I can honestly say that an internship changed the course of my life. I was one of those clueless students who changed my major several times over my four years at a liberal-arts college. Actually, it wasn’t until my senior year of college that a mentor suggested I apply for an internship in student affairs in January at Florida State University and attend graduate courses in higher education administration. My mentor was the dean of students, and I can clearly recall the day she pulled me out of the line in the dining hall and asked me a question: “Susan, did it ever occur to you that you might not want to leave the college environment?”
Are you kidding? What first-semester senior wants to leave the college environment? As I often say, “What is not to love about a college campus?” So my mentor came home with me at Thanksgiving to convince my parents that my exploration of graduate school was not just an attempt to avoid the “real world” and that I might actually find my passion.
As I said, the experience changed my life. As most of you know, I was a first-generation student who grew up in a small town in Iowa and followed my sister to a college 90 miles from home. I had never been on a plane before, nor had I spent any significant time alone in a totally new environment. Florida State University expanded my horizons.
We are so committed to our students’ future success that we guarantee every one of them the chance to have an internship.
Transformational experiences are alive and well at Bellarmine University. I am so proud of a couple of our seniors who are also venturing to Florida State for graduate studies in higher education. They are so much better prepared than I was, and I can easily see the difference that they will make in the graduate program and at the university. I have confidence in our Bellarmine students because they take nothing for granted and they are fearless.
I have the opportunity to witness the confidence our students exhibit every day. Whether it is on the court or field, in mock trial, in a musical recital or theatre production, their talent and their poise are compelling. They also undertake internships very early in their tenure, and many students have a number of internships. You’ll read in this magazine the story of John Klapheke, a sophomore who spent the fall 2018 semester interning in Denmark as a designer with the LEGO Group. Again, this was an opportunity to explore his passion, and whether he ends up at LEGO permanently or not, I am sure this will be a pivotal experience in his lifetime.
Today’s students want to “kick the tires,” so to speak, and our Career Development Center and our faculty and staff continue to encourage and prepare them for these opportunities. In fact, we are so committed to our students’ future success that we guarantee every one of them the chance to have an internship—whether that is traditional or virtual, domestic or abroad—and to develop a career plan and build a professional network. Our alumni mentoring program is one of the largest and most innovative such programs in the country.
But our support doesn’t end when I hand a student a diploma. Career development is a lifelong process, and all Bellarmine alumni have free career services for life, not to mention an ever-growing association of alumni they can turn to for advice. I like to say that Bellarmine’s network is really a “lifenet”: It continues to support our students and our alumni/ae forever.