By BECKY GILLETTE
College internships can land students in interesting places. Two University of Southern Mississippi doctoral students, Dave Krzeminski and Nadine Lippa, earned internships at Adidas headquarters in Germany. And with two earlier internships under his belt, Mississippi State University electrical engineering student Hagan Walker landed an internship this past summer with Tesla, a California-based automotive and energy storage company that designs, manufactures, and sells electric cars, electric vehicle powertrain components and battery products.
Walker, who recently graduated from MSU, recommends students start applying for internships early in their college career. He had two earlier internships that led up to being able to land the dream internship with Tesla.
“I think it is an incredible experience to be able to go work in the real world and see how things actually do play out, how you have to work in teams with other people,” Walker said.
“It opened up a lot of doors for me. I think the important thing is if you know what you want to do in school, apply for internships as early as possible. I started with EcoCar at MSU where students get to work on making vehicles more energy efficient. Start early, get into a field and see if you like it. That is what an internship is for. If it is not what you expected, then try again.”
Walker was originally a computer engineering major. But after the EcoCar internship, he decided to pursue a career in the automotive field.
Internships look impressive on a resume when applying for jobs, and sometimes result in a job offer from the company where the student interned.
Walker said going back to work with Tesla would be amazing.
“The company treats its employees well and has a great product,” Walker said.
“Tesla will be increasingly successful in the coming years, and it would be great to be a part of that. But it also opens other opportunities.
“Now I have done something pretty big in the automotive sector, I could go to another automotive company and it would look good on my resume to have Tesla experience.”
Scott Maynard, director of the MSU Career Center, said internships and cooperative education are great ways to gain practical work experience.
“It really sets students apart in the eyes of employers,” Maynard said.
“In fact, some employers won’t interview students unless they have internship or co-op experience. Internships can also help students confirm their major. It gives them an insight into what will be expected when they graduate.”
The last week in January more than 100 employers attended the MSU Career Fair seeking co-op or intern students. More than 600 students participate in intern or co-op positions through the Career Center, and other students secured internships on their own.
“Our May graduate survey indicated that more than 45 percent of our graduates participated in at least one semester of internship or co-op,” Maynard said.
The two USM doctoral students who went to Germany also gained a lot. Krzeminski and Lippa presented research in the United Kingdom at the 2014 Conference of the International Sports Engineering Association (ISEA). After presenting, they were approached by the senior director of engineering at Adidas, Tim Lucas, and asked on the spot if they were interested in completing a six-month internship at the world headquarters in Herzogenaurach, Germany.
Krzeminski completed his post graduate program internship at the end of November. Lippa started in October and will conclude her internship at the end of April. Lippa is working on footwear and apparel projects for running and other sports.
“I’ll be working on simulations, material and mechanical testing,” said Lippa. “One exciting aspect of my new position is that I will be trained in the core competency of finite analysis training, which allows us to simulate different loads placed on specific materials and products.”
Krzeminski’s projects included the performance areas of running, football (soccer) and apparel. He engaged in fundamental engineering across finite element analysis, method development, design concepts, and materials selection. At Southern Miss, Krzeminski’s research focus is sports helmets, specifically on impact biomechanics and the materials comprising the helmet’s outer shell.
“It has been a great opportunity to experience how a worldwide brand conducts engineering to assist and drive product development, compared to the academic philosophy of my doctoral engineering experience at USM,” said Krzeminski said.
Lisa Stevens, job location and development coordinator, USM Career Services Center, said student interest in internships has increased greatly in the past three years.
“Now some majors require an internship and others highly encourage them,” Stevens said. “The students have got the message than an internship is important so they are now seeking them out. We teach them to start looking as soon as possible after the freshman years. It doesn’t hurt to have more than one internship. Having two can help lift you above the pack so you stand out.”
Most employers are looking for an internship or other work experience on a resume when looking for potential employees.
“It is really like a screening device to assess the skills and abilities of the prospective employee,” Stevens said. “Employers understand what students are learning in classroom, but are interested in the soft skills of perspective employee such as interpersonal skills, leadership skills, and empathy. Those are things you can’t really learn in the classroom that are developed in the work world. Demonstrating a strong work ethic is huge, especially now. Leave your phone at home, show up early, stay late, learn how to use a copier\scanner, and things like that.”
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