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CMU students gain real world work experience with summer internships.

Transformational internships

CMU students spend the summer preparing for great careers

Contact: Ari Harris

​When you hear the word "internship," do you think of making endless copies, fumbling with ancient coffee machines or running pointless errands for a manic boss?

Think again.

Central Michigan University students take the reins at internships where they can put their stamp on the businesses and organizations they serve.

At CMU's College of Business Administration, for example, the new strategic plan directs students to "seek out transformational experiences that prepare you for successful careers."

"Most of our students have a high level of responsibility in their positions. The work they do has real impact on their company, saving time or money or both," said Karen Arthur, director of business student services.

It means more than making copies. In these internships, Arthur said, students manage a real workload in a professional setting and adjust to the company culture. They build crucial professional skills and gain experience they can add to their résumés.

They even return to campus as better learners.

"They come back more confident and engaged in their coursework. They speak up more often in class to share what they've experienced. The examples in their textbooks are suddenly relatable and real," Arthur said.

Here's a sampling of the transformational experiences CMU students are completing this summer.


'I've developed so much confidence'

Samir Bahadur, a purchasing and supply chain management and logistics management double major, first connected with Amway at a networking night hosted by the student Supply Chain Management Association and completed his first internship as a sophomore.

Now he's an intern in Amway's global project management, working toward the European release of a new probiotic product. He collaborates with product developers, marketing mavens, supply chain managers, compliance officers from regulatory affairs and representatives of European affiliates.

"At first it was intimidating to be in the room with these subject matter experts and realize they were looking to me for input," he said.

"I've developed so much confidence leading meetings. Being in a lead role made me focus on organization; follow-through; and clear, effective communication skills."


Wearing all the hats

Anna Lukens, a senior studying hospitality services administration, gets jazzed when she can make someone's day.

"I love to go out of my way to give a guest a top-notch stay. That's what hospitality is all about: exceeding expectations," she said.

As an operations intern at the Courtyard by Marriott Detroit Downtown, Lukens is constantly on the lookout for ways to improve her guests' experiences, and she's thinking like a supervisor.

"The smallest issue can logjam an entire day. I'm learning just how important communication between divisions and teams is for day-to-day operations."

Lukens splits her time between several departments: front desk, housekeeping, valet and front office. She attends management meetings with supervisors in all areas and often serves as the manager on duty in the evenings.

"Being involved in several departments allows me to see how everyone works together most efficiently and where we can make improvements in service. This experience gives me so many options for my next step on my career path."


Senior Joseph Fillips is checking off one last item from his pre-commencement list: an internship to prepare him for a career in law enforcement.

The sociology: social and criminal justice major is spending his summer interning in his hometown with the Oceana County Sheriff's office.

His duties include road patrol, corrections, attending court hearings, marine patrol and assisting the Michigan Department of Natural Resources with sand dune patrol. He's taking what he learned in class and putting it to work as he interacts with people throughout the day.

"My class on police and community relations really focused on getting out into the community and working with people. There's often a disconnect between what the community thinks we do, what we actually do and the way what we do is portrayed in the media."

He said he's had many opportunities to change the minds of people who are nervous about talking with law enforcement officers.

"I didn't want to just sit behind a desk typing reports. The thing I enjoy the most about this internship is being able to go out and be in the community. I enjoy that connection with people and the ability to make a positive impact on their lives."


Spreadsheet lessons pay off

As a meat and seafood intern at Meijer, Trevor Shafer is studying the way customers find, compare and choose protein snacks. The senior marketing and logistics double major is thankful for all the time he spent using spreadsheets in classes at CMU.

"On normal days, I run reports and analyze data that can help me determine where certain products should be placed," he said.

After a visit to the distribution center, he began attending vendor meetings and visiting competitors to compare shelving strategy. He's also taking advantage of Meijer professional development workshops, building his presentation and business etiquette skills. Shafer also collaborates with interns in many other areas.

"There are over 100 of us working this summer, and it's been great to sit down with people from other areas to brainstorm."


Making camp more fun

For many young children, summer camp is often an opportunity to run wild and explore nature. For senior Lexi Harvey, it's a chance to build leadership, communication and organizational skills.

 The public and nonprofit administration major created her own internship at Camp Blodgett on Lake Michigan this summer, looking for areas of improvement in camp operations and championing innovation among its counselors.

Making changes meant communicating her plans to camp staff, counselors and campers.

"My vision was large, and at first I wasn't clearly communicating with my staff. There were many hiccups in that first week," she said.

"I asked for and received feedback and was able to make the changes needed to help everyone feel more confident. To effectively communicate as a leader, I had to make sure my work was organized and that I clearly communicated my expectations."

She can tell her ideas are having an impact on the campers and the staff. She's added in several hours' worth of new activities for campers and added a camper-run newspaper to help kids explore their creativity and practice their own communication skills.

"Watching their hard work come to life was a very meaningful experience and something I'm glad I brought to Camp Blodgett."


'I've got to take initiative'

The unlikely combination of filmmaking, marketing and health care created the perfect internship for Russell Snow.

"You've got to show prospective employers that you can bring something unique to the job," he said.

Snow is spending the summer creating and managing video content for Spectrum Health. The role combines skills he's learned in broadcast and cinematic arts and marketing classes and positions him for a career in a booming industry.

Snow communicates with a variety of audiences, whether it's working with physicians on their bios for the website, sharing information with customers looking for a doctor or showcasing employee activity to shareholders.

"The freedom to create my schedule and choose projects is both the best and the most challenging thing about this internship," he said. "They're not just telling me what to do. I've got to take initiative and decide how to accomplish my goals."


A chance to connect and serve

Derek Scholl knew he wanted to help people, but he wasn't quite sure how. When he started taking classes in social justice, he knew he'd found his fit.

Now the senior sociology major is interning at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, helping people apply for and receive information about benefits programs.

"It's definitely building my cultural sensitivity. When I go into work, I see every race, ethnicity and level of socio-economic status. It opened my eyes to the different lives of people who are advantaged or disadvantaged."

Scholl works in the lobby area, assisting clients with computer kiosks and completing paperwork, troubleshooting problems, and helping to calm frustrated individuals.

"People panic when their benefits stop. I have had to practice patience, conflict resolution and communication to de-escalate tense situations."

What he enjoys most is the knowledge that he's making a difference.

"I sit down one-on-one with clients to help them all day, every day. Best of all, I'm helping them learn to help themselves."

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