UNA offers student internships, professional advancement

Internships and other forms of experiential learning can have many benefits, said UNA economics major Whitney Nichols.

“As far as experiential learning in college, I definitely think it’s an asset, whatever your major,” she said.

Nichols interns at Florence Main Street. She said that the skills she has learned on the job have stuck in her mind more than the information she has received strictly in the classroom.

“It takes time and effort beyond classroom studies, but I think it does more for you,” Nichols said. “I’ve learned a lot about what I’m learning in a classroom as it applies to the real world.”

UNA student Claire Stewart agrees with Nichols about internships providing real-world experience. She is a professional writing major, and the work she completed through her internship helped her prepare for her future career.

“I got an internship at A. Tomlinson and Sims Advertising that owns No’Ala Magazine,” Stewart said. “It was a weekly obligation that taught me a lot about small publications. Two years later, they hired me to work part time because of my previous experience with the company.”

In order for a work position to be counted as an internship, it must be tied to one’s academic major and be approved, according to Heidi Grabryan, Employer Development Specialist with Career Planning and Development at UNA.

“It has to be in your field of study,” Grabryan said.

Grabryan said she is willing to help any student who wishes to procure an internship and that usually the best time to do so is junior year or later.

Grabryan said this is because major-specific classes are often needed to develop the skills that internships require, and many times different majors have different requirements as to when an internship should be completed.

“I got it by asking the department head and talking to Career Planning and Development,” Nichols said. “It’s definitely been a good experience.”

Grabryan said that the heads of each department have their own connections in their individual fields that can help students procure the internships they are looking for. She also said large corporations provide many of the opportunities for students, along with the local employers of the Shoals.

“Opportunities are out there if you are willing to go to the far places,” Grabryan said, although most of the students coming into her office want to explore local opportunities.

Regardless of what kind of internship one participates in, though, Dr. Vince Brewton, English professor and Honors Program director, said he encourages every student to have some learning experience beyond the classroom. He said interning, volunteering and studying abroad all benefit a student’s college experience and career potential.

Allison Ray, a UNA student, concurs that all experiential learning is beneficial. She is a senior double majoring in sociology and international studies.

“For me, practical application or experiential learning is essential for the college student to gain knowledge otherwise lost in the classroom,” said Ray, an employee for the UNA Office of International Affairs. “Additionally, innovative or ‘out of the box’ learning may enhance a college student’s resume and contribute to their overall ‘hirability’ upon graduation.”