency, the SLCN is committed to preventing child abuse and neglect by providing short-term, emergency shelter for children, birth through age 12, whose families are faced with emergencies or who are in crisis. The SLCN operates five locations in the St. Louis-area.
Through her internship, Fischer said the observation experience has been enlightening. “In classes, they can teach us about environments,” she said. “But it’s a lot different getting to actually see what is going on.”
Fischer has had the opportunity to work with and observe counseling sessions, art therapy, therapeutic instruction and more. She has also benefitted from a variety of training workshops and had the opportunity to work on fundraising events.
Talking with her internship supervisors about what happens next, Fischer hopes the eight-week internship will end with a job at the SLCN.
When Columbia College professor and DECA advisor Angie Kinworthy mentioned the Columbia Daily Tribune was looking for a marketing intern for the summer, Jessica Houston headed to Career Service to find out more. From there, she applied for and landed an internship that she said is helping her figure out what she really wants to do with her career.
From Mexico, Mo., Houston is majoring in marketing, with a minor in communications, and will be a junior at Columbia College this fall. Since late May, she has been working four days a week as a sales and marketing intern at the Tribune, taking on a dual-role for the newspaper.
Houston has been working with the sales department to create a 2013 marketing plan for the Tribune. On the sales side of the business, she says a lot of her time is devoted to research – online and via talking with staff members – plus reviewing information from The Media Audit and conducting competitive analysis of other local news sources, including television, radio and other print media.
“It’s very similar to the capstone project I will complete for graduation,” said Houston, excited about the experience she is gaining.
Working with the marketing department, she has also taken an active part in the representing the Tribune at local events, such as Art in the Park and golf tournaments. She’s also helped with new ideas and brainstorming sessions.
“I think the internship will prepare me so much for what I want to do with the rest of my life,” Houston said.