GVSU Internships, Other Field Placements up 40 percent, Says President

GVSU Internships, Other Field Placements up 40 percent, Says President
January 08, 2013/MLive

By Shandra Martinez

GRAND RAPIDS, MI -- Educational experiences outside the classroom are a key way Grand Valley State University prepares students for their careers, says GVSU president Thomas J. Haas.

Last year, GVSU’s 25,000 students participated in nearly 7,100 experiential learning opportunities, whether that was field placements, practicums, clinical rotations, student teaching or cooperative education.

Those experiences had a direct correlation to GVSU graduates not only landing jobs after graduation but finding employment close to home. Nearly 90 percent of graduates go onto graduate school or have jobs, with 84 percent of the latter landing jobs in Michigan. Those statistics reflect that GVSU has been a longtime leader in experiential learning.

Related: Looking for a summer internship? Experts share tips on how to land one during a Live Chat at noon, Tuesday, Jan. 8.

After reading MLive’s recent series on how internships have become an important economic development tool for the state in attracting and retaining skilled workforce, Haas wanted to highlight the efforts of GVSU.

In a column for MLive, Haas elaborates on how the university’s partnership with companies is part of an intentional strategy to educate students for Michigan’s future needs.

By Thomas J. Haas

For years, we’ve known that Michigan employers place a high value on internship and experiential learning. A recent survey of our state’s top companies shows that field experience may be among the best qualifications a prospective employee can bring to a job interview. At Grand Valley State University, we’ve helped more of our students to be ready for that important day; since 2005, field placements have grown by nearly 40 percent.

Experiential learning includes internships, field placements, practicums, clinical rotations, student teaching, and cooperative education. In the last academic year, our 25,000 students participated in nearly 7,100 experiential learning opportunities. The tie to employment success is apparent: of our most recent graduates, 89 percent are employed or attending graduate school; of those employed, 84 percent are working in Michigan.

The best internship programs occur at universities that have created infrastructure and culture that support experiential learning. Grand Valley’s partnerships with employers began with the founding of the university and remain an intentional strategy in shaping talent for Michigan’s future needs.

I believe our support systems are second to none. We’ve developed our own Internship Management System that tracks and evaluates for-credit internship activity. This system makes it easier for employers to match with students and for students to earn credit and oftentimes a salary.
Unpaid internships that provide intensive work experience are an important component of experiential learning. At Grand Valley, we encourage this kind of opportunity by making cash awards to selected students. In the past five years, we’ve made awards totaling more than $55,000.

We seek constant feedback from the employers that host our students to ensure that we’re providing the background that job providers seek. Grand Valley also partners with area chambers of commerce to provide employer training on how to hire and host interns; in this way, we help to expand the number of opportunities available to our students.

Students pursuing field experience have the opportunity to make an impression on their host. By demonstrating critical thinking, reasoning skill, and the ability to work in teams, students have a leg up on job openings at the organizations that have hosted their internship.

It’s a two-way test drive –- employers are able to evaluate the student while the student learns whether the organization is one they’d like to join. I’m proud that Grand Valley has been a longtime and successful leader in experiential learning. Given its increased importance, prospective students would do well to add internship capabilities to the list of the qualities they consider when deciding where to go to college.