The Value of an Internship

Career Services is in a constant evolution of how we can best serve our students. When I came in as the Director of Career Services and Testing at Sul Ross State University  at the end of 2013, I went to my first National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Conference in the summer of 2014, which is the ultimate conference for career services directors.  Unbeknownst to me there had been a recent change in career services.  The new direction was career development.  University departments across the country were restructuring their departments.  Department names were changing, staffing titles were being revamped, and the focus was helping students “develop” their career path.  The strategies of serving the students was dramatically redefined, there was a new philosophy to give a resurgence to the department, so the students could receive the validation in their career development path. It was taking the philosophy in a direction of connectivity (community connection).  Guiding students to the value of the face to face through mentorships, internships, job shadowing, and the importance of shaking a recruiter’s hand at a career fair.  It wasn’t really new information but it was in a new package to help invigorate the career service leaders or should I say career development directors.


The conference inspired me with their messages (connect with passion, paid internships with college credit, student mentorships with alumni, partnering with other departments, “network for your future”) that were seared into my brain. I was ready to come back and get to work.  By the end of the year I was developing a mentorship program for students.  I had recruited local employers and leaders of the communities for students to job shadow and talk to them about their professions, so they could learn and absorb the information for the future.  I had over sixteen students apply and I matched six of the students with their mentors: one with a local biologist who ran the recycle program, another with the city manager, one with a retired meteorologist, a match with a psychiatrist, a student with a school principal, and another student with a university professor.  The students built their relationships with their mentors at their own pace, many job shadowed with the mentor, several just visited and talked about the profession, but the connections were being made and resources created for the students.  The students were networking for their future.


In the winter of 2015, Dr. Jenny Penland had been hired for the Director of Experiential Learning with the Title V El Camino Del Lobo Al Exito grant. Experiential Learning had been one of those concepts emphasized during the conference. Help the students get the experience on the job.  In the summer, Dr. Penland introduced herself to me and discussed the idea of internships.  She was doing exactly what had been stressed at the conference “partner with other departments”.  Career Services and Experiential Learning are constituent parts with a symbiotic relationship that guide the students to resources that can help them in their future career. The internship program was conceptualized, developed and piloted.  Dr. Penland successfully built relationships with the local and regional comunities for internships and collaborated with departments to help secure collage credit for the students. Elbert Bassham was the lead on spreadsheets for the companies and students, and instrumental in tech support.  While Rob Soltz and Al Brautigam brought the internship webpage to life with their masterful skills.  My role was support, assist with development of required documents for the students and referral for students and businesses.  Committees met, documents were put in place, students recruited, and internships developed, success achieved.


Sul Ross has taken a significant role in keeping with the trends and after a year and half has an active internship program for our students that give them the opportunity to network and make the connectivity for their future. Internships are packaged in a bigger brighter bow than in the past for our students to open and embrace.  The value of them cannot be over emphasized.  They open doors for our students – the opportunity to work in their field, learn the basics, is this the match I dreamed of or am I needing to look at other options, so I can move into a different direction, network and learn the players in the field.  Seize those opportunities and find an internship that can help you toward your future career.



Check out the Career Fair on Tuesday, April 4th

Have you heard the saying: May you live in interesting times. It was claimed to be an old Chinese Curse now it appears the history of it is more current: 20th century, but the statement itself has value.  It is safe to say we are currently living in “interesting times”.  One of the most recent critical events with regards to jobs and careers has been the hiring freeze mandate.  Something that has happened in the past and is part of our present reality.  The hiring freeze started on the national level under the new administration and then moved into our state government.  The good news is law enforcement is not affected by these freezes, which is encouraging for those of you in the criminal justice field.

What is important to look at as a future graduate is networking and making connections is more valuable than ever before.  You want to know what opportunities are out there and who to talk to.  This is where a career fair is your friend, if anything your best friend.  Reach out to recruiters, attend career fairs, talk to them about the future of the company, find out who they are hiring and why.

Sul Ross has a new tradition with our career fairs.  We now offer a spring and fall career fair.  The spring is rich in school district attendance, since many of the schools are hiring for the fall.  While the fall fair is an excellent opportunity for December graduates to make connections for their future.

A success at our Career Fair is the Best Dressed Contest.  It was a strategy used by the career services department to reflect professionalism and emphasize appropriate student attire, we succeeded.  Students started dressing better and the recruiters noticed.  My first Career Fair as director at the university a couple of young ladies wore their pajamas to the event.  In hindsight I should not have let them cross the threshold into the fair, but they did attend and recruiters commented, and not in a good way.  Students are a reflection of the university, so it is natural that we want to shine and have our students reflect how wonderful Sul Ross is and the skills they have gained from the university.

As the Spring Career Fair is just days away here are some tips for your success:

  • It is a good idea to have your resume available. Career Services is always happy to help you update it or assist you with creating one.  You may not need it, but it is readily available if a recruiter asks for it.
  • Take the time to introduce yourself to recruiters at companies that you are interested in. It helps to prepare you for interviewing.  For all students it is a great opportunity to stretch outside your comfort zone.
  • Go one step farther and shake the recruiter’s hand, they will remember you. Recruiters tell me about the students that stand out, it pleases them to have that kind of engagement.
  • As the saying goes, “dress for the job you want, not the job you have”. Take the time to put on your tie, dress or pantsuit.  It shows you care and you are taking the career fair seriously.

Sul Ross takes education one step further and incorporates the importance of the soft skills to our students.   Communicate by shaking a recruiter’s hand, look them in the eye, and ask them the question, “what jobs does your company offer?” Now in a time of job freezes nationally and statewide, students need to take the time to meet with recruiters and let them know how great their skills are and what they can offer the company.  Networking is the key and career fairs are an excellent opportunity to network with your potential future employer.

Please join us on Tuesday, April 4th from 10 am to 2:00 pm in the University Center on the second floor in the Espino Conference Center and meet with the recruiters.

Jan Rueb, Director of Career Services and Testing


Just another Sul Ross Blogs site