The program was developed with two goals in mind: first, to create work-integrated learning opportunities on campus for students who lack access to off-campus employers, and second, to build capacity for Student Affairs departments to expand services that support the student body.
“Our vision was to create a high-impact, transformative campus-based experience that would prepare students for career entry and position them for future development of meaningful careers and productive work,” said Marianna Savoca, director of the SBU Career Center. By fostering a professional work-integrated learning environment within Student Affairs departments, students will learn skills and habits that promote intellectual, personal and professional growth.
All internships were expected to follow national guidelines for professional practice set forth by the National Society for Experiential Education. Faculty sponsors oversee all credit-bearing internships.
The internship program has made a positive impact on students and their development and has improved the quality of the student experience on campus.
In fact the program has been so successful that it expanded to departments outside the Division of Student Affairs. In 2014-2015, 120 undergraduate students interned in Student Affairs departments, and an additional 130 undergraduates interned in other divisions, such as the Division of Information Technology, Academic Affairs, Stony Brook Medicine, and the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
Students reported gains in project management, office organization and communication/telephone skills, problem solving, decision making, leadership, teamwork, and presentation skills. More than 70% of students identified at least two transferrable skills they developed. In addition:
- 98% reported their internship as a valuable experience
- 98% reported they could carry out responsibilities following a reasonable training period
- 85% reported a better understanding of their field
- 83% reported gaining field-relevant skills
- 73% reported refining their career goals
- 95% accepted critical feedback from supervisors as a growth opportunity
- 92% reported increased assertiveness in communicating questions/concerns to supervisor
- 79% reported improved communication through writing
- 93% reported their ability to solve problems on the job
- 90% reported developing strengths in teamwork and communication skills
Supervisors evaluated student performance relative to workplace etiquette, communication skills and job performance. From midterm to final reviews, clear improvements were shown. For example, at the midpoint, supervisors evaluated communication skills and interpersonal relations as 42% exceptional, 38% proficient and 28% effective. At the end of the term, that improved to 62% exceptional, 40% proficient and 8% effective. Similar improvement trends were reported for workplace etiquette and job performance.
With respect to the Award, Savoca commented, “Many staff throughout the Division of Student Affairs contribute to students’ successes and special mention goes to Urszula Zalewski, assistant director of Experiential Programs at the Career Center, for her leadership in this area and for the expert consulting she provides to campus colleagues to create optimal learning and growth experiences for students.”
Every year the Career Center lists thousands of internship opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students in a wide variety of industries, and provides resources and support to assist in identifying and securing them. The Center offers Handshake, a new job and internship database, for students and alumni to access immediate full-time and part-time job, internship and volunteer opportunities on and off campus.
The Outstanding Students Affairs Program Award will be presented at the fall meeting of the SUNY Council of Chief Students Affairs Officers on October 5 in Syracuse, New York.