Internships don't just skim the surface anymore

By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau

As the working world keeps changing, so do internships. What once was a way to just test the water is now an opportunity to jump in with both feet and make a really big splash.

More and more students at Grand Canyon University are taking advantage of those opportunities. The number of GCU students who have had internships has grown from 20 in 2012-13 to more than 300 in 2014-15, not including students in the College of Education and College of Nursing and Health Care Professions who must do practicums and internships for their degrees.

But the strength isn’t just in the numbers. It’s in the sum of the internship parts.

“Internships used to be compartmentalized into specific skills,” said Marquis Scott, GCU’s director of internships. “Now interns can help someone launch a business. The opportunities are unlimited. They even can suggest ideas.”

Interviews with six recent interns from GCU uncovered six tales of eyes opened and minds expanded. Count this half-dozen among the students making waves:

A wealth of good experience

Janel Davis was an intern for nearly a year at Advisor Growth Strategies, a Phoenix wealth-management firm. One of the senior accounting major’s professors in the Colangelo College of Business, Dr. Ernie Scarbrough, recommended her, and before long she was learning about a whole new world in high finance.

“It never was on my radar before, but I would definitely consider it now,” she said. “It has been really cool to see the different factors that go into what a company’s worth and the different paths I can take.”

John Furey, the company’s principal and founder, said having Davis on his team has been “fantastic.”

“She’s mature beyond her years,” he said. “She’s driven, hard-working, serious and very grounded. We’ve had some interns who have gone on to bigger things, and I think she’s going to be a very effective young professional wherever she goes. We’d love to have her back.”

Davis transferred to GCU after her sophomore year at Glendale Community College and is living on campus, in North Rim Apartments, for the first time. She also is a student worker in the GCU Accounting Department.

“I want to see which I enjoy better and which I’m better at,” she said.

But no matter what direction her career goes, Davis is at peace with it.

“First and foremost, I am a Christian, saved by grace in high school, and just trying to live my life to glorify God and serve Him in any way I can,” said Davis, who is a high school leader and has taught Sunday school kindergarten at her church. “I really have a heart to serve and to love all people. That is who I am. But none of this has happened because of me; it all has been Him.”

Getting to perform on a big stage

Kelsey Dean was searching for an internship when she came across one that resonated: a chance to work in the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington.

With help from Scott, Dean was hired to work on the special events team in the center’s department that provides opportunities for people with disabilities to learn more about the arts through performances and conferences.

The highlight was a monthlong celebration commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the 40th anniversary of the founding of the department where she interned.

“I’ve had the most amazing experience,” Dean said. “I’d recommend it to anyone who applies for it.”

Best of all, the senior marketing major got valuable hands-on experience that was anything but trivial.

“It wasn’t a situation where you just get coffee and file things,” she said. “I worked with the Secretary of Education (Arne Duncan) and the Surgeon General (Dr. Vivek Murthy). I got so much experience that I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else.”

Learning what goes on backstage

Seniors Amber Moldrem and Melissa Kamel both have designs on behind-the-scenes jobs in the theatre. Their internships have played an important role in their development.

Moldrem works in the prop and costume shops at Childsplay, a professional children’s theatre in Tempe. That experience has been excellent preparation for her next big assignment: scenic and properties designer for “Scapin,” which GCU’s College of Fine Arts and Production will present Oct. 9-11 and 16-18 at Ethington Theatre.

“It’s a professional theatre for children — adults acting as kids,” Moldrem said. “It was educational to see how good they are at their craft.”

Kamel has been helping with costume design at Brelby Theatre Company in Glendale since her sophomore year. This summer, she was part of the production crew for the play “Beyond Musketeers: Utopia Lost.”

“I saw an ad on Facebook and went with two friends. We thought it would just be fun, but then I got to be in the show and kind of never left,” she said.

Both theatre majors have minor acting roles in “As You Like It,” COFAP’s season opener this weekend at Ethington — Kamel as Audrey and Moldrem in the ensemble.

Location, location, location

Josh Kennedy found an internship right up his alley right down the street from GCU. Kelly Pollard found one in her hometown of Fort Collins, Colo.

A junior majoring in biology with an emphasis in physical therapy, Kennedy worked this summer at Spooner Physical Therapy at 15th Avenue and Camelback Road in Phoenix. He started out as a technician but was able to learn all types of exercises after a few weeks.

Kennedy discovered he had an interest in physical therapy when he sprained his left ankle twice and had to go through it himself.

“I loved science already and this was like, ‘Oh, wow,’” he said. “And I really like helping people.”

Pollard, a sophomore majoring in communications with minors in digital film and worship arts, worked for iHeartMedia’s radio station (97.9 FM) that serves Fort Collins and nearby Loveland and Longmont, north of Denver. She sat in on live shows, advertising recording sessions, promotional meetings and concert warmups.

“I got to tag along and see what it would be like to work in the radio industry,” she said. “I’m not sure if radio is what I want to go into, but if I went into radio it would be on air — I love music.”

Self-starters reach the finish line first

All six students told similar stories of how they got their internships: They took the initiative to search out something they wanted to do and then reached out.

“Students need to realize that there are a lot of people here who can help them with internships,” Scott said. “We have relationships with alumni, and professors and staff members have ideas and connections, too.

“Sometimes students think that if it hasn’t jumped out at them on a billboard, it doesn’t exist. That’s simply not true.”

The water’s great. They just need to jump in.

Contact Rick Vacek at 602-639-8203 or [email protected].


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