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February 2004 Co-op Student of the Month winner, Jessica Mendlik, worked during the spring 2004 semester at Big Shoulders Digital Video, Chicago, Illinois, as a grip/floor manager/production assistant. Previous to this internship, she had classroom knowledge of the equipment and industry professionals of the media profession, but she learned the actual mechanics of the media communication profession “on the job.” On her internship she assisted with on-location video productions and learned how to set up the equipment for the shoot; assisted in on-line editing sessions using the Avid editing system; learned how to make window dubs, log camera footage, as well as a myriad of other technical skills such as mic placement, noise cancellation and “boom” technique. Although a daunting number of skills to master, she was a quick study. As she described it, “I am very excited to say that I have especially improved my floor managing technique and have been praised by my supervisor for my ‘phenomenal' skills as a floor manager.”
Mendlik also learned the sheer amount of physical labor required of crewmembers when loading and unloading equipment. She comments, “I have been told by a producer fried of mine that [the crew] is a man's world. Usually the only time you see a woman in this business is when she is in a position to tell [the crew] what to do! …My intention is to become someone so inspiring and in-tune with the techniques of directing that I am trusted as the director of a film…This is a business that is primarily based on seniority through experience, and this internship is the first stepping-stone of many in my process of earning that seniority…”
Mendlik recommends career-related work experiences to other students as they progress through college, “because it helps one to decide whether or not this is the profession they want to spend the rest of their life in. Career-related work experiences are also a good idea because future employers will look at them favorably.”
Brad Fox, Vice President of Operations and Sales at Big Shoulders Digital Video Productions, praises Mendlik's work, “Jessica works on a variety of assignments and performs them professionally; she is trusted with valuable equipment and supplies and often works unsupervised without incident.” Fox appreciates her desire to learn by commenting, “Jessica has been found to always be interested in learning whatever we were working on. Jessica has even approached her supervisors with interest in learning and was always performing what was asked of her…Jessica is a joy to have as a student intern, everyone in the company likes her and many of them request her for their assignments. Jessica is sharp, interested in learning and focused on doing the best job of whatever is asked of her.”
Alex Wiertelak and Allen May, Northern Television Center News Director and Director and General Manager of Broadcast News respectively, both comment favorably on Mendlik's performance in the classroom. Alex Wiertelak had the opportunity to evaluate Mendlik while she was a student in his Directing and Producing for Television News class (JOUR 485) at NIU. He comments, “Jessica's leadership skills are by far her strongest attribute. She by nature works well with others, a real collaborator in any situation. I have seen her take time to help other students in using equipment and also solve conflicts in the group. She takes command without being bossy or overbearing, constantly earning the respect of her peers. Her communication skills are some of the strongest I've see in a college student over the last ten years.”
Allen May observed Mendlik's work in the classroom during a TV News Producing and Directing course he teaches at NIU. As May describes, “She is currently enrolled in a course that requires her to take direction of and responsibility for the technical production of full-length ‘live' TV newscasts that are broadcast nightly to the entire DeKalb community cable TV viewing audience. As an instructor, I consider the demands on her to meet deadlines, to lead other students on her production team, and to work rapidly and accurately in a pressure environment to be aggressive. The course is not for casual students. Jessica has demonstrated a clear understanding of and adherence to the program's exacting standards…Jessica is quick to respond to direction, and she is committed to directing a production that must consistently meet high standards to be adequate for broadcast.”
March Co-op Student of the Month winner, Sonia Garcia, a NIU sociology major, completed a semester's assistant residence manager internship with McHenry County Pads, a transitional shelter devoted towards reconnecting the homeless with the community by providing emergency, transitional, and preventative programs. Although Garcia has always been dedicated to serving others, her internship allowed her to further expand her skills and knowledge in her chosen field of sociology. She comments in this regard, “I give my heart and all my energy to helping individuals in any way that I can. Every individual in society is unique and deserves an opportunity to be successful. [at Pads] Day in and day out I'm working with less fortunate individuals and learning about the institutions that offer service to help them get back into the community…PADS has given me more than a knowledge base, it has taken me out into the real world by offering an unforgettable clinical experience. This is something that the classroom doesn't offer.”
Garcia also attributes her internship with allowing her to accomplish more than she ever achieved previously in a single year. She states, “While interning at PADS I have kept busy by attending a Pro-Seminar in Palm Beach County Florida on community policing and restorative justice. In addition, I have raised money for Big Brothers Big Sisters in DeKalb and have given my Saturday mornings to being a Juvenile Mentor for DeKalb County.”
Linda Kennedy, Residence Manager, at McHenry County PADS, praises Garcia's work during her internship, “We are so very impressed with her abilities to communicate with the residents. She is also very good at teaching them life skills, which will help with their desire to get back into the community to be productive citizens. Sonia has a way of communicating with them in a special way that others cannot. She is a very caring, sincere person, who will definitely be an asset to the social services world…I believe that Sonia has definitely chosen the right career. I see her as more of a leader than a follower, and she would always be a valuable asset to the profession.”
Kristen Myers, professor of sociology at NIU, has first hand experience with Garcia's academic work. Myers praises Garcia's attitude and commitment, “Sonia has evidenced herself as a strong, conscientious student who integrates her intellectual knowledge with social outreach. She is what we like to call a “public sociologist,” who takes her analytical insights to practical sites where she can do the most good with real, everyday people.” Myers also appreciates Garcia's insight and dedication by saying, “Sonia is a student in my Sociology of Gender course this semester…Sonia stands out a engaged in the material. She is always paying attention. She seeks me out after class to discuss the material further…Sonia seeks out opportunities to expand her knowledge base and to find sites in which to put her knowledge to work. She cares about people, and she tries to make a difference. I wish more of our students were as dedicated and insightful as Sonia. She has the courage and drive to try to make a difference in an overwhelmingly apathetic social environment.”
June winner, Martin Frank, spent the last seven months working as a Student Intern Compliance Examiner with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) in Downers Grove, Illinois. Before that, he had an internship as a financial associate with A.G. Edwards and Sons in Naperville, Illinois. While at FDIC, Frank was exposed to commercial, consumer and home mortgage lending while directly contributing to the examinations of more than twenty banks in the Chicago area. At the FDIC, Frank not only worked the usual areas of responsibility for an intern, through his own initiative he was soon contributing at the level of an assistant examiner. He also assisted his field supervisor with regional and national projects for which she was a taskforce member. He also was instrumental in developing a feedback survey and training manual. Of these skills, Frank comments, “I performed a wide range of duties while at the FDIC, including fair lending, Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, data integrity reviews, and Community Reinvestment Act evaluations. Not only do I now have a significantly enlarged knowledge base relating to lending legislation, but I have become proficient at certain exam functions, contributing notably to the efficiency of many of the Chicago territory's compliance examinations in the first three quarters of 2004.”
Besides receiving on the job work experience in his major, Frank learned skills that go beyond the scope of his academic training. In this regard he comments, “There are, of course, many things I learned and gained from this internship that have more than just academic benefit. My position at the FDIC required the ability to prioritize, multitask and be relied upon to perform certain examination functions within sometimes unforgiving deadlines. Not only was I given an in-depth look at the duties of an FCID compliance examiner, but I was obligated to understand and promote a workplace etiquette and corporate culture to which I had not been previously exposed.”
Another result of Frank's internship with the FDIC was a clearer understanding of what directions he might take after graduation. On one hand, he would like to remain with the organization. He states in this regard, “If my experience there continues to be as enjoyable and beneficial as it has been, I will certainly be pursuing a career as an examiner for the FDIC. The opportunity for advancement within the corporation is terrific, and the benefits are generous.” On the other hand, his internship experience as an examiner has prepared him for other careers in finance. He comments, “…If I were to go elsewhere and pursue a career path in the private sector, my compliance knowledge base, though limited, and my exposure to the professional environments both at FDIC and several banks in the Chicago area will give me a significant edge in a position as a lender or compliance officer at a bank.”
Frank is quick to recommend career-related work experience to his fellow students by stating, “My internship has been the best opportunity I could possibly have been given at this point in my academic career, and I absolutely would recommend to any college student that he/she pursue career-related work experience before graduation.” He also credits the NIU Internship Program with the following comments, “The NIU Cooperative Education/Internship office was the enabling force behind my success at this internship, from the Internship Fair, to guidance and educational arrangements. Thank you for your time and efforts to help me get to where I am today.”
Christina Quinlan , Field Supervisor, Division of Supervision and Consumer Protection at the FDIC praises Frank's work with her office by stating, “Martin Frank's contributions to my field office during his cooperative experience are commendable. My staff and I have continued to be impressed with the quality of Martin's work and the manner in which he represented your institution…Martin frequently exceeded my expectations for his assignments…During certain examinations, we would not have completed the examination within the deadlines had Martin not taken on responsibilities beyond the scope of his assignment…Martin's work products displayed strong analytical skills. He was able to quickly learn the technical aspect of FDIC's rules and regulations and effectively examine an institution for compliance…Martin demonstrated an impressive work ethic. He has set high expectations for himself. His performance demonstrates that he is capable of meeting whatever expectations his future employers' establish. Martin will be an asset to whatever corporation he aligns with in the future…I look forward to his return to my staff during winter break and in the summer of 2005.”
Carl Campbell , Associate Professor and Assistant Chair of the NIU Department of Economics comments on Frank's academic work by stating, “While he received an A in my class, grades and grade-point-average certainly did not seem to be his only motivation. Martin has an admirable work ethic and a desire for knowledge, learning, and self-improvement. He made sure to not only take thorough notes during lecture, but to understand conceptually the principles and implementation of the topics covered in my class. It is in this way, and for this reason that Martin is an above-and-beyond achiever who will surely be successful in any endeavor he undertakes, in his career and in his personal life…I am confident that Martin will be an effective and creative contributor in his career and to society.”
The July Co-op Student of the Month winner, Kimberly Hiller, was most recently on an Service Internship during the past summer with U.S. Steel, Downers Grove, Illinois. She assisted seven Account Representatives in the Chicago Sales Office organizing orders, learning and applying pricing functions, and assisting customers. Hiller's academic study is Business Management with an emphasis in Human Resources with a minor in International Business. She found that her internship helped her further her career goals “because it is set in a office environment in which several departments worked for international clients.” She also is able to now see the connection between her academic studies and working in the real world. In her words, “Currently, I look back to my U.S. Steel internship from my UBUS 310 class this semester and realize that what I am reading about business planning and long term customer relations is what I witnessed during my internship. My class has also shown me the different leadership styles and how they interact in a group. During my U.S. Steel internship, I worked with different departments and saw that each employee had his or her own organization and work style to complete a task…My classes have taught me the ‘ideal' leadership tactic of effective delegation, but in this internship I was able to see first-hand how managers delegated work and see how their employees responded.”
Once in a while, Hiller saw effective management practices on the job that she would not have learned in the classroom. One was in regards to motivation, “In class, I was taught about motivation and had written a paper on how to effectively motivate an employee. Reviewing my paper after my internship, I realized that there are various types of motivation, but I never found many examples (on the job) except giving the employee a bonus. U.S. steel's managers find that using gratitude and a simple ‘thank you' is more effective than just handing out bonuses.”
Hiller is certain that her placement with U.S. Steel has allowed her to develop further than a student who has not taken advantage of the internship work experience. She states, “I have gained experience in the etiquette of business and how to communicate with my fellow employees and managers. It has allowed to see that some jobs require more than the typical forty hour work week and that being able to multitask and prioritize will give me an advantage in competing against other employees for a position. Today's companies are looking for creative individuals who can envision a task being done differently to improve efficiency.” Hiller also learned how important adaptability is in the workplace and how her internship helped her develop in that area. In her words, “Having experience working in the various departments at U.S. Steel allowed me to practice the flexibility and creativity that makes a well-rounded manager.”
Hiller credits the NIU Co-op Program with helping her develop the job search skills she needed to obtain her internship. She states, “Even before searching for an internship each semester, I have my resume updated by the Co-op office so that it looks presentable. I have also participated in a mock interview, which was beneficial because I never realized what I should say to present a better image…This department has also assisted me in writing an introduction letter to companies that I had researched in Chicago and around my hometown. I felt that this department is so important that I programmed an event with my freshmen last year when I was a community advisor. I had them attend the NIU Internship Fair with me and start their progress in the program. Finally, I usually see my advisor every year for tips and deadlines for when I should be sending out application materials or how to conduct myself in an interview.”
Stephen Szymanski, General Commercial Manager at U.S. Steel, praised Hiller's work, “During her time here, Kim has exhibited an eagerness and capability to learn new systems and work with many disciplines in our company…These tasks necessitated that she learn multiple computer systems, which she learned quickly. Kim has been very punctual (never missed a day) and reliable. She seeks new tasks and is very organized and concise in the manner in which she learns the procedures necessary to ensure accuracy and timeliness…we are certain her drive to learn and succeed will take her far.”
Joseph Matty, Associate Director of Alumni Relations and Visitor Center Project at Northern Illinois University, also praises Hiller's leadership qualities on campus as he states, “Since joining NIU as an employee in the year 2000, I have been an advisor for a few student organizations and have taught a couple of UNIV 101 classes. Never has an undergraduate student stood out from the rest of her peers in work ethic, dedication to academia, or has been committed to her organizations as has Kimberly Hiller…Kimberly has spearheaded a community event, organized fellow students in support of the Alumni Association and has developed a partnership between the Resident Hall Community and the Student Alumni Association…Kimberly is a talented young lady that has the ability to lead and the determination to succeed. All too often, students attend college and never participate in their university because they want other people to do the work. Kimberly is the type of student that does the work and manages to involve others in the process.”
The August Co-op Student of the Month winner is Samantha Michyeta, an NIU Textiles, Apparel and Merchandising major who held an executive summer internship with Target, Broadview, Illinois. Michyeta discovered that Target's executive interns learn every aspect of merchandising from the differences of merchandising “hardlines” versus “softlines” to the cycle the store moves through “dayside” and overnight. She was able to apply her knowledge of apparel, trends, merchandising and leadership that she learned in the classroom to the real world of her internship. However, her daily work experience also taught her more than she could learn in the classroom. She states, “I learned how a team works together to finish objectives that may seem impossible. I learned how the entire process works and had the opportunity to work each part of that cycle. I was able to check out products, pull products from the back for the floor, push products out to the floor and experience the entire replenishing process first hand…Once I learned all the steps and main focuses of Target, I gained the confidence necessary to become a leader.”
Besides finding success on the job, Michyeta now has a concrete idea of what she wants in her future. In her words, “I feel that my experience at Target went beyond becoming a leader and learning new information…I have gained the confidence in order to meet my goals for the future. I learned that I love working with the type of team that Target staffs. After interviewing and showing my interest in the company, I was extended an offer (full-time). Since I had such a wonderful experience, I decided to accept the position. I made this decision based on several factors. I realized I was happy after work everyday. The atmosphere of Target made it easy to stay positive and the motivation I could share with Team Members was amazing. This is definitely somewhere I want to work when I graduate.”
Michyeta encourages other students to seek out career-related work experiences before graduation. She feels internships help students decide whether they really want to work in their major field when it is not too late to change majors. She states in this regard, “Though it may be discouraging because of the years of classes you put towards that field, you do have the chance to realize that there are still more options open to you.” Another reason she recommends career-related work experience is to allow students to gain experience working with professionals in their field. She states, “This will teach you how others work professionally and perhaps give you an idea of how you want to present your own professional image. You may like the way one supervisor handles a situation more than another. When you come across a similar situation, you can remember what you thought was more professional.” Her final recommendation is that internships give students opportunity. In her case, she ended up with a job offer. However, even if a job is not offered, students will have a network of people that can be used as references in the future.
Scott Taubenheim, Target Store Team Leader, praises her internship with his store, “Sam came into the internship with a great deal of enthusiasm and with a quest for knowledge that was a boost to the entire executive team…The biggest impact that Samantha had on our store as a whole is her ability to brighten each and every day with her energy and her positive attitude. I was very impressed with the amount of time and effort that she put into her internship wrap-up book and the final result was impressive to say the least. I have hosted interns for over eight years and have not seen a more impressive internship project to be turned into a university…My company has demonstrated our commitment to Samantha by making her an offer to be an executive team leader for Target Stores when she graduates. I look forward to working with her in the future on her development as an executive.”
Julie Hillery, Associate Professor in NIU's School of Family, Consumer, and Nutrition Sciences, comments on Michyeta's academic work, “Samantha has completed three of my classes and is currently enrolled in my Fashion Merchandising class. She has received A's in all of my courses and is consistently one of my top students…Perhaps one of the most impressive qualities about Samantha is that she is so well-rounded. In addition to being an excellent student in the classroom, she is also an excellent leader and role model for others. She is currently the secretary for Kappa Omicron Nu Honor Society, and the membership chairperson for Mortar Board…Additionally, in spring 2003, Samantha was selected by the Textiles, Apparel and Merchandising faculty to receive the Smiling Face Award. This award is given annually to a Textiles, Apparel and Merchandising student for recognition of a positive attitude and congeniality toward faculty and fellow students…She truly is representative of the type of well-rounded student who is a credit to our university, and who will be an asset to her chosen profession.”
The September Co-op Student of the Month winner Jennifer Bailey is an NIU psychology major who held an Adolescent Treatment Specialist internship with Focus House, Rochelle, Illinois. All her life, Bailey has been fascinated by people and their various mental illnesses. In her junior year of college, she began to dream about obtaining a postgraduate degree in clinical psychology, although she was not sure what aspect of the clinical field would be her focus. She states, "My internship at the Focus House has changed me in so many ways. It has made me appreciate my life and the people that I have in it, but most importantly, the Focus House has helped guide my decision as to what my focus of study in graduate school would be."
As an adolescent treatment specialist, Bailey worked with juvenile delinquents sentenced for various crimes such as theft, battery and assault, arson and sexual crimes. She learned to assist adolescents following the Focus House treatment plan which she describes, "The mission of the Focus House is to change the individuals by providing them with a strict but warm and loving environment in which each individual has the ability to grow and change their lives...the children are expected to respect one another and staff, complete their homework and chores." As well as being exposed to various psychological disorders, she was allowed to sit in on treatment planning meetings and group-counseling sessions. Bailey is enthusiastic about her experience, "By sitting in on the counseling sessions and group meetings, I have gained a better understanding as to how clinical psychologists use their knowledge in real life situations. Each of the individuals with disorders have opened my eyes to the lessons learned in each of my classes. There is nothing more powerful than getting hands-on experience."
Bailey recommends that students interested in learning more about their future careers seek career-related job experience. In this regard she states, “These job related skills will facilitate me in all my future psychological research in graduate school and professional positions…It is a relief for me to know that I will enjoy my career as a clinical psychologist everyday for the rest of my life, and this feeling would not have been possible without my internship at the Focus House.”
Greg Martin, Director of Focus House, was pleased with Bailey's work at his agency stating, “Jennifer displays a genuine desire to work in human services. She is a very dedicated and organized worker. Jennifer relates well to our clients, which at times is a very difficult task. She follows up with situations with other key staff. Her written documentation is thorough and well done. In short, she is a real team player. It has been a joy to have Jennifer with us. I can only hope that she will continue to work here. She is an excellent role model for our profession and will have a very successful career.”
Peter Gutierrez, Professor and Assistant Chair of Psychology at NIU, comments on Bailey's academic abilities, “I have supervised dozens of psychology student interns in the past eight years at NIU, and Jennifer is definitely among the best of that group. She is extremely organized, hard working, and pays great attention to details…Jennifer appears to recognize that her internship is a valuable educational experience as well as a good way to provide much needed services in the community. I believe that the work she has been doing there has helped her to make important decisions about graduate study and the path she would like her career to take in the future.”
The October Co-op Student of the Month winner is Matt Del Monaco, an NIU mechanical engineering major who held an Student Trainee - Non Tech internship with Caterpillar, Aurora, Illinois. He began learning what and how Caterpillar processes work activities, which included accessing Caterpillar systems, preparing technical drawing packages, and coordinating their completion with outside contractors. He was assigned to an engineering "buddy" to help answer questions and point him in the right direction. As Del Monaco states, "Working for a respectable company through an internship or co-op provides many opportunities that otherwise would not be obtainable through classroom experience. I would highly recommend this program to anyone in the engineering field for the simple reason that no text book can give you real-life exposure like this one can. Having all the resources and tools necessary to acquire hands-on knowledge about what it takes to become an engineer in the real world was a huge benefit for me."
Del Monaco also enjoyed working with the engineers at Caterpillar. He explains, "I was able to work in an atmosphere where it was not only acceptable, but actually encouraged, to ask questions of any of the engineers at any time...Not only were the engineers able to guide me through the process of completing my assignments, but they were also very patient and helpful."
Del Monaco also credits the NIU Cooperative Education/Internship Program with assisting him in finding an internship in his major. He states, “Thanks to the NIU Co-op office, I was able to participate in a variety of projects that varied in difficulty, but all related back to my knowledge about engineering. My co-op coordinator, Angela Cline, was able to assist me with the finer details of making this dream job come true. She helped me by perfecting my resume, offering interview advice, and taking me step-by-step through the application process…Without the work done by the co-op office to bring Caterpillar to NIU, I never would have had a chance to be a part of this amazing opportunity.”
Phillip Alexander, Engineering Manager of the Forest Products division at Caterpillar, describes the scope of Del Monaco's internship, “Matt's first assignment was to learn and understand what and how we process work activities at Caterpillar. Matt had to learn how to access Caterpillar systems, he had to prepare technical drawing packages and coordinate their completion with outside detailing contractors, he had to learn Pro-E, and he had to interact with many different engineers to get all the information he needed to complete his assignments.” Alexander goes on to describe Del Monaco's performance on the job, “Matt did an excellent job in both learning procedures and practices and physically completing his assigned work. Matt exceeded my expectations in the timing I thought it would take for him to become productive…I was impressed with his transfer of information on the progress and what was left to do on his projects. They have since been completed and his transfer of information made this a smooth process.” Finally, Alexander comments on Del Monaco's abilities as a budding engineer saying, “Matt has the interactive skills and learning capacity to be an excellent engineer…I would recommend him as a positive addition to any of the groups here at Caterpillar.”
Elizabeth Miller, Associate Professor in the NIU School of Family, Consumer, and Nutrition Sciences, comments on some of Del Monaco's academic accomplishments stating, “As his professor in FCNS 280, Human Development, Family, and Society this past spring, I had the opportunity to observe Matt's work, his writing assignments, group work, and test evaluations…His test scores were excellent, but what also distinguished him was his very detailed and thoughtful written work. In this class student as asked to review each state of their life and apply theory and research to their own lives and to their family's life. While some student do the minimum to ‘get by,' Matt did beyond what was expected and not only engaged the material but thoroughly applied it at a conceptual level…I have taught many engineering and business majors in my 20 years of teaching. I can say that it is rare to find a student like Matt who is willing to think outside the box. From my conversations with leaders in business, it is this very skill that businesses are looking for—someone who can think theoretically, who can be flexible, who know their field well, but can work well with others, and understand more than one way to look at issues. I believe that he is a credit to NIU and would do well in any company that he works in.”