The internship program, which began in 2014, strives to give students at the private four-year college in Atherton real-world work experience before they enter a career in business. Redding-Moment, an incoming senior at Menlo College studying finance within the school's business program, said the internship program, along with the school's proximity to the business-rich Silicon Valley, was one of the reasons he chose to attend the school.
"It's (the internships) helping us get accustomed to the 40-hours-a-week work life," he said. "It's teaching me the basic guidelines for entering this career path. Some other friends who are interning aren't getting the same effect, but I'm coming out with basic knowledge of how to get into realty."
Program officials help students find more than "just another summer job," said internship program founder Angela Schmiede, the school's vice president of student success. In addition to a college degree, it's important to have some work experience to land a good job after graduation, she said.
The six-credit internship program, which won the 2019 outstanding college work experience and internship program award from the California Internship & Work Experience Association, is a graduation requirement for business majors. Students must work at least 320 hours, either 32 hours a week for 10 weeks during the summer between their junior and senior years or 12 to 13 hours a week during the fall and spring semesters of their senior year.
The school hired Schmiede in 2013 to formalize an internship program, as students completed internships. In addition to credits, 71% of the students' internships included a paycheck during the summer of 2018, according to the school.
The college works with about 400 organizations to help place students in internship roles in the Bay Area and Los Angeles area, Schmiede said.
Students start the process with an information session during their junior year and fill out an application to officially join a cohort of other interns for the fall, spring or summer semesters.
After staff approves a student's resume, the student completes a mock interview with employer volunteers. The applicant then uses the online career network for students, Handshake, to upload his or her resume, access job opportunities and track applications.
The college also hosts a career fair in the spring, where students can meet potential employers.
Another program component is an internship seminar, which meets weekly during the summer and bimonthly during fall and spring semesters. During the seminar, students set internship goals; explore organizational issues; clarify their career interests and goals; and articulate achievements and new skills gained through the internship, among other things.
Internship program alumna Jessica Carlson, who graduated from the college in May with a bachelor's degree in business with a marketing concentration, said the seminar helped her self-reflect better during her internship at software company Atlassian during the summer of 2018. Along with self-assessments, her manager regularly assessed her performance, she said.
"Without that (the seminar) I wouldn't have been able to take time away from the work I was doing and think about how things were helping me and what I did or did not like," she said. "Instead of just having my head down the whole time, the class really helped me be aware. Otherwise I would have had another type of (internship) experience, but I wouldn't be able to talk about that experience the way I can now."
Incoming Menlo College senior Amanda Arena is interning as an examiner at the Securities and Exchange Commission, where she analyzes financial statements, among other tasks. She likes that the seminar encourages students to reflect on their internships. Because of the program, she said, she learns specific areas in which she excels and areas she can improve in.
Menlo College students are securing jobs after graduation through their internships, said Dylan Houle, the school's director of internships, career services and study abroad. About 73% of students who participated in the program from fall 2017 to summer 2018 received an offer to "continue a relationship" with the company — either through a full-time or part-time job offer or extension of the internship, Houle said. Some 78% accepted the offer, he said.
Earlier this year, a report from Zippia, a job-seekers' website, found Menlo College students had the highest employment rate, at 92.59%, of four-year colleges statewide 10 years after they graduate. Class of 2018 students landed jobs at companies such as YouTube, Deloitte, Tesla, Morgan Stanley and KPMG, according to a list Houle provided.
"Our #1 standing also reflected the fact that most of our students secure job opportunities right here in Silicon Valley following graduation, where wages are competitive," said Menlo College President Steven Weiner in an email. "The survey pointed to an aspect of most Menlo College students that I see every day on campus: they're talented, creative strivers, who are destined for success in life — however they may choose to define it."
Students also use the internship experience to narrow down their career direction, Schmiede said.
"Sometimes the most valuable outcome is to figure out 'this (the internship field) isn't what I want to do,'" she said.
Sydney Richardson-Gorsk graduated in May with a bachelor's degree in business, specializing in marketing and human resources, and interned at the nonprofit Fresh Lifelines for Youth in Milpitas during the summer of 2018. She said the internship, which she continued into the 2018-19 school year, helped her narrow her career path — she wants to work in a nonprofit or political setting.
A soccer player and the school's student body president, Richardson-Gorsk worked on curriculum and taught at-risk youth about drug laws, sexual consent, gang laws and other topics as an intern.
Richardson-Gorsk was proactive about finding an internship, but said some students scramble at the last minute to find one. She said it would be helpful if administrators began talking about the mandatory program early — during a student's sophomore year.
Enrollment for Menlo College this fall will be about 850 students, Weiner said. Of them, about 90% will major in business and about 10% will major in psychology, he said. As a smaller school, officials decided to offer only two major tracks, with business degree concentrations such as finance, sports management and entrepreneurship.
Business programs are a top choice for undergraduate students, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, a branch of the Institute of Education Sciences, which is the statistics, research, and evaluation arm of the U.S. Department of Education. Of the 2 million bachelor's degrees colleges awarded in 2016-17, more than half were concentrated in five fields of study: business (19%, or 381,000 degrees); health professions and related programs (12%); social sciences and history (8%); psychology (6%); and biological and biomedical sciences (6%), according to the group.
"In a globalized society, where industries and companies from around the world are interacting with each other, having a business degree allows students to navigate a globalized economy and to be contributors to the local economy in Silicon Valley," Houle said.
According to a 2018 National Association of Colleges and Employers study, employers value job candidates who have internship experience at their company or in the industry. Such experience is valued even more than a candidate's major or GPA, Houle said.
"When we think about the value that doing an internship has for students' job outlooks, they'll have a higher chance of landing a full-time job at graduation or near to it," he said.
Future of the program
Program organizers initially allowed students to intern only in the Bay Area, but then expanded the program to Southern California.
Now, the school is working with its study abroad partner CEA to offer students the option of interning outside of the country, Houle said, adding that he expects the first student to go abroad for an internship in summer 2020.
"We are exploring an international internship program to encourage students to expand their horizons, increase their global and intercultural fluency, and better understand how their degree can be applied in a globalized economy," he said in an email.
For more on the internship program, go to tinyurl.com/menlointern.
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