Success by Internship

by Hunter West ’14

It is not uncommon for students entering college to find themselves stricken with one of two afflictions: being disinterested in every subject, or being interested in too many subjects. I, myself, was plagued with the latter (and lesser) malady. While being interested in several fields of study certainly made school entertaining, it made choosing a career path agonizing. I was interested in everything from studying molecular bonds, to writing algorithms in code, to dissecting ancient Egyptian literature in it’s native symbols. For a lot of students, practicality (read: remuneration) would eliminate several of the less sensible options, but I had sworn to myself that, when it came to my future career, I would not compromise my happiness for the sake of pragmatism.

So where did that leave me? I was interested in everything, but not in anything. Taking classes hurt more than it helped – my interests grew tirelessly and left me with enough career choices to make your head spin. So, I ran back to the one subject that I felt comfortable with – that I knew I would never tire of and that never ceased to make me happy: History. Well, that certainly solved my problem, I thought; I’m not certain that I could have chosen a more restrictive career path if I had tried, and as mentioned previously, I was on the fast track to being a professor.

But having what I thought would be my career laid out before me still did not restrict my interests – I thought I knew what I would do for a living, but I still wanted to explore other areas academically. That was when I discovered GIS, or Geographic Information Science. A professor of mine with whom I had a good relationship had approached me and introduced me to this new discipline – a place where geography and technology, two of my favorite fields, intersect and compliment each other. I began taking all of the classes that I could, and although I was highly interested, it did not at first strike me as something I would enjoy as much as my history studies. I was wrong.

I had a sit down with a family friend over a meal where I discussed with him my studies and my career goals. He gave me the familiar lecture about being a professor: how exclusive it was, how non-lucrative it was, and all of the other criticisms that I had grown accustomed to hearing. I sat through it, but I really didn’t care – teaching history made me happy and I wanted to do something that I could be excited for every morning. He’s an astute guy, and he knew he wasn’t getting through to me, so he made a simple suggestion – “Hey, you said that you like GIS,” he said to me, “why don’t you just do an internship?” I hadn’t thought about that – why would I intern in a field that I wasn’t going to do professionally? Well, it certainly couldn’t hurt, right? I had missed the deadline for history internships, but there were still GIS internships that I could pursue independently, so I applied to several companies and awaited a response.

The rest is, as they say, history. I was hired as a Sales Engineer intern at a GIS software company January of my senior year. I was expecting to get some workplace experience, get some course credit, and get another line on my resume. I did not get what I was expecting; instead, I fell in love. I started looking forward to the days that I interned more than the days I had class. I passed my time at work creating maps to be used as demonstration collateral, learning about technology and working with an account team, and even giving presentations to clients and business partners. I was, in effect, teaching. My dad was a career salesman for most of his life and I had always avoided it because it never seemed interesting to me, but now that I was immersed in it I saw just how dynamic and interesting it could be. Moreover I saw how I could infuse my passion for the field of GIS with my new role as a Sales Engineer, and the result was something I was excited about.

In the end, I did not compromise. I liked my internship so much that I extended it out full time over the summer, and by the end of summer I wanted to continue doing what I was doing professionally more than I wanted to be a history professor. This internship had given me a perspective on career opportunities that I had never even considered previously. It exposed me to a dimension of professional life that is absolutely impossible to see from your chair in the classroom. And most importantly, it had shown me that something you like to do in school can be something you love to do in the office, and vice versa. On top of all that, I had my choice of job offers by the end of summer, and I strongly suspect that having that internship on my resume was a huge help.

So if you take one thing from my story, make it this: encourage your student to pursue an internship. Encourage them to pursue several internships. After all, it couldn’t hurt, right?

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What a difference those four years make

By Connie Williams (parent of Sarah Foote ’15)

It has been nearly four years since we helped her move into Centennial Halls. And, when I say the oft-repeated cliché “it seems like yesterday”…. well, it does.

Our daughter chose the University of Denver even though she really knew no one coming here from her high school in Connecticut. She was looking for a different kind of experience – academics and career preparation, yes, but also something that was distinctive — outdoorsy, friendly, adventurous, different. Doing something she hadn’t done before without the safety net of familiar peers. Yet when we left her at the residence hall with that doe-eyed look of ‘now what do I do?’, we weren’t so sure.

At orientation, we heard Helen Johnson, author of the parenting guidebook “Don’t Tell Me What To Do, Just Send Money” speak on the college transition with some fairly scary advice for parents: mostly let them guide themselves and be available as a mentor. Don’t try to solve their problems for them. This is a time for learning, encountering challenges and overcoming them. And if a little failure comes along with that, let it happen – because that is where wisdom and growth can emerge. That kind of parenting, after seeing them through the trials and tribulations of high school, can seem daunting and scary. “Are you sure that doesn’t qualify as child abandonment?” said the little voice in my head. But we tried our best to give her the gift of letting her work her way through the trials, knowing we were always a phone call (or more accurately a text) away.

Fast forward to today, we are making plans for graduation parties and get-togethers.  Those awkward freshman uncertainties, roommate challenges and feelings of friend-less-ness are long gone. She found her place, her field of study and her group. Now, self directed, confident and responsible, she looks ready to take on the world!!

With the help of professors, advisors and staff, plus roommates and club sports teammates, these four years have brought forth a transformation. Career services helped point toward internships and summer job opportunities and the Study Abroad program was another high point. During this time, DU has made the transition to a new chancellor and celebrated a big anniversary. Yet the system provided consistency and continuity. As the last trimester winds down and the job search heats up, the students are almost too busy to reflect on the experience just yet. But as we wrote that last tuition check, we agree that, as parents, it has been a wonderful ride. DU has been a splendid place for her growth and development. And it really does seem like it was just yesterday that the journey began.

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Supporting your student at the end of the quarter

Happy Spring!

University Parent recently shared an article you may find interesting. Here is a small excerpt:

A friend who is a recent graduate reminded me that, despite the beauty and exhilaration of the season, the stretch between spring break and the end of second semester can be the most tiring and stressful time of the entire year. Here are strategies for supporting your student academically and personally. Read more

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Helping your DU student manage stress

As we close out week 5 of the spring quarter here at DU, students are beginning to experience some pressure: completing mid-terms, developing their writing, preparing for presentations, let alone taking care of everything else needed to manage their lives.

We as parents are here for them as confidant and coach, but what else can we do from a distance? Listen. Sometimes that is everything they need from us.

Here is a good article from University Parent Magazine about managing stress. More articles and resources for parents of DU students can be found on the Tips for Parents page.

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Article on College Internships

Say you’re the parent of a college freshman. You’ve heard internships can deliver real-world experience and increase your student’s odds of landing a good job in the competitive post-college marketplace. Read more

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Articles to Share

Many articles are available specifically for parents and families of college students. Here are a few articles published by that you may find interesting.

Tax Filing Tips for Parents of College Students

What to Consider When Your Student Wants to Study Abroad

An Insider’s Guide to College Academics

Helping Your Student Through Homesickness

Suicide Awareness and Prevention

Self Care for Parents

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Lecture Series during Moms & Grandmoms Weekend

Parents, students, and community members of DU are invited to attend presentations in our beautiful Reiman Theater inside Margery Reed Hall, 2306 E. Evans Avenue, on Friday February 20th. Presentation times are listed below. Everyone is welcome and there is no registration required to attend. We hope to see you there!

1:00pm – 2:00pm
“That’s Not What I Meant!”: Non-Verbal Communication for Women
Communication has and always will be an important skill for professionals of all ages; however, when we practice communication, we generally focus solely on speaking ability. Experts estimate that 94% of the meaning we derive from communication comes from our non-verbal communication yet we rarely study or practice this skill. In this session, DU career coach Lindsey Day will teach you strategies to assess your current non-verbal communication patterns; improve your ability to connect with professional colleagues, friends and family; and minimize miscommunication between “what you say” and “how you say it.”

2:00pm – 3:00pm
“Cultivating Moral Engagement and Community Building through Restorative Justice Conferences in Student Conduct”
Current research supports the effectiveness of restorative justice processes in schools as a mechanism for responding to student misconduct and building community. In order to enhance its educational mission, DU’s Student Conduct office is piloting a new case resolution format – Restorative Justice Conferences (RJCs) – with the goal of creating and maintaining a campus environment in which compliance with community standards is a result of moral understanding, as well as a strong sense of community and inclusion. In this session, the Restorative Justice Coordinator, Maggie Lea, will explain the process, its benefits to students and the DU community, and what is needed in order to keep the program running.

3:00pm – 4:00pm
DU alum Nathan Michaels presents “Starting a Business after DU”
Nathan Michaels (MBA 2012) is a graduate of Daniels who will talk about his experiences at the University of Denver and developing his thriving local business, K&N Storage Company.

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