By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
Grand Canyon University students have gotten an education in modern corporate culture this year while interning at companies across the country.
And the push is on to meet many more employers’ needs — and further many more students’ experiences.
Marquis Scott, director of internships for the College of Business since July 2013, said 87 GCU students were placed in internships in his first year on the job compared to just 12 in the previous two years combined.
But that’s just a start. Scott said the goal for the next 12 months, encompassing all colleges within the University, is 250 placements. Scott believes the goal is easily attainable if more students become aware of the program. To that end, he plans to create brochures and speak to classes to get the word out that he has 250 internships posted in Arizona and 500 nationwide.
“But we don’t have 250 and 500 applying,” he said.
Students earn one credit for an internship that is at least 45 hours, two credits for 90-plus hours and four credits for 180-plus hours. In some cases, such as at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., they can take classes on site that count toward their GCU elective credits.
Interns must be at least a sophomore to get credits although Scott said some freshmen do internships just to get the experience.
Scott is delighted with the feedback from employers.
“Every employer we have placed an intern with wants another GCU student,” he said. “The students are representing us well. They are doing their part. They are carrying the ball.”
That’s because it has been a labor of love.
Gaby Valdivieso, a junior majoring in psychology, is a Disney World intern who will be able to transfer 12 credits for the classes she is taking there in addition to working in the park.
As you might guess, “The Happiest Place on Earth” focuses on culture as much as any organization. Employees are “cast members,” and one of the company’s four principles is “Show.”
“That means you’re never supposed to break character,” Valdivieso said. “It’s actually been a real good learning experience. You learn how to keep your cool.”
The spirit of Disney culture is infused into the, ahem, cast members right from the start at the “Traditions” welcome party, when they are given Mickey Mouse ears (of course). But Valdivieso said she met a lot of people who have worked for Disney for 15 or 20 years — and started as college interns who came there from other parts of the country.
An obvious highlight of Valdevieso's internship: a great big amusement park to explore during her free time. “Not many people get to say on a Monday night at 9 p.m. to their friend, ‘Hey, I’m bored. Want to go ride Space Mountain and grab a bite to eat at Casey's Hot Dogs on Main Street?’”
Steven Kay, a senior business administration major who has been a mortgage banking intern for Quicken Loans in Scottsdale, also was amazed by his company’s culture, which was on display at its annual “ISMs Day” in Detroit.
Quicken proudly explains and displays its “ISMs” on its website, and CEO Dan Gilbert — who owns the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team — gave a passionate talk about them at the Detroit get-together.
“That’s really what the company is all about. It’s very culture-focused,” Kay said.
That extends through its offices, which he called “not exactly like Google, but close.”
“The cool thing about the internship program here is that you’re placed on a team, and they make you feel like part of the team,” he said. “It’s very competitive between the teams, but we all get along.”
Not all internships are in that type of fun-and-games environment. Ironically, senior Randy Bandelow encountered a far more serious mindset during his internship at an employer that plays real games — the Arizona Rattlers of the Arena Football League.
From the moment he walked in for his interview, the sports management major said the message from General Manager David Turner on down was clear: He was joining a championship organization (the Rattlers will play for their third straight championship on Saturday, Aug. 23), and the focus of everything employees do should be on winning another title.
"I would definitely describe it as serious," Bandelow said of the office atmophere. "I don't know if intense is the right word, but it's a lot of people focused on the same goal and it's fun to watch."
Bandelow, who said he stumbled onto the opportunity while searching the Web, has mainly helped coaches properly assemble game plans and videos, and that's been an education, too — he didn't realize how elaborate that process is. But considering how much he has enjoyed it as an unpaid intern, the idea of working for a team after he graduates is appealing. "If I could do this and get a paycheck for it, that's what I'm aiming for," he said.
Brenna Warren, a sophomore theatre major, got such great insights into her chosen profession while interning at Portland Center Stage in Portland, Ore., this summer, she wants to go back again next year.
“It was interesting because a lot of people there are pretty young,” she said. “It’s very free and casual and yet so successful. It’s relaxed but not too relaxed.”
If she gets to go back, she’d like to work in the playwright festival. She liked the way the theatre worked with playwrights, some of them teenagers. “They want so much for people to have success,” she said.
Samantha Bedore, a senior physical therapy major, was in an even smaller setting, Spooner Physical Therapy in Phoenix. The dynamics of the group made it essential that everyone got along.
“The employee relationships are really strong, and that’s what makes it a great place to work,” she said.
Bedore said she didn’t know about the internship program before a faculty member asked her if she would be interested, which underscores the importance of Scott’s mission to bring his message to students all across campus.
Students are welcome to identify internships on their own and bring them to Scott’s attention, and he’s ready to facilitate the process if they need help.
“In the College of Business we are making internships a priority and strongly encouraging students to set themselves up for success and participate,” COB Dean Randy Gibb said. “All internships don’t have to be formal. Even 10 hours with one company as a volunteer adds to a student’s exposure within a particular career field. The outcome of real-world work experience is priceless in terms of networking and creating a pathway for employment after graduation.”
Students can apply by emailing [email protected].
Contact Rick Vacek at 602-639-8203 or [email protected].