Push the Envelope
Summer interns choose their own adventures, with powerful results.
You’re looking to learn more about a career and gain practical experience by becoming an intern. Do you apply for every available position online and wait to hear a response or do you research contacts, build connections and take action to find – or to build – your dream internship?
This summer, students across UMBC took action, seeking out faculty, staff, alumni and peers to find opportunities for experiential learning in Baltimore, around the country, and internationally.
“Be persistent,” said Joshua Dixon ’17, mechanical engineering, who worked as a research and development engineer for Power Transmission Solutions. “Find an opportunity in the area of what you want to do and be persistent.”
All that effort paid off. This summer’s interns found positions where they could gain hands-on experience and have a tangible impact on issues that matter to them. They conducted research in nationally recognized labs, made meaningful contributions to non-profit organizations and federal agencies, and worked for some of the world’s top corporations, including GE, Amazon and Delphi Automotive Systems in China.
“Find something that pushes your envelope all the way open, that you have a passion for, that’s a little unconventional, and then go do that,” advised Vanessa Barksdale ’17, social work, who interned as a caseworker for International Social Services.
Well-prepared and passionate, UMBC interns to stand out from the crowd. A 2014 National Association of Colleges and Employers report found that the number of internships held by college students was expected to decrease by 3.4 percent in 2014. However, UMBC’s internship, co-op and research placements have steadily increased, in large part due to student effort, faculty involvement and staff guidance.
Kerry Kidwell-Slak, associate director of internships and employment at the UMBC Career Center, explained, “Our goal is to empower students to explore the possibilities while developing their professional skills. We find that many of the students who are successful in acquiring summer internships do so by demonstrating initiative and making the most of the resources around them. These students talk with their friends, family and faculty members, log in to UMBCworks often, have active LinkedIn profiles and attend networking events on campus and elsewhere. Their drive sets them apart to employers.”
Are you ready to choose your own internship adventure? Here, a few 2014 summer interns who enrolled in the Career Center’s Internship, Co-op, and Research Practicum offer advice to get their fellow Retrievers started.
Piedmont Environmental Council
Environmental Science, May 2015
After learning about environmental topics like water quality, land conservation and sustainable development in the classroom, Alexa White was ready to get her hands dirty. She did just that as an intern at the Piedmont Environmental Council in Virginia. Every day was an adventure, from taking trips to organic farms to heading to Washington, D.C. to observe policy decisions concerning sustainable development. Those experiences helped her research the EPA’s Clean Power Plan and develop materials to encourage public support for the plan. “I enjoyed the opportunity to work on a current issue and produce useful materials while doing it,” said White.
My Advice: “Start early. Have an idea of what to search by the end of Fall semester and start applying to things during winter break.”
Walter Reed National Military Medical Center
Psychology, December 2014
As an assistant in the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) office at Walter Reed National Medical Center, Catrice Greer was inspired to explore her psychology major from an industrial/organizational perspective. After being trained for EEO intake counseling, she realized that she was in a great position to observe problem solving skills from her insightful colleagues. Working at Walter Reed also deepened Greer’s sense of national service. “There are many servicemen and service women in our installation,” she said. “I feel fortunate to have such a rare experience to be with them daily and be of some small service to them.”
My advice: “Specifically, for students that have disabilities and want an internship or a permanent position, I highly recommend considering adding the WRP (Workforce Recruitment Program) to your considerations as another avenue to conduct your career search. It is a way to be considered in relation to what you CAN do as opposed to what you CANNOT.”
Mathematics and Information Systems, May 2016
Not only did Celia Drew gain skills in analyzing big data this summer, she also got the opportunity to explore a new city. Her internship in the Information Technology Leadership Program at GE Healthcare took her to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she worked on data to help improve computer system management services. Drew appreciated working for a large company with great co-workers and lots of professional development opportunities. “I realized that GE would be a terrific company for me,” she says. “It’s expanding its use of data to make things more efficient in many industries, and it would feel good to help bring down health care costs.”
My advice: “Get to know your professors because you’ll need recommendations, and start applying for internships or research experiences right away!”
Graphic Design, May 2015
Don’t be surprised if you’ve seen Mai Huynh-Teage’s work before. As a graphic designer for Pixilated Photo Booth, she created unique illustrations and videos for big name clients that have been featured on Instagram, Facebook and other social media sites. Her internship challenged her to improve her design work and also gave her skills in networking, communicating and time management. “I have been inspired to be more creative, take on new initiatives and gain an understanding of a workplace experience,” Huynh-Teage says. “I believe I have been given an excellent educational opportunity that will serve me well in the future after I graduate and begin my career.”
My advice: “Work hard, be confident, and prepare any work files before deadlines. Do not procrastinate. Be yourself. Art is subjective, so don’t take it personally if someone does not like your artwork.”
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, May 2015
Spending the summer as an undergraduate researcher at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) allowed Abigail Jackson to explore how government agencies conduct research. She worked with the American Dental Association to develop ways to improve dental resin composites. Jackson enjoyed learning new laboratory techniques and experimenting with new instruments and materials. “I now feel that I have a very diverse set of experiences that will be useful in my career as a scientist,” she said.
My advice: “I was not sure if my project at NIST would be something that I would enjoy, but I knew I would love it as soon as I learned more about the topic and the specific tasks I would be doing.”
Power Transmission Solutions / Kopflex (an Emerson Industrial Automation company)
Mechanical Engineering, December 2017
Daily walks with employees, yoga at lunch and real mechanical engineering work? That was a winning combination for Joshua Dixon, who was a research and development co-op engineer at Power Transmission Solutions. Dixon ran statistical analyses on raw data for new projects in development by the company. Applying his knowledge of mechanical engineering was the highlight of his internship. “I was asked to do a calculation and was overjoyed that I had to pull out my Mechanics of Materials book to complete it,” Dixon says. “I have really gained confirmation that this is what I want to do when I grow up.”
My advice: “Be persistent. Find an opportunity in the area of what you want to do and be persistent.”
U.S. Army Medical Research and Material Command
Chemical Engineering, May 2017
This summer, Mona Patel spent her days teaching students how to create computer games and dissect pigs. Those lessons were part of her job as a Peer Mentor for the U.S. Army Medical Research and Material Command, where she encouraged students to explore career opportunities in science, math, engineering and technology (STEM). Patel enjoyed making a difference and sharing her passion for STEM with her students. “Being a female in the engineering field is difficult…but sharing my experience and talking about my major shows the students that they can do whatever they want in life as long as they believe in themselves!”
My advice: “Any opportunity that is given to you, big or small, take the chance to try it out.”
T. Rowe Price
Information Systems, May 2015
Aashil Soni’s internship as a Solutions Analyst at T. Rowe Price gave him the opportunity to gain practical experience in his career field. Soni worked on a record keeping system project, testing functionality and performance. He appreciated networking with people on his team and learning about different aspects of the project. “Gaining an experience where I am playing an important role in the project is an experience unique to this opportunity. I was actually doing a business analyst’s work and was given responsibilities that will help me in my career.”
My advice: “Be enthusiastic for the work assigned to you. If your manager is busy, network with other team members and find work from them.”
Remix Education, D.C. Public Schools
Modern Languages, Linguistics and Intercultural Communication, May 2015
McCall Freeman spent the summer making a difference in the lives of 9th graders. Working as an intern for Remix Education allowed him to teach English at Phelps ACE High School in Washington, D.C. During his internship, Freeman enjoyed encouraging students to confront challenging issues like bullying, peer pressure and gang violence in productive, positive ways. “Helping others learn is the ultimate reward for an educator; seeing a community grow one child at a time is the goal of a lifetime,” he said.
My advice: “Focus on the quality of your work experiences and not necessarily the quantity. By narrowing down what it is that you are really interested in, you will be better able to determine the best opportunities to reach your personal, academic, and professional goals.”
Mechanical Engineering, May 2016
Working with UMBC alumni peaked Andrew Brow’s interest in research and increased his knowledge of medical technologies, professionalism and life. Interning as an estimator at Schneider Electric, Brow worked with many UMBC alumni, reading plans, tracking project costs and writing project scopes. Spending with engineering alumni also allowed Brow to learn about the different paths his career could take. “I am confident about my future goals now, and I’ve got a great supportive network backing me,” he says.
My advice: “Apply to as many programs that interest you and go in with an open mind. Be ready to learn and have your mind blown multiple times.”