Pitt to Guarantee Every Undergraduate the Opportunity of an Internship

Issue Date: 
August 21, 2012

Cheryl FinleyIn an effort to help University of Pittsburgh students obtain a competitive edge and prepare for life after graduation, the University’s Office of Career Development and Placement Assistance (CDPA) is unveiling an initiative that guarantees every undergraduate the opportunity of an internship.

Starting this fall, any registered Pitt undergraduate on the Pittsburgh campus is eligible to participate in the Internship Preparation Program (IPP), which is the first step in a student’s obtaining an internship placement.

“We are pleased to offer this opportunity to all of our undergraduates. Internships, like undergraduate research and study abroad, provide students with opportunities to deepen their understanding of what they have learned in their classes and are an important component of ensuring that Pitt graduates make wise career choices and are adequately prepared for the next phase of their lives,” said Pitt Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Patricia E. Beeson.

“The University’s Office of Career Development and Placement Assistance has developed a thorough preparation program for students wanting to obtain an internship placement. Pitt’s internship guarantee is one of the University’s many offerings intended to meet students’ academic and career needs,” Beeson added.

“Employers are looking to hire new graduates with experience, so we are working diligently with employers to make more internships available and accessible to our students,” said Cheryl Finlay, director of the CDPA.

“At the same time, we want our students to understand the importance and value of completing successful internships.”

As one of the nation’s leading public research universities, Pitt places a high priority on having its students engaged in experiential learning, Finlay said, whether that means conducting research with world-class faculty members or performing internships designed to build on what students learn in the classroom. 

The IPP will include a series of six sessions that can be completed during walk-in appointments made at a student’s convenience. Each session addresses a different aspect of preparing for an internship: résumé formatting and content, résumé review and internship focus, preparation for an internship interview, networking skills, and internship search, as well as a session focused on succeeding in the internship.

Once students complete the IPP, they meet individually with CDPA staff for personal résumé reviews, mock interviews, and support in identifying strong matching opportunities for internships. Finlay said the guaranteed internship opportunities will begin for students in the spring and summer semesters of 2013.

Alyson Kavalukas, CDPA internship coordinator, said the internship guarantee program could be the first of its kind.

“To the best of our knowledge, after researching this issue, benchmarking at other schools, and through outreach at national conferences, we believe the University of Pittsburgh is unique in guaranteeing experiential learning for all undergraduates who complete a preparation program,” said Kavalukas.

CDPA will encourage students who haven’t yet determined their career paths to use internships as a chance to explore potential career fields, their individual strengths, and work dynamics.

Kavalukas said students’ self-awareness after an internship can help them to select a major and register for classes applicable to possible future careers. Regardless of where students are in their career-planning process, CDPA has staff to offer support.

“Our career consultants meet with the students, wherever they are in their career-planning process, and work with them to help them become more self-aware of their preferences and cognizant of potential challenges and barriers to their journey,” Finlay said.

These consultants meet with students one-on-one and help them explore majors through interest and personality assessments, like the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory and the Strong Interest Inventory. 

Consultants are also available to help students to navigate resources as they explore career fields and to understand which careers may result from different majors and how workplace values fit into their future goals.  

“Our office also hosts a majors and minors fair in October, where most of the academic departments are available to meet with students to discuss majors and minors and career paths,” Finlay said. “If a student has not declared a major or is considering a change of majors, then this is a great opportunity to gather information to make an informed decision.”

Finlay noted that last year, more than 1,000 students attended the career fair.

For seniors who haven’t yet tapped into CDPA’s resources, there is the newly developed Career Boot Camp program and career fairs that vary in size and in targeted industry areas. In addition, there are a variety of online resources and videos that enable students to do career research at their convenience. 

The Pitt Career Network, an online database for alumni and students to connect with one another based on areas and careers of interest, is another resource students can use for career exploration and networking opportunities.

“Successful connections can lead to job shadow opportunities, as well as to guidance throughout the job and internship search,” said Sarah C. Miess, networking coordinator. “Ultimately, we want to engage alumni and students in order to create a network of support that helps students successfully bridge the gap between their collegiate experiences and career endeavors.”

CDPA services aren’t limited to current students. Alumni within one year of their graduation date have unlimited access to all of CDPA’s resources. Alumni who are beyond one year of their graduation date are charged a small fee to continue use of all resources, including access to FutureLinks, the online database of job postings exclusive to Pitt students and alumni; one-on-one appointments with staff members; access to the Pitt Career Network and career fairs; and participation in special events and programs.

“Alumni understand the importance of their relationship with the Office of Career Development and Placement Assistance. Whether they are employed or unemployed, it is essential for them to stay apprised of the current trends,” said Miess. “Typically, alumni seek opportunities to learn and network in order to navigate the job market. Our office has a variety of resources to help maintain a connection to Pitt alumni, facilitating them even in the years following graduation.“

Finlay said the effort to help students gain experience-based learning helps the University reach its goal of 95 percent employment placement for new graduates. She said the closer her office is to attaining that goal, the better Pitt is able to recruit and retain top students and to maintain an engaged alumni population.

“Experiential learning provides students with skill sets and professional savvy that they will use in their careers, and these experiences are highly desired by employers,” said Finlay. “It also helps students identify their true passions and strengths in order to make smart academic decisions and choose the right career paths.”