Internships give students edge in job market

By: Kyle Gruber

March 20, 2013

This semester, three Dominican students are meeting with the power elite, making career contacts and earning Dominican credits all while spending a semester in Washington, D.C.

Through the Washington Internship Institute, a program based in Washington, D.C., Dominican students have had the opportunity to choose between a range of semester-long internships. The WII serves to connections between students and professionals in various politically related career fields.

Through the WII programs, students can receive up to 14 credit hours over the course of a semester. The program is broken up into eight internship credit hours and two, three credit hours courses, explained David Dolence, political science professor at Dominican University.

“It is such a great program, because a lot times, people don’t want to do internships or study abroad things because they lose credit hour by being gone,” Dolence said.

Dominican’s five years of affiliation with the WII has added to the many financial benefits for students.

“We have an affiliation with them, and all the tuition and all financial aid actually goes with students to Washington D.C.,” Dolence explained.

The WII essentially does all the work finding the internship that students are most interested in.

“The people in Washington worked very hard to get me the right internship,” Sharon Rurangirwa, Dominican student and current WII participant, said. “They are a wonderful group of people.”

The process of applying for the program is fairly simple. Students write personal and professional essays regarding what they would like to do while in Washington, D.C. Upon acceptance into the program, associates with the WII reply back to students with a list of 10 potential internships. The student then rates the programs in order of interest. Interviews are then set up between the student and company.

“The employers that like your package will call you and you will do a phone interview,” said Dolence. “If they like you, they will offer you a position. We almost always get students with two to three offers.”

Dominican student Rebecca Lawler is participating in the program this semester as an intern with the National Crime Prevention Council. Lawler is enjoying the connections she continues to make throughout her time in Washington, D.C.

“The WII provides a ton of networking events for the group,” Lawler said. “Even without the WII events, I now have lasting connections with the people I am working with. I had to quickly learn how to network and use resources to my advantage.”

Lawler enjoys her internship role because she feels like she is an actual employee.

“My supervisor’s goal was to make this a career experience for me and not making me ‘just the intern’,” she explained.

Dominican student Janet Vargas agrees that the experience seems to be beneficial towards students’ futures.

“This experience will help me determine what I want to do post-graduation,” she said.  “It is also a necessary experience since today’s job market is competitive and employers value internships.”

Career Development is also very willing to help students obtain internships outside of the WII as well.

“We work with students who aren’t sure where they want to do their internships with some assessments,” Keli Wojciechowski, director of Career Development, said. “We also maintain lists of internships that employers are trying to seek. We can help students get connected with those opportunities.”

In order for a student to receive academic credit, they need to work a minimum of 40 hours for every credit hour they are registered for. In addition to students receiving academic credit, students can be paid for doing an internship.

“We [see] probably 50 to 60 percent of internships are paid, depending on the discipline,” Wojciechowski said.

Nevertheless, some employers are notorious for giving interns busy work and not make the student’s learning experience worthwhile. Dominican works hard to eliminate the possibility of this trend happening to its students.

“The employer has to give a job description and the faculty member in that discipline actually approves or does not approve the internship based on that description from the employer,” Wojciechowski said.

Internships ultimately provide students the opportunity to network and gain job experience.

“It is not about the job offers, it is about the networks that lead to the job offers,” Dolence said.

“To the employer, if you already have worked in the field for an internship, it means you kind of understand what you are getting yourself into and you got that relevant work experience so your learning curve won’t be quiet as steep,” Wojciechowski agrees.