Internships are the key to real-world experience – and to getting hired after college – Forbes Magazine said last month. The trouble with internships, however, is getting them. In response, a professor on campus decided to network with the women and men who would most identify with the current students’ plight – Ole Miss alumni.
“I kept reading about how important internships are,” said Marvin King, senior fellow of the Residential College South and associate professor of American politics. “When you graduate, employers value experience. For many graduates, there’s the problem of, ‘Well, how do I get experience if I don’t have a job, and no one will give me a job if I don’t have any experience.’ Internships are that way.”
King installed the Residential College South Networking Trip last spring to help students meet alumni in different cities and look for internships in those areas. This year, he and Kristina Phillips, coordinator for Study USA, expanded the program to Atlanta and Nashville and met nearly 50 alumni over the course of four days.
“The goal is to assist students locate relevant summer jobs or internships,” King said. “Atlanta is such a large destination for Ole Miss alumni; it only made sense to bring students there.”
The group, which grew from only 13 students last year to 19 this year, is currently offered to residents at the Residential College South, but King said he hopes the group will continue to expand.
The majors included by the trip are vast. Engineering, forensic chemistry, journalism, business and many other majors make up the company.
“We’ve got a fairly diverse group,” King said. “That makes it challenging on my end.”
Though finding alumni in each student’s major is difficult, King said he wanted to keep it open to any student who wished to come.
“The success of this depends on the willingness and ability of Ole Miss alumni to assist in introducing these students to the appropriate resources,” King said.
The alumni met with students in one-on-one settings, scheduled meals and “happy hours” in which the students mixed with men and women currently operating in their desired professions.
Mackenzie Poole, a sophomore psychology major, attended the trip and said either city would be ideal for internships. She expressed that she was looking forward to meeting the alumni – even if it meant giving up her spring break.
“I have chosen to forfeit spring break and instead travel to Nashville and Atlanta for the RC Networking trip because this trip is absolutely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Poole said. “By being accepted to go on the trip, I have been granted the privilege to spend time with Ole Miss graduates that will convey invaluable information to my fellow students and I regarding not only summer internships but also our future careers.”
Zane Turner, a sophomore forensic chemistry major, agreed and said this was an opportunity he could not pass up.
Perry Moulds, vice president for development and external relations at Belmont University, attended one of the breakfasts with the students in Nashville.
“I benefited from spending time with alumni and other mentors when I was an undergraduate student. I still do,” Moulds said. “Mentoring relationships are incredibly important. Any opportunity students have to network with alumni and learn more about particular fields of employment is a good opportunity.”
Moulds also attended one of the panels and a breakfast held during last year’s tour and said he will participate in any future trips, if possible. Moulds said he hoped to impress upon the students one of the first lessons he learned out of college.
“The most important thing I learned in my first few years after graduation is that you essentially start at the bottom,” Moulds said. “No task should be beneath you. Work hard at your job, and opportunities will present themselves.”
The trip, which each student paid $100 to attend, is currently predominately meant for Residential College students; however, King said that if other programs decided to help fund the trip, he would love to expand it to other interested parties.
King said he hoped Nashville and Atlanta would eventually become like how New York and Washington are now for the Study USA programs currently in place.
“That way we have a process in place where every year we’re sending 10 or 20 students into internships in these cities,” King said. “Hopefully, it’ll grow. If we get students internships, it’ll grow.”