A summer career snapshot
CMU students complete internships to explore employment options and build skills
Thomas Lassitter, a Central Michigan University senior studying marketing and logistics management, knew he needed to complete an internship — not just for course credit, but to get a snapshot of his future.
"You get a feel for the culture, projects and people at a company. You are able to ask yourself the questions like: Would I thrive in this environment, could I add to this team, and do my personal values match the company's culture," he said.
"Internships allow you to formulate your own opinion as to what you find important and value at a place of work."
Lassitter spent the summer working in the purchasing department at the Ford Motor Co. He's one of many CMU students who used time away from campus to build their professional skills and search for the right career fit.
Here are a few examples of how students like Lassitter explored their future.
Champion for justice
Senior Lexi Robinson, a public and nonprofit administration student from Novi, Michigan, spent the summer interning with the National Community Reinvestment Coalition in Washington, D.C.
She split her time between the communications and development departments, writing program materials for a new initiative and researching funding opportunities to support the organization's mission. Robinson had prior experience with grant writing and nonprofit management from her CMU courses. She felt the faculty in her program had really prepared her to be an asset to NCRC.
"My favorite part of the internship was knowing I was an active participant in creating the change the organization seeks to make. I really enjoyed working in a place that promotes economic justice on all fronts," Robinson said.
"My experience here has provided me with greater clarity about what I want to do and what it will take for me to get there. I want to work for a mission-driven organization that makes real change in communities."
Driven to keep roads safe
Stan Kolek, a graduate student in the applied experimental psychology program, completed an internship at the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, where he put research and analytical skills learned at CMU to work on projects designed to educate people about traffic safety and to make roads safer.
His work often involved data organization and analysis, copy writing, and reviewing. His background working with statistical analysis software, such as SPSS, and his research at CMU's Driver Education, Evaluation and Research Center played key roles in his daily activities.
"The team was always thinking about the global aspect of their work, whether it be how our research impacts specific roadways in the United States or impacts perceptions of traffic safety worldwide," Kolek said. "It forced me to think creatively and always keep in mind the overall goals of my work."
When you have three majors, as CMU senior Hanna Clark does, it can be difficult to find an internship to suit all your academic interests. Clark found her perfect fit at a nonprofit in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Clark — who is majoring in political science, public and nonprofit administration, and international relations — spent her summer as an English language intern at the Foundation for Older Persons' Development, writing reports, planning social media and helping the local staff with their English skills.
The international internship cemented her desire to pursue a career as a foreign service officer.
"Experiencing other cultures and ways of life makes me think about my own values and how I wish to live my life," Clark said. "This experience continued my desire to travel and become as globally minded as I can be."
Stephen Messing, a senior from Frankenmuth, Michigan, knew that his field of study, electrical engineering, was broad.
"There is such a wide variety of exceptionally distinct jobs, and it can be tough to know what a certain job will be like — that's why internships are important. They give you a brief taste of one specific job."
Messing spent the summer working at Collins Aerospace in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he partnered with experienced engineers and technicians to troubleshoot problems with a variety of radios. He said his classes at CMU and his experiences with the CMU chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers prepared him for the challenge.
"I was surprised how often experienced engineers asked for my opinion about the problems they were trying to solve," he said.
Health and hospitality
Megan Underwood, a senior hospitality services administration major from Goodrich, Michigan, wasn't considering a future in health care when she accepted an internship at the Hospitality House at the McLaren hospital in Flint. The nonprofit provides accommodations for families of patients receiving treatment at the hospital.
"My biggest takeaway from my experience is that hospitality is a very broad industry. It can range from luxury resorts to events and even to patient experiences. I am truly grateful to have experienced a side of hospitality that doesn't get mentioned very often," she said.
Underwood helped patient families with check-in, set up spaces for meetings and conferences, helped with reservation and even helped to secure sponsorships for fundraising events.
"This internship has broadened my view of employment and piqued my interest in the possibility of working with a hospital in the future.
Designs for a future in fashion
"I had been told that half the classes you take in college are things you'll never use or see again. Over the ourse of my internship, I've come to believe exactly the opposite," said Nick Poli, a fashion merchandising and design student from Alpena, Michigan.
Poli, a senior, completed an internship at Jockey International, where he worked alongside technical designers in product lifecycle management. He often helped update packaging designs and conduct garment analysis.
The experience was Poli's first in a professional corporate setting, and it has been a big first step in his career journey.
"People always complain about companies wanting 2-4 years' experience for entry-level positions, but many don't realize you can work in your degree field for a summer as an intern and get a great start on that required experience."
A snapshot of the future
Hundreds of CMU students completed internships this summer — did you? Tell us about your experience by adding your photo and story on our Facebook page using #lifeatcentral.