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February 2003 Co-op Student of the Month winner, Louise Steeves, worked during the spring 2000 semester at WSDR/WSSQ/WZZT Radio, Sterling, Illinois, as an on-air announcer. Previous to this internship, she had been a theatre major, but the internship convinced her to change her major to journalism. As she described it, "On the first day of the job, my stories hit the airwaves, and I have never looked back since." Daily, she was responsible for writing copy for three versions of each story, while updating and writing new stories. She also had to "voice-over" three different two-minute newscasts for three different radio stations. Steeves commented, "It was challenging, but gratifying work. The eight months I was employed with WSDR not only taught me the journalism basics, but it also taught me how to write without prejudice or bias." Before she left WSDR, she was offered a full time position producing and hosting her own afternoon show, as well as working in the newsroom. However, because she was a Canadian citizen, the immigration paperwork would have taken more than one year to complete, so she chose to enroll in NIU instead.
Jay Pauley, Program and Production Director at WSDR Radio described Steeves' work at the station thus, "Louise was one of our best part-time employees/interns ever for several reasons. Her attitude is always positive, she handled both the on-air and off-air duties that were a part of her shift to perfection, and was always asking if there were more she could do. A quick study eager to do more with a smile is not a combination one often finds when looking for part time employees, but with these qualities and more, Louise was so valuable an asset at our facility we wished to make her a full time employee…"
While in her senior year at NIU, Steeves was offered a program coordinator internship with NIU's newly formed Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Resource Center. She was responsible for creating a complete public relations plan and press kit to be distributed in the LGBT Resource Center, as well as throughout campus. Steeves plans to continue on to graduate school and the internship will become a graduate assistantship.
Arthur P. Doederlein, Director of Undergraduate Studies at NIU, is Steeves' academic adviser, teacher, and intern director. On Steeves academic performance, he comments, "First and foremost, Louise is very bright. In my class…she earned an "A," with all components of the course being an "A." She is fun to have in class, she brings up topics to discuss, and she argues with you. She is an active thinker, not a passive memorizer. She will probably earn magna cum laude distinction. She is always on the Deans' List and on our Communication Department Honor Roll…As Undergraduate Director in my department for more than 25 years, I've known literally thousands of students. Louise stands out!"
Steeves plans to pursue a career in public relations with a municipal governmental or educational institution after graduate school. She is enthusiastic about the benefits of her internship experiences, "I feel I already have a competitive edge over other students because I was able to immerse myself into the communication field and actually implement many of the theories discussed in the classroom. My classroom experiences have prepared me for my internships. The internships filled voids in my curriculum and prepared me for the ‘real world' of work. I have never been as confident in my abilities as I am today…"
March 2003 Co-op Student of the Month winner, Chad Hertz, a NIU manufacturing engineering technology major, completed a year-long, parallel engineering co-op with Plews/Edelmann in Dixon, Illinois. He was able to work part-time and attend NIU part-time. Although Hertz was apprehensive about accepting the co-op position with an engineering company, once on the job, his opinion soon changed. As he describes it, "This internship was an indicator of how the rest of my career would be. In other words, I was afraid that I would not like the type of work for which I had been so diligently preparing. After seven months of being on the job, I can truthfully say that I love it. It has certainly reinforced my hopes that this is the correct career path for me."
Hertz recently finished a project that resulted in a new layout of the power steering department at Plews/Edelmann. Originally, he was approached with the challenge to compress the department by 25%, while improving material flow, as well as implementing "lean manufacturing" concepts. After much time calculating and working out various plans, he arrived at a layout that exceeded expectations by compressing the department by 35%. His ideas were well accepted and are now being implemented, much to his satisfaction. As Hertz describes it, "This is not something I learned (solely)during my education. However, it was an instance where I used my common sense, past work history, and education in combination to perform a task." He also feels his internship experience has made him a better learner back in the classroom, stating "…I am now able to sit in a lecture and envision real world applications of the theories, which I am learning. This has had a fantastic influence on my performance in the classroom."
Besides developing engineering skills, Hertz brought away "soft skills" from his work experience. As he states, "My internship placement has given me yet another tool, which I can use to compete in this extremely competitive job market. I have not only learned how to apply skills learned in the classroom, I have also learned confidence, pride in a job well done, and an understanding of how business is conducted in the real world."
Brett Staniszeski, Industrial Engineer at Plews/Edelmann, was Hertz' supervisor in the Engineering Department. He praised Hertz' performance stating, "I was very impressed by Chad's ability to function in a team environment. His innovative thinking has made great contributions to the team of engineers working to design new products. We are currently in the process of implementing a layout that Chad designed for the Power Steering Department. This layout improved overall process flow and reduced the area by 35%. Chad has shown an ability to learn new skills in a short amount of time. This became evident as we asked him to broaden his education by learning Lean Manufacturing concepts. He was eager to learn and has become a contributor to the lean initiatives of the company. Chad is well respected by co-workers and management in the company. There are constant requests for his assistance throughout the facility."
Rolland Bossert, staff member of the NIU Technology Department, commended Hertz' academic performance stating, "I have been privileged to know Chad Hertz as a student in my Machine Shop classes at NIU. While working with Chad, I found his abilities and enthusiasm to be well above average. His conscientious effort and cooperation in doing high-quality work was appreciated."
Hertz is grateful for the assistance provided by the NIU Cooperative Education/Internship Program. He states, "I must thank them (department) for making this incredibly important step in my career so easy to accomplish. I simply received an e-mail from them regarding a job opening, I indicated that I was interested in that job, and two weeks later, I was offered the position at the interview. I couldn't have asked for a better friend in this trying time…"
June winner, Benjamin C. Ogle, spent his summer working with the Chicago Field Division of the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which operates within the Department of Justice. Ogle was assigned to assist a special agent and forensic auditor on an ongoing conspiracy and fraud case. As he states, "Due to my involvement in the case I was cleared by the Justice Department to view grand jury information…I provided assistance in the form of basic office duties and the photocopying of subpoenaed evidence. The auditor I worked with charged me with the creation of a number of data spreadsheets containing information I had drawn from documents attained by the ATF. Finally, I completed my internship with the basic analysis of financial information subpoenaed by the U.S. Attorney's office. These activities were meaningful, beneficial to those I was working for, and provided me with a great deal of insight into federal law enforcement."
Ogle's internship also allowed him to see the connection between his academic field of study, political science, and the workings of an executive branch of the federal government. He states, "How governments enforce laws and regulations is a key attribute of the study of politics. This internship proved an informative window into the everyday workings of a federal agency charged with such a task. While it is possible to learn of these activities from a textbook or lecture, it is impressive to see firsthand how an investigation is conducted."
Ogle was also impressed by the amount of resources that are accessed during even one investigation. Regarding this he states, "The special agent and auditor contacted other organizations such as the U.S. Attorney's Office, the Internal Revenue Service, the former Immigration and Naturalization Service, Chicago police and fire units, the State Department, insurance agencies, banks, and other sources of information. Furthermore, an investigation of this nature required major time commitments. When I began my internship the special agent informed me he had worked the case for a year, and expected it to continue for possibly another year before prosecution began. Such realizations could only have been attained through an internship."
Ogle was also enthusiastic about the networking opportunities his internship with ATF has provided, as well as their efforts to help him prepare for a career in federal work. He states, "This internship will allow me to be kept in the loop about openings, as well as potential jobs as a contract employee. Indeed, many of the employees I met there were former intern program graduates…Many of the ATF personnel offered to serve as references for me…Finally, the program supervisors conducted two mock job interviews. These events allowed the interns to experience a realistic panel interview environment, after which we were critiqued on our responses, body language, and presentation."
Finally, Ogle attributes his success in obtaining his internship to the Northern Illinois University's assistance, saying, "It is unlikely I would have discovered this opportunity without the NIU Co-op/Internship office. I found the internship announcement on the Co-op website and received the application from them. Additionally, the internship fair provided me with the chance to interview with other organizations, unrelated to the ATF, which provided me with experience I could use in my interview with ATF."
Sylvia Smuszkiewicz, Senior Operations Officer of the Chicago Field Division of the ATF, praised Ogle's work by stating, "Ben was outstanding. He always showed professionalism, determination, conscientiousness, attention to detail and a work ethic that was extraordinary. He was a productive member of an investigative team…Ben was always responsive to any work assignment…independently worked assignments…demonstrated extremely effective oral communication skills." Smuszkiewicz went on to give Ogle the highest compliment an intern can receive by saying, "Ben's mentor commented that if he had the power to hire Ben right now as a special agent, he would. Overall, Ben would be an asset to any federal agency or private sector organization that would have the good fortune of hiring him. He has shown that he can and will take every step to do the best possible job."
Vicki Clarke, Masters in Public Administration Coordinator at Northern Illinois University, familiar with Ogle's academic work, comments, "Mr. Ogle completed an internship this past summer with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), one of our most prestigious internships available to political science students. As a part of the Internship in Political Science course I teach, he wrote a fine paper on arson investigation within the ATF. Not only did Mr. Ogle demonstrate his enthusiasm in securing this internship, but also he was a fine representative of Northern Illinois University. His supervisor, Ms. Sylvia Smuszkiewicz, noted that in the short time he was at ATF, he was doing ‘high grade analysis.' His outstanding analysis was equally evident in his written work."
The July Co-op Student of the Month winner, Jacob Pence , was on an Engineering Co-op during the spring and continuing on into the fall with Hamilton Sundstrand in Rockford, Illinois. Pence found that his co-op experience challenged him to use the engineering skills he learned at NIU and allowed him to develop new skills. In his words, "Everyday at work, I directly apply skills I have learned from my electrical engineering courses to design and assist the engineers at Hamilton Sundstrand…This session, I have designed, analyzed and constructed digital systems and tested analog circuits." In regards to learning new skills, Pence states, "The most extensive new skill I developed was programming in VHDL (Very high speed Hardware Description Language). VHDL is, put simply, used to describe a digital system like a computer program and then place it in a chip in the form of digital logic gates. When I first started at HS, I did not know anything about VHDL. With the help of my team leader, however, I was able to pick up the basics very quickly, and I was soon working alongside the other engineers in my team."
Pence also learned more than just technical skills during his co-op. As he states, "I have learned how to function as an engineer in a large corporation. The paperwork and meetings that are an everyday part of the job for a real engineer are not taught in the classroom." He also learned to refine his communication and teamwork skills. In his words, "After testing one of the designs in my group, I must communicate effectively to the engineer who designed the particular component what happened during the test and could be improved…I also have to take technical instruction from the engineers in my group."
One of the most important aspects of Pence's co-op experience was the opportunity to find role models in his engineering career. His team leader at Hamilton Sundstrand provided this modeling. As he states, "Not only has Mr. Drager been instructive and encouraging, but has also filled the void of an engineering role model for me. Before my co-op session, I did not know a successful engineer I could model myself after. Having Mr. Drager's experience to draw from has been invaluable in plotting my future career and academic future."
Pence credits the NIU Co-op Internship Program for helping find his co-op work experience. Having transferred to NIU from a community college, he visited their office right away. After refining his resume and exploring job possibilities with the engineering coordinator, Angela Cline, Pence still found that he did not fit what the employers were looking for at the time. The engineering coordinator then steered him to attend the next NIU Internship Career Fair. As Pence states, this move brought success, "At the Fair, I gave my resume to Hamilton Sundstrand engineer Paul Peterson. During the ensuing conversation, I made a good enough impression for him to highly recommend me to the HR managers in charge of hiring new co-ops. Not long after that, I was interviewed and hired as a co-op engineer at Hamilton Sundstrand."
Barry Drager, Project Engineer at Hamilton Sundstrand and Pence's team leader, praised Pence's work, "Over the course of the past two months, Jake has demonstrated an ability to understand technical problems, a willingness to learn new skills, and the ability to function in a teaming environment. I consider these skills to be very important to engineers here at Hamilton Sundstrand. His performance to date has been exceptional, and he has become a valued member of the Hamilton Sundstrand JSF team. I look forward to working with him for the remainder of this session as well as in the future."
Mansour Tahernezhadi, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at Northern Illinois University, also praises Pence's academic performance as he states, "I have come to know Jacob as my student in ELE 315—Signal and Systems—class…Based on direct observation through class and after-class interactions, I found Jacob to be a highly motivated student who always has a keen interest to relate theories advanced in the class to real-life practical problems, especially those related to his co-op experience. He also impressed me by his acute alertness towards inter-dependencies of seemingly unrelated subject matters. This is as a result of his philosophical interpretation of ideas advanced during lecture."
The August Co-op Student of the Month winner is Ashlie Verhaeghe , an NIU Corporate Communication major who held a summer internship with State Farm Insurance in Geneva, Illinois. Verhaeghe was primarily hired to assist the Geneva State Farm staff in clerical functions. However, it became evident that she was capable of service and marketing functions as well. As her supervisor, State Farm Agent Richard Lewis, states, "In her new role, Ashlie became our ‘ambassador of first impressions.'" Verhaeghe took up this new role with enthusiasm as she describes, "I completed every marketing campaign I was assigned as best as I could, and the positive results and new business our office received was great reinforcement."
Verhaeghe also saw how her internship was extending her academic education. She states in this regard, "I not only learned about the workplace and corporate communication from this position, but I also learned about myself—all of which I would have never learned in the classroom. I saw how I handled tough situations and perfected my multi-tasking skills…I now have a working knowledge and feel for what it is like to be part of a large organization. I worked with the regional and corporate offices on a daily basis and witnessed my education being put to use everyday…I don't know of a better way to spend a summer and get class credit!"
Another benefit Verhaeghe experienced through her internship with State Farm was refinement of her career goals. She states, "This internship has reinforced my career goal of wanting to work in the insurance business, as I saw that every day was different and each new day brought about fresh situations. I learned more about insurance that I thought was possible in one summer! My internship has given me the motivation to work as hard as I can to get where I want to be. I would love to work one day in a State Farm corporate office on a marketing team because I have seen how effective State Farm's marketing campaigns are…"
Verhaeghe also speaks about the competitive edge she will have as a result of her internship work experience, "The competitive edge I have from my internship will certainly pay off in my classes and when I apply for jobs in the not so distant future…My cooperation skills were tested and further developed as I worked and communicated with my supervisor, coworkers, and customers…I now have a working knowledge and feel for what it is like to be part of a large organization…I am better prepared for and more confident about my future career."
Richard Lewis, State Farm Agent and Verhaeghe's supervisor, describes how her internship evolved, "I have been a State Farm agent for more than 30 years. I have an office staff of seven associates, and we service more than 9,000 policies…and we have recently added banking and mutual funds to our product offerings. It is a complicated business and to become a productive member of the staff normally requires a learning curve of at least two years. As such, I was somewhat skeptical of how much value we could realize from adding a short-term summer intern. Nevertheless, I decided to take a chance and offer Ashlie a position…to support my seasoned staff as a clerical assistant. However, it soon became evident that her intelligence, work ethic, and determination to succeed would quickly transform a position of marginal importance to a very valuable service/marketing specialist."
Lewis goes on to describe the complexity of Verhaeghe's duties ending with praise of the highest order, "In addition, she was the primary originator and contact person for both vertical prospecting within our current client files and new prospect initiatives. The methods and structure she developed in this area are so good that we have adopted them as part of our ongoing office procedures…Ashlie has exceeded expectations in every regard. As a representative of the NIU Cooperative Education/Internship Program, she could not have done a finer job or left a better impression…she was a joy to work with, and we hope she will return next summer."
Kathleen S. Valde, Assistant Professor in NIU's Department of Communication, comments on Verhaeghe's academic work, "Ashlie was a student in my Organizational Communication course, and she was an exemplary student. She was consistently one of the highest performers in the course. Ashlie distinguished herself from many of her classmates with her ongoing attention to assigned readings and ensuring that she understood the ways in which concepts and ideas were interrelated an/or related to real-life experience…Ashlie was also a member of the group that wrote the best team paper last semester…Beyond the quality of the paper, what stood out about Ashlie and this group was their ability to work together…In essence, Ashlie's team showed an ability to put into practice the skills they had read about in the chapter on team communication for this course."
Valde goes on to praise Verhaeghe's enthusiasm and interest in the subject matter of organizational communication based on her request to become an undergraduate teaching assistant for the course in the fall. Valde comments, "I believe her attention to the details of lecture and readings, as well as her interest in exploring how theories and concepts apply to real world experiences, make her an ideal teaching assistant for this course. In this role, she will have the opportunity to share her learning with other students and to develop leadership skills…"
September Co-op Student of the Month winner, Jennifer Sherman, has the opportunity to work for Margie Korshak, Inc., a public relations firm in Chicago. She was treated as an account executive and worked on such projects as the Ronald McDonald House Charity Celebrity Golf Classic, the launch of McDonald’s Hot Spots, the McDonald’s Kid’s Triathlon, and the Accenture Chicago Triathlon. Sherman credits NIU for preparing her for her internship, "Almost every class I have encountered at NIU helped me prepare in one way or another for this internship…My Business and Professional Communications class taught me how to communicate effectively in the interview and in other business correspondences. My Principle of Public Relations class explained the process of public relations…I learned how to write as a public relations practitioner from my Basic News Writing class."
Sherman also credits her internship with teaching her things that could not be taught in the classroom. She states, "I was privileged to work in an agency that was founded by a woman and was able to work alongside many strong, intelligent women. I learned that it is possible to be a young woman and be respected by other work colleagues…I learned quickly how important a positive attitude truly is…One person with a poor attitude can tarnish the reputation for the entire corporation. I learned how important communication is, not just with your client, but also within the company itself. I learned that it is okay to ask for help. Lastly, I learned that a smile and a sincere thank you will go a long way."
Sherman recommends career-related work experience to other students saying, "Careers are like swimming, and internships are the floaties that help you learn how to swim. An internship helps not only to enhance your resume and portfolio, but also helps you learn what you want and more importantly, what you do not want for a future career." She also found the internship to be a confidence builder, "Each year, I discover something new about myself. This summer, I uncovered a confidence that I did not have before my internship. I was able to do something I had never done before, and I was able to do it well."
Louise Palvig Edwards, Executive Vice President of Margie Korshak Inc., describes Sherman’s tenure with the agency, "Over the summer, Jennifer worked for a group of five people in the Corporate Division I oversee. She shared an office space with another intern and quickly became our "go to" intern—the reliable, conscientious, smart worker with a positive attitude…Jennifer’s "can do" attitude and great interest in learning provided days filled with projects of all magnitudes. Her energy, solid work ethic, good skills and personality never wanted—even under pressure."
Edwards also describes Sherman’s potential as a permanent employee with the agency, "Not only did Jennifer win the position as leading candidate for the summer position, she has been one of the best interns we have had in the last decade. Only 5% of our interns are what we call "sure fire hires"-those we would hope to recruit upon graduation. She is definitely a candidate for our firm." As an NIU alum, Edwards comments, "I like to credit my early learning to NIU…and my subsequent PR success to energy, enthusiasm and a lot of hard work. Jennifer Sherman is sure someone I’d like to see follow in my footsteps."
Walter Atkinson, Assistant Professor in the NIU Department of Communication, confirms Sherman’s excellent academic performance, "I have had Jenny in three Journalism and Communication classes over the past three semesters, and I can positively say that Jenny is one of the best students I have had the pleasure to teach at Northern…She is interested and involved, is always prepared, and masters all the material quickly and well. Her outgoing personality and high level of participation have really made an important difference in these classes, and actually made the courses a more effective experience for both other students and myself. Her writing and organizational skills are among the best I have encountered in Northen students."
Atkinson also describes Sherman’s involvement with the Public Relations Student Society of America chapter at NIU, "Upon joining the organization, she immediately became quite active, and has been highly involved. Jenny quickly assumed a leadership role, and this year she is serving as the chapter’s president. Jenny’s exceptional and capable leadership and organizational skills have proven invaluable in the continued success of this important pre-professional student group."
October winner, Jacqueline Schram, is currently interning as a residential staff/counseling advocate at Safe Passage, DeKalb County’s domestic violence prevention agency. Schram, who either works with clients in the shelter or answers the 24-hour crisis line, describes her work, "After completing my sixty hours of intense training, I am now qualified to work with sexual assault and domestic violence victims…The most intense times at my work are probably the medical on-calls and answering the 24-hour crisis line. When I am on-call, I have to be ready to jump into my car and drive out to the hospital at all hours of the night to advocate for victims. Sitting in hospital rooms with victims has proven to be quite a challenge, but nothing gives me greater satisfaction than being there for someone in his/her time of need."
Schram considers her internship a preparation for her future career as a clinical psychologist stating, "When going to the hospital or shelter, I never quite know what I will be handling. I have answered at least one crisis call every time I have been at work, and no two calls are the same. I have to be flexible and creative in the advice and comfort I offer the victims. The versatility necessary in this line of work helps to prepare me for a future career as a clinical psychologist. I am learning the best ways to support and advise victims of traumatic circumstances."
Schram credits both her academic preparation and her internship with reinforcing her career goals stating, "NIU’s Psychology Department has given me the tools necessary to understand various psychological conditions, methods of treatment, and other useful information. Working at Safe Passage has given me the clinical experience necessary to refine my skills. Thankful for this rewarding opportunity of working with trauma victims, the experience has reinforced my decision to pursue a career in counseling. My dream has always been to someday leave my mark on the world through helping people, and this internship is allowing me to do just that."
Marlee Piskorowski, Transitional Housing Coordinator at Safe Passage, describes Schram’s internship performance, "During this time Jackie has demonstrated maturity, leadership, and organizational skills. She has shown enthusiasm and often times works beyond the hours necessary for her internship…Jackie shows genuine concern and caring for the families we serve who have been affected by domestic violence, sexual assault, or both. Her commitment is both solid and assertive, and her efforts are of great benefit to our clients. In addition, she is enthusiastic in her desire to acquire information and skills to supplement her already solid knowledge base. She is readily available to assist in whatever tasks are required to assist in the smooth operation of the agency and client services."
Keith Millis, Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the NIU Department of Psychology comments on some of Schram’s academic accomplishments, "She is a full-time student, taking advanced classes, and she is getting excellent grades. She is in my undergraduate course ‘Thinking’ where she is doing top-notch work. The course requires students to work in groups, investigating a topic, such as whether social programs should hand out needles to drug addicts. I hear through the grape-vine that she is a leader and an organized and thoughtful member of her group. At the end of the semester, they will be giving presentations to the class, and I especially am looking forward to hers." Millis also comments on Schram’s personal qualifications, "Jackie is well-liked by her peers. She is just a sweet, friendly, smart, motivated, and up-lifting person. Although she is clearly bright, she is not arrogant."