MC students using summer break to gain work, research experience

June 10, 2011
Contact: Karen B. Eldridge, Director of Communications
865.981.8207; karen.eldridge@maryvillecollege.edu

For decades, Maryville College students have used the summer break to return home, find a job and work to earn money for the next academic year.

Hundreds of students still do this, but those “summer jobs” may be, instead, internships. And students may be, wisely, more focused on gaining experience than earning paychecks.

“Experience counts in this job market,” said Thema McCowan, the College’s director of career resources. “According to results of the National Association of Colleges and Employers 2010 Student Survey, new graduates with internship experience are more likely to receive a job offer than their peers who decided to forgo the experience. Furthermore, students with internship experience are offered higher salaries on average than their non-intern counterparts.”

In her work with the Center for Calling & Career (CCC), McCowan cautions undergraduates against relying solely on grades to secure a position in the workforce. Internships, practica, part-time and summer employment – preferably in a student’s field of interest – matter, she said.

“In fact, many professionals would argue these experiences are mandatory if students are to successfully compete for employment and acceptance into graduate school programs in today’s market,” McCowan explained. “These experiences should begin early in a student’s college career as a freshman and progress into their senior year.”

Whether they’re in an internship or temporary job, students should treat the experience as “an extended interview for a future job,” McCowan advised.

“Organizations know when they have the right individual who would make a great fit in their organization, so internships can sometimes lead to permanent employment,” she said. “Even if full-time work doesn't materialize as a result of an internship or practicum, the student has made valuable networks and positive references who can speak on their behalf in the future.”

Internships can also prepare students for a professional work setting after college, the director of career resources added.

“What is acceptable dress, speech, and behavior in the workplace? A student’s internship experience shed some light on these important questions,” she said.

Year round, the staff in the CCC collaborates with students to identify internships and full-time opportunities that open students’ eyes and minds to read-world situations and successes in their chosen field. The center also offers an employment posting site, career fairs, professional development workshops and more.

Below are descriptions of where some Maryville College students are spending their summer break and how these experiences are vocationally beneficial.

3 join alumna in linguistic project

Jonathan Brent, Christine Flood and Zack Gekas are spending the summer in and around Virginia Tech, where they are assisting alumna Dr. Clare Jacobs Dannenberg ’92 with research on the dialects of Appalachia. Dannenberg, a sociolinguist, is an associate professor in the English department and director of the university’s linguistics speech lab.

The three MC students are traveling into rural areas in the region, interviewing families and individuals who have lived in the area long enough to have some perspective on the ways in which their communities are changing.

“The questions themselves concern a variety of topics from basic background information to the current generation's disconnect with traditional Appalachian cultural practices (such as gardening) to today's high divorce rate. We also ask about folk remedies people used growing up, the interviewee's educational experiences, and even whether or not someone in the subject's family believes in ghosts or other supernatural things like that,” explained Brent, a writing/communication major from Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Brent is interested in pursuing graduate study in sociolinguistics, and he hopes this experience will set him apart from other applicants.

Celotto advocates for transgender equality

Bryce Celotto is double majoring in political science and writing/communication and has aspirations of working with the LGBT movement through policy and legislation work, as well as working with LGBT youth and possibly opening a LGBT youth home and/or community center.

He is interning this summer in Washington, D.C., with the National Center for Transgender Equality, where his duties include working on advocacy for equal rights for transgender veterans and transgender immigrants.

“Also I have been invited to attend and speak at three LGBT youth conferences here on the East Coast in the next six to eight months. I will start working with [Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network] on their sports project, and I have been offered a youth resource position with Advocates for Youth.”

On June 6, Celotto co-presented a session on trans-issues in the classroom at the first federal LGBT Youth Summit.

Gibbons gets look at law enforcement

Jacob Gibbons is interning with the Blount County Sheriff’s Office this summer. An outdoor recreation major who will graduate in January, Gibbons is planning on a career in law enforcement inside the country’s national parks. His internship is structured so that he will work and spend time with staff in every department before the summer ends.

After graduation, Gibbons will enroll in the National Park Services’ Law Enforcement Academy. He said he fully expects that his time with the sheriff’s office will give him a leg up on studies at the academy.

Herron will practice languages in Guatemala

Tyler Herron, a rising junior, is hoping his summer in Guatemala will help him answer some important questions about his future career path. A sign language interpreting and Spanish with teaching licensure double major, he is vacillating between two professions: trilingual interpreter or high-school Spanish teacher.

A Bonner Scholar, Herron is working through Volunteer Petèn and will spend time at Parque Ecològico Nueva Junentud (The New Youth Ecological Park) in San Andrès. There, he expects to assist with park maintenance, as well as teach English to local children.

“For my career goals, this experience will be highly beneficial for my language development as well as my teaching experience. Serving in the park will not only sharpen my knowledge of the Spanish language but also provide me an experience of working with what can be considered an ‘at risk’ population – students who live in an impoverished community with substandard education.

“I have also been advised that I will get a lot of practice interpreting as well between members of the community and English-speaking volunteers,” he added.

Julian is South Africa-bound

Rising junior Emily Julian won’t be forgetting to pack her camera when she leaves for South Africa in a couple of weeks. The art major and Bonner Scholar landed a summer job at the Thanda Private Game Reserve in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa, where she’ll be taking photos of animals that make their home on this resort located in northern Zululand.

In addition to compiling the photo inventory (which will be used for educational purposes), she expects to periodically lead classes and/or workshops on conservation in the local schools.

Julian’s summer experience has been coordinated through African Impact, the largest on-the-ground facilitator of responsible volunteer projects throughout Africa.

McGinnis is applying stats to cancer rates

Mathematics major and rising junior Sarah McGinnis was selected for the competitive Summer Undergraduate Mathematics Sciences Research Institute (SUMSRI) hosted by the Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) Department of Mathematics. Among the goals of the National Science Foundation-sponsored program are to provide participants with an environment that will improve their research abilities, improve their technical writing skills and give them an opportunity to write research papers and present research at a conference.

McGinnis’ research group is concentrating in statistics and looking at cancer rates, trying to make connections to different causes.

“Right now I am thinking that I want to work in math research, just not really sure which direction I want to go in. This experience will help me start to figure that out,” McGinnis said. “I know that I want to go to grad school, and this internship will definitely help with that.”

Fair trade is focus of Musick’s Peruvian internship

A two-year employment at Vienna Coffee got rising junior Michae Musick interested in the coffee trade and eventually made her a big supporter of fair trade.

This summer, she has an internship with Bridge of Hope Fair Trade Project based in Lima, Peru. The organization works with artisans and growers in poor neighborhoods and rural areas, teaching them skills and helping them distribute their goods for a fair wage.

“Fair trade can transform an impoverished population into self-sustaining communities with access to education and the ability to be competitive and independent in their production of agricultural goods, textiles and crafts,” said Musick, who’s majoring in philosophy at the College. “After graduation I hope to work for a cause like this, and hopefully this internship will shed some light on exactly what I want to do.”

Nadler continues work on homeland defense projects

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California near San Francisco is where Katherine Nadler is spending her summer. The mission of the lab is to ensure the safety and security of the nation through applied science and technology.

Nadler, a rising senior who is double majoring in chemical physics and mathematics, is working on homeland defense projects.

“I am working on a single-particle aerosol mass spectrometer, which is used to detect a range of materials from explosives residue to biological substances,” she explained.

Last year, Nadler worked on a project that uses sensors to detect vaporized explosives while interning in the Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Biosciences Division.

Sloan is working with memory probes

Rising senior and psychology major Page Sloan beat out numerous applicants when she was selected for participation in the Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP) hosted by the University of Michigan.

Through the program, Sloan, who wants to eventually earn a doctorate in cognitive psychology, is working as a research assistant in a U-M cognitive psychology lab.

“I am working with memory probes to learn more about proactive interference. We are running a variety of different experiments to hopefully find out a little about how PI works and when we can be released from it. I am also assisting with a Cogent study in which saliva samples are tested for a particular genotype that is thought to play a role in attentional control and then running tests with both those with the genotype and those without it.

“Ultimately, I will present a poster both [at U-M] and at Ohio State about my work with memory probes this summer,” she added.

SROP is a program of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation and exists to help prepare undergraduates for graduate study through intensive research experiences with faculty mentors and enrichment activities

Superconducting magnets are White’s focus

Rising sophomore and engineering major David White is currently working at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the Physical Sciences Directorate, Materials Science and Technology Division, Materials Processing Group. His mentors include world-renowned scientists.

The division conducts fundamental and applied materials research for basic energy sciences programs and a variety of energy technologies, including energy efficiency, renewable energy, transportation, conservation, fossil energy, fusion energy, nuclear power and space exploration.

“My job will be designing and building a device that will measure the resistivity of an alloy in a 9 Tesla superconducting magnet,” he explained. “These changes in resistance will denote when the alloy has taken on a new phase, and will allow me to create phase diagrams of the different alloys.”

White is interested in a career in mechanical engineering and since materials science is very closely related to the field, he said he hopes the internship will answer some vocational questions for him.

"Also, I will gain significant lab experience -- something that will be useful in whatever science I choose to get into," he added. "Perhaps most important to me, I will gain some practical knowledge in the field of engineering."


Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the fall 2013 semester is 1,168.