In this sluggish economic recovery, SU helps students secure internships, which is a smart way to jumpstart a career.
The university rallied in response to a rising need for more robust career guidance and the effort has paid off. Today, students and alumni can find free career advice at webinars, through the Redhawk Network, in one-on-one-counseling sessions and at job-fair style events such as the Career Expo.
More than 100 local employers now fill internships with SU students each year, according to Gayatri Eassey of SU Career Services.
From Amazon to the YMCA, internship opportunities for students include nonprofits, retail, media, healthcare, government and sports teams. Costco Wholesale, World Affairs Council, Expeditors International and Weyerhaeuser are among the leaders.
It speaks to the university’s emphasis on academic excellence and leadership development that many SU students not only land competitive internships but also are able to fashion them into careers once they graduate.
That was the case for Michael Leigh, ’07, a deputy U.S. marshal who now recruits SU students for the Centralized Student Career Experience Program, a cooperative education program that prepares potential deputy U.S. marshals. SU is the only school in the state that participates in this national program aimed exclusively at undergraduate students. So far, seven SU students have completed the program and six have been commissioned as marshals.
Leigh, the first SU student to go through the competitive program, was always interested in law enforcement and public service. As an undergraduate, he held leadership positions in student government and worked in campus Public Safety. It was his U.S. Marshals Service internship, however, that convinced him to join the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency. Protecting federal court officials, executing arrest warrants, providing prisoner custody and transportation, witness security and fugitive investigations are among a marshal’s typical duties.
Leigh says sometimes it’s like a roller coaster ride.
“One day I could be forcing entry into a home to execute an arrest warrant and another day simply providing protection in a courtroom,” he says. His responsibilities cover a wide geographic swath—all of Western Washington from the Canadian to the Oregon border and from the Cascades west to the Pacific Ocean. Last year, he trekked overseas to bring back a fugitive who had been on the run for more than 15 years.
In one of his first assignments in 2008, he joined the high-threat security team that transported convicted terrorist Ahmed Ressam to the U.S. Courthouse in downtown Seattle for re-sentencing. Ressam, also known as the “Millennium Bomber,” was apprehended in Port Angeles, Wash., in December 1999, when he tried to enter the United States by car ferry from Victoria, British Columbia.
After three years based in Seattle, Leigh is now deputy-in-charge of the Vancouver, Wash., satellite office.
“The U.S. Marshals Service is a big agency with lots of opportunity. I’m just getting started,” he says.
Senior Jonathan Moran is ready to follow the same path to become a marshal. He, too, has worked in SU’s Public Safety office. Moran says his application for the internship has been a yearlong process that includes an extensive background investigation, a medical exam, fitness test, three-hour interview and more. If he qualifies, the reward is a 16-week paid internship with full benefits, after which he would graduate from SU. Then, subject to a short probationary period, he would be able to become a marshal.
“It gives you an opportunity to see firsthand if this is what you really want to do,” says Moran. “I was looking for something challenging and specialized. I want to make a difference and be someone who people can go to for help.”
At SU, 52 percent of students in the Class of 2010 said they had done an internship of some kind, according to Eassey, and 39 percent of them said their internships lead to full-time jobs after graduation.
Take Kelley Goetz, ’09, who had an unpaid internship in U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert’s Washington, D.C., office and is now finance director in the Bellevue office for his reelection campaign.
“It’s interesting how the values of SU ground you—learning to be flexible, quick on your feet and be your own person,” she says. “The importance of community engagement was an integral part of my education at SU and the desire to make a change in the world led me toward politics.”
When Miriam Mina, ’00, ’09 MPA, completed her SU nursing degree in 2000, she became an unpaid intern in U.S. Sen. Patty Murray’s office, where she did considerable research on nursing shortages. In 2008, when she was wrapping up her MPA at SU, she interned another five months for the senator.
"It's interesting how the values of SU ground you- learning to be flexible, quick on your feet and be your own person."
-Kelley Goetz, '09, U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert's campaign finance director
“I didn’t know much about politics because my background dealt mostly with the nursing field. I wanted to find out how policy was formed surrounding healthcare and what dictated the rules for the practice,” says Mina, who joined Sen. Murray’s office as a full-time staffer after she completed her MPA in 2009. She figured working for Sen. Murray would be a terrific way to apply her education and work experience.
Social Security, Medicare and healthcare issues are now Mina’s specialties as a constituent services representative for the senator. She says the work is fast-paced and can change hour-to-hour, day-to-day.
This past spring, Mina was back on the SU campus representing Sen. Murray’s office at the university’s Career Expo.
“I think it’s important for students to link into internship opportunities. It helps to bridge what you’ve learned in school and how it applies to the real world setting,” she says.
In a competitive job market, it’s reassuring for SU students to know what a key role experiential education plays. Many students—particularly those in fields such as nursing, social work and psychology—complete structured and supervised practicum course work at social-service agencies and health-care facilities in the Seattle area. In social work, as in nursing and psychology, the practicum is part of their required curriculum and can involve 450 or more hours over several quarters.
“While not considered internships, these practicum courses have a significant impact on students’ ability to secure full-time employment, the development of their professional network and their confidence in seeking employment in their field,” says Eassey.
By the time Samantha Stork, ’10, signed on to complete her required social work practicum at First Place, she already had a taste of her future. She had been a volunteer there as part of her service learning at SU. First Place serves Seattle-area families in crisis with young children.
“I knew I wanted to be a part of an organization like First Place,” Stork says. “Throughout my time as an intern, I prayed that something would open up for me.”
Today, Stork is a First Place case manager. “I enjoy working with parents and seeing progress as it happens because the children can feel it, too. At First Place, we always say, ‘When the parent smiles, the child smiles.’”
Stork credits her internship there for her eventual hiring.
"Whatever you do... do it with passion and enthusiasm."
-Beth Oretsky, '03, OSR student, Wells Fargo Bank recruiter
“I treated my internship like a nine-month-long job interview. …By being an intern, the staff and directors had already worked with me, saw how I worked with others and saw what I was capable of,” she says.
Few internships are open to graduates, although Career Services assists not only current students but also alumni with job searches, one-on-one job advising, career changes, workshops and networking. SU’s free, web-based Redhawk Network is the primary tool to offer as many employment opportunities as possible to both students and alumni.
This past spring, Career Services launched a four-part job seeker career transitions series aimed at alumni, with a webinar version in the offing.
At the spring Career Expo, Beth Oretsky, ’03, currently a student in SU’s Organization Systems Renewal master’s program, had some advice for the Career Expo crowd at Campion Ballroom.
“Whatever you do…do it with passion and enthusiasm,” says Oretsky, a recruiter for Wells Fargo Bank. “I didn’t have an internship and I really wish I did.”
Laura Paskin, director of communications and marketing in the College of Arts and Sciences, contributed to this story.