Hundreds of classroom hours and countless assignments, exams and papers go into earning a degree. But in almost every field of study on campus, students are also getting hands-on experience through internships.
Senior social work major Joy Smedley currently interns at the Texas Baptist Children’s Home, where her studies are being brought to life through the work she does there.
“Yes, we need the book knowledge, but a lot of times it can become so mundane just sitting in the classroom, and there’s only so much you can learn from a book,” she said. “Actually being out there and having to put what the book says into play and into practice, it just makes it so real.”
Smedley is part of the organization’s Hope Program, which deals with community outreach, mainly through working with children and youth from low income housing areas.
“We get to teach them scripture and pour into their lives, but we also get to teach them skills like anger management and building up self-esteem, things that they’re not going to know or learn if they don’t have good role models in their lives,” she said.
Another part of her job is aiding parents in the community who have financial needs. She said that getting to work with so many different kinds of people and situations has taught her skills that will help in any career she chooses.
“There’re a bunch of little things that when you interact with people, you just kind of learn,” she said. “Everything is like a learning process, and I feel like a lot of things will play roles in the future.”
While Smedley has gained a lot of experience, what she values the most about her internship is the time she spends getting to know and interact with those who come to the outreach program.
“It can be intimidating because I think, ‘What can I offer these kids? We have nothing in common.’ But just seeing the Lord work through it, it’s funny the things he uses to connect us,” she said.
Senior public relations major Bailey Starnes spent a summer interning for GoNow Missions, which sends college students in Texas around the world to serve and share Christ.
Because she hopes to work for non-government organizations in the future, Starnes said the job helped her see what that would be like.
“I’m really interested in nonprofit organizations, so it was cool to be first-hand working with the person who came up with GoNow and their mission behind the organization,” she said. “I learned how they function under a bigger nonprofit, and just saw how that works, and where their funding comes from and how they handle their money.”
Throughout the summer, Starnes was in charge of leading a focus group that helped gather information for the company about its marketing efforts.
“That was a really cool on-the-job thing that they trusted me to do,” she said. “I learned a lot about how if you’re going to lead a focus group for an organization you know a lot about, it’s hard not to be biased as a mediator.”
Starnes said the highlight of the summer was seeing the focus group project through from beginning to end.
“I found out about all the target markets and compiled all the info about how they could improve their publicity, and it was cool seeing it all come together.”
She believes that the greatest benefit to internships is the connections students make.
“If you can leave with really great recommendations from supervisors, it’s helpful when you’re later looking for a job,” she said.
Senior accounting major Elizabeth Alven got practical experience in her field through a 10-month internship at McLane, a supply chain services company. While there, she worked in accounts receivable, pulling invoices and credits and filing checks.
Alven enjoyed seeing all that’s involved with the finances of a big corporation.
“There’s a lot of work that goes into it,” she said. “For a big company in accounting, you have to be so careful because there’s a lot of money coming in, and you need to be careful with how you handle it.”
She believes the experience prepared her for the future because she hopes to work with another large business after graduating.
“It’s a well-run corporation, so to see it run was interesting, and I think I’ll take that wherever I go,” she said.
While there, not only did Alven learn the ins and outs of accounting, but she also got to work under a manager who taught her about leadership.
“I had a manager who really worked with us and was good at explaining things. She taught me more than I think she knows because she probably just thought she was teaching me accounting, but she really taught me a good management style I can take on,” Alven said.
Being able to take what she has learned throughout her time at UMHB and put it into practice was something Alven enjoyed the most during her time at McLane.
“You might know the definitions to terms you learn, but you don’t really know what they mean until you do it and get that experience,” she said. “The first time I had a write-off was super exciting because I put the definition with the actual action.”