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Internships key to stronger Mid-South workforce
Internship program a key to stronger Mid-South workforce
The benefits of the University of Memphis’ expanding internship program are obvious when it comes to students, but Shelby County’s top official says it does much more.

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell says the entire Mid-South region is reaping the rewards of the program by helping to produce a more robust business community.

“Keeping the best students in Memphis for careers after graduation creates a stronger, more highly educated workforce,” he said. “We are committed to keeping our locally educated college students in our community. One of the best ways to do that is through internships. We will be exploring more ways to partner with the U of M to provide more opportunities.”

Interns are often offered a job with the company he or she worked for during school, a benefit to all. Students “walk” right into a career; businesses have access to a workforce they are familiar with.

“We have found internship programs are a great way to evaluate prospective new employees by observing how they perform on the job in our environment,” said Laura Whitsitt (BSME ‘87, MS ‘88), a senior vice president at Smith & Nephew. “Students from the U of M are among our best interns, and we have hired many of them into full-time positions.”

Former U of M student Ashley Butler turned her internship with International Paper into a full-time job. At right is IP manager Lance Losurdo, who mentored Butler at the company.
Former U of M student Ashley Butler turned her internship with International Paper into a full-time job. At right is IP manager Lance Losurdo, who mentored Butler at the company.
Said International Paper manager Lance Losurdo of his experience with intern Ashley Butler (BA ’10), ”Ashley’s internship is a model example of why employers have internship programs. She contributed well to her assigned projects, provided a fresh view of how we operate and gained experience in the area of corporate purchasing. She demonstrated her capabilities and work ethic with excellence. This led to International Paper offering her a full-time position.”

Biomedical engineering graduate student Monohar Potluri pointed out the student benefit.

“The Smith & Nephew experience has taught me the practical work skills that you can’t find in a classroom,” he said. “I gained solid industry experience. Combining that with my graduate degree gives me the skills I need to succeed in my future endeavors.”

Butler added, “As an intern at International Paper, I was fortunate to be given many leadership opportunities. These roles consisted of controlling my own projects, searching for answers to projects and determining solutions.”

Katina Garrard (BA ’95, MS ’10) was a sport and leisure commerce major at the U of M who landed “a dream job” in sports because of the internship program.

“It’s all about networking,” said Garrard, who is in ticket sales with the Memphis Grizzlies. “The best way to get into an organization is through an internship.”

“You go into an internship like a sponge and just soak everything up,” added Trenton Busby (BSEd ’10), who was offered “a job on the spot” with the San Antonio Spurs after he interned with the Grizzlies. “It is all about building relationships internally and externally. You can do that through an internship.”

Students often get more than just “real-world” working experience.

“We really get to see a lot of the kids at the hospital,” said St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital intern Megan Zapletal, a marketing major at the U of M. “We talked to a man whose daughter had passed away. It was so sad it made us cry. But seeing all the kids’ smiling faces at the hospital makes you appreciate what St. Jude does.”

Mary Braddock, a graduate school public administration major, worked an internship for the USO’s development office in Washington, D.C.

“I’ve always had an inclination to support people who are fighting for our freedom,” Braddock said of her internship. “The people we serve are people who are putting their lives on the line. For me to work an unpaid internship for a nonprofit, it seems the least I can do.”

The number of internships this spring was more than 2,600, about double the total from 10 years ago. Increasing internships is an institutional priority.

If your business wants to become involved in the U of M’s internship program, contact Kathy Tuberville at k.tuberville@memphis.edu. Tuberville is also looking for professors on campus to help in placing students.

— by Greg Russell

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