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Career Connections Integrates Internships into the Curriculum

CANTON — Over the summer, Paige Randall ’15, like many college students across the country, participated in an internship to gain practical job training that related to her academic experiences. Paige went a step further, however, by being one of 17 students who took part in St. Lawrence University’s inaugural Career Connections Program.

The new program developed last year at St. Lawrence is helping students bridge their internship experiences with their academic programming through a combination of coursework and experiential learning. As a way to help coordinate St. Lawrence’s existing career-related resources, the Career Connections Program helps students find new internship opportunities while effectively blending together their academic and work experiences.

Geoffrey Falen, director of Career Connections, explained that the program is meant to have students think critically about their internship experience, how it relates to their academic work and how it might benefit them after graduation.

“Earning a degree in today’s job market is simply not enough,” Falen said. “Employers want job-ready candidates. We want to help students who take part in an internship turn that into an experiential education component of their learning experience at St. Lawrence.”

As a government major and Arabic minor, Paige interned at the Law Offices of Maloney and Mohsen, PLLC in Washington, D.C., performing new client intakes and attending depositions, mediations, and civil and criminal trials. For Paige, the internship was not only an extension of what she had learned in the classroom but also an affirmation of her degree choice.

“I have been able to use this internship to assure myself that I am on the correct career path,” she said. “It was an incredible, hands-on experience that is unmatched in the classroom.”

As part of the Career Connections Program, a specific internship course was created to provide another way for students to integrate their work experiences with classroom learning. During the internship, which must be approved by the office, a student enrolls in the required Career Connections course, requiring them to spend at least 50 hours over six weeks at the approved internship site. Students must also work closely with a supervisor during the internship.

“From an initial group of about 40 students, 17 eventually took part in an approved internship this summer,” Falen said. “All students had to write their own learning objectives for their internship, log their activities and observations, then write a two- to four-page reflective assessment on how they met those learning objectives.”

The Career Connections Program will continue to grow and evolve. Falen plans to involve the external community in helping support students’ career ambitions and development by providing information and mentoring. He also would like to add stipends to help students cover living costs for summer internships.

“We plan to hold a boot-camp for students in January with significant alumni and parent involvement, focusing on developing career skills and introducing different industry areas as well as helping students find internships,” Falen said. “Since many students work over the summers to help pay for their education, we will also be looking to help students get funding for their internships. Finding an internship is one thing; finding funding is another.”

Career Connections is supported by a generous grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations. For more information, visit the Career Connections website at www.stlawu.edu/career-connections.