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About U Message from the administration.

Chaucey Aboutu

Coastal Carolina University: Not just a place to go to school!

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By Robert Sheehan, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs

One of the persistent stereotypes of college depicts a place where people study and learn in leafy isolation, far away from the real workaday world. While that ivory tower image may never have been true, it is definitely not an accurate picture of Coastal Carolina University, where work experience and schooling are seamlessly joined in each of our colleges through sponsored internships.

In recent years, the Career Services Center of CCU, as well as selected colleges and departments within the University, have significantly increased the number and range of internship opportunities available to our students. More than 1,000 CCU students are participating in internships this academic year at more than 250 locations.

Internships are opportunities for students to gain on-the-job work experience while they work toward completing their college degrees. Internships typically carry college credit that counts toward students’ degree programs. Although internships often pay students, sometimes the experience is so valuable that students pursue internships that don’t offer compensation. While there is a national debate on whether internships should carry credit, and on whether compensation is appropriate (see the May 14, 2010 Chronicle of Higher Education), there is no debate  that students who do internships find jobs after college more quickly than those who don’t. CCU students are advised that their chances of obtaining employment related to their field of study increase by 60 percent if they participate in a single internship—and 90 percent if they participate in a second internship during their college career. 

In October 2010, The U.S. News & World Report disclosed that accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers draws more than 70 percent of its new hires from its internship program. The article goes on to say that “more than ever, schools across the country are pushing students of all majors toward internships, and several have even added them to their graduation requirements.” I am pleased to report that we have several programs at Coastal Carolina University that carry this graduation requirement, and we are exploring options for enhancing internship delivery and participation. 

Coastal Carolina University’s internships vary greatly in employer classification. CCU interns are placed with employers such as insurance companies; banking, accounting and personal finance agencies; legal services; doctors' offices; schools; churches; state agencies; counseling and human service agencies; fitness centers; and sales and advertising agencies, just to name a few. While many CCU internships are based in the Grand Strand area, our students conduct internships all over the country and the world. For example, the Professional Golf Management Program has sponsored Coastal students at Valhalla Country Club in Louisville, Ky.; Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, Calif.; Sawgrass Country Club in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.; West Hampton Country Club in West Hampton, N.Y.; Belfair Golf Club in Bluffton, S.C.; and Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill.

The Wall Center for Excellence in the E. Craig Wall Sr. College of Business Administration sponsored 86 individual internships during the fall 2010 and spring 2011 semesters. These included full-time internships in Florida with Citigroup, in Indianapolis with Rolls Royce and in Colorado with the Broadmoor Hotel. The Wall Center offers local part-time internships with organizations such as Webster-Rogers Accounting, Georgetown County, the Carolina Opry, Northwestern Mutual Financial Network, and the Boys and Girls Club of the Grand Strand.

The Thomas W. and Robin W. Edwards College of Humanities and Fine Arts has placed student interns with employers as diverse as WPDE News Channel 15, The American Red Cross, TBonz Restaurant Group, Festival Promotions, Surf City Surf Shop, the CCU Department of Athletics, and the Office of U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer in New York City.

Students in the College of Science have conducted internships at the Family Dentistry practice in Carolina Forest, Strand Orthopedic Consultants, the Horry County Sherriff’s Office, Horry County Department of Child Protective Services, CCU’s own Campus Recreation Department, and many fitness centers.

Students in the Spadoni College of Education get real world experience at schools throughout Horry County and Georgetown counties and select areas of Marion County. Education students spend time in schools early in their education programs and then as a culminating student experience toward the end of their degree programs.

The internship process at CCU typically begins with Robert Bulsza, the University’s internship coordinator and career counselor. He interviews prospective employers and asks them to submit a packet of materials identifying their learning opportunities for students and the responsibilities they will undertake to ensure that students have experiences beneficial to their careers, as well as the desired timeframe for an internship. As provost of CCU, I am required to approve the contract established between the University and each employer. A unique feature of CCU’s internship program is that all students who have completed a minimum of 30 credit hours and maintain at least a 2.5 GPA can participate in an internship and enroll in an internship course. All internship opportunities are made available to students who meet these minimum requirements. Rather than have the University act as a placement service, internship providers (employers) make their intern selection from a pool of student applicants, since both they and the intern will be working closely together over several months. This process helps prepare the student for the “real-life” employment process they will encounter after graduation. Students are encouraged to take advantage of all the services offered to them by the staff of the Career Services Center, as well as various college and departmental representatives. To help create a more “competitive” candidate, the University offers resume and cover letter writing assistance, interview skills training, and the opportunity to participate in a formal, videotaped “mock interview.”

University-sponsored internships are more than just opportunities for students to gain work experience. They include supervision and ongoing feedback by University faculty and staff. Before students begin an internship, they must complete an Internship Learning Contract with the Internship Site Supervisor (employer), which identifies mutually agreed-upon learning goals. In addition, as a representative of the University, the student is expected to adhere to a Code of Professional and Ethical Conduct. In order to assess the effectiveness of the learning experience, most students are required to keep a journal detailing their experience, write a final paper, provide a log of their hours and complete a final evaluation of the internship. Employers will also complete an evaluation of the intern’s work performance and share their observations and recommendations with both student and faculty. Many students use their internship experiences to test their interest and aptitude in an employment sector before they graduate. While most students use this experience to affirm and clarify their major and career choice, about 25 percent of students learn that their interests are better served by changing their major, something much easier to do while they are still enrolled.

Internship benefits also extend well beyond the learning gains of individual students. Internships are a renewable connection between the community Coastal serves and the University itself. Through internships, faculty receive feedback on the preparation levels of our students and on areas in which the curriculum might be adjusted to better meet the needs of employers. Internships also provide the University with important guidance on the need for new and modified degree programs.

As Provost, I am often asked by parents to identify the single-most important college experience that would benefit their child. My answer is always: “Include one or more internships in the student plan of study.” Coastal Carolina University is not just a place to go to school; it is a place to experience the beginning of the rest of your life!

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