Aspiring To The Next Level

August 28th, 2014 | SMWC

Woods Students Enter the "Real World" As Summer Interns

By: Katie Shane

Jessica Pitts, Junior at The Woods
Jessica Pitts, Junior at The Woods

Jessica Pitts has an impressive resume. Working for the Wabash Valley Community Foundation (WVCF), Pitts has had the chance to work on numerous projects for the nonprofit agency; everything from logo design to social media to drafting client success stories. With less than a year of professional experience under her belt Pitts has already amassed an impressive portfolio as she continues her career in digital media. What’s even more impressive is that Pitts is only a junior at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and the professional experience is part of an internship through The Woods.

“For me The Woods is putting real life into perspective,” Pitts says of the internship program. “I feel really confident in being able to be a professional and I think The Woods has really helped me a lot.”

Building that confidence in students is just one of the goals of The Woods internship program.

Susan Gresham, Director of Career Development, says not only do students learn career skills and professionalism, but personally they gain confidence and insight to what the “real world” might be like.

“One thing we hear from the students is, ‘Wow I am so glad that I did this’, they are really immersed in the situation and environment,” Gresham says. “It’s such a valuable experience and we encourage all our students to gain that experience so they can make better choices and are much better prepared.”

Students are eligible to participate in internships through The Woods during their junior and senior year. Students apply for an internship through the Career Center and can either be placed at a location or many find internship sites on their own. Course credit can be earned through the program or can simply be completed as a way to gain professional experience.

Pitts took both approaches; interning for credit at the WVCF during the spring semester and continuing for non-credit experience during the summer. For Pitts, a Journalism and Media major with a Graphic Design Minor, the opportunity to continue her work with the WVCF was too good to pass up.

“Over the summer I had the chance to build an animated logo for the foundation,” Pitts explains of her most recent assignment. “To be able to do something directly related to my major is amazing and this is something I will be proud to show in my senior studio.”

While students at The Woods find internships in a variety of different fields, another successful intern in nonprofit is Katie Besse. The recent graduate of the Woods Online program found her internship to not only teach her what she wants to do, but what she doesn’t want to do.

When Besse, a Psychology major, first applied to intern with the nonprofit organization Mommy’s Haven she was debating her career path.

“I was thinking about drug and alcohol rehab, I thought it was going to be my calling,” Besse explains. “ I have learned that it is easier said than done, you can’t help everyone and sometimes people don’t want help… you wish they would see the light and they don’t always. It makes me glad I didn’t go that route because I think I would see that even more often. I don’t think I would have been happy doing it.”

Instead Besse will continue her education and pursue a Master’s Degree in Social Work near her home in Lowell, Ind.  

But it’s her work at Mommy’s Haven that has given her a new perspective on how she can use her Psychology degree from The Woods. Mommy’s Haven is a start-up nonprofit that offers housing and other services to women 18 years and over who are pregnant and without a support system. The religious-based organization is newly founded and volunteers are working tirelessly to get the organization up and running.

“I think it has opened my eyes to how much goes on behind the scenes. I know in general what you see as an outsider is very little of what actually happens,” Besse says of her insider’s perspective. “You look at all these organizations and it takes some serious dedication… We were all there for the same reason and it was not for money because we weren’t getting paid.”

Mommy’s Haven founder Tracie Moldenhauer says it was Besse’s knowledge and commitment that the organization found to be the most beneficial during her internship.

“Katie was incredibly helpful in helping us determine our policies and procedures for our program,” says Moldenhauer. “Katie has a deep desire to bring light to the ministry and has love for the women we are out to help.”

Like many of the volunteers Besse showed her dedication to the cause by working long hours, all while juggling course work for her degree and her family life. The mother of two is also expecting her third child in Fall 2014. To say Besse had a full plate is an understatement. But she says The Woods faculty worked with her to make her degree a reality.

“I was worried at first because I didn’t know how I was going to stretch everything,” she says. “But they were wonderful for me. Technically it was a summer internship but they let me start in October… I don’t know if I would have been able to do it if the situation was any different.”

One unique aspect of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College is the support given to all students in order for them to achieve their goals, both personally and professionally. Women are encouraged and celebrated, something Pitts says she has experienced both on and off campus. As an intern at the WVCF Pitts says she is trying to soak up as much knowledge as she can from WVCF Executive Director Beth Tevlin.

Tevlin has served as the WVCF Executive Director since 1992, providing a wealth of information and guidance for Pitts to draw from.  Pitts says having Tevlin as a mentor is invaluable, while Tevlin says the foundation and its clients are the ones benefiting.

“We only have six people that work for the foundation so we have things that keep use really really busy. Having an intern provides flexibility for things that we have to do and for the projects that we would like to pursue,” Tevlin says. “The nice thing for me has been watching Jessica’s growth and development; it’s interesting to see how she’s grown and the improvement that she has made over the course of her internship.”

Pitts agrees, saying while her work in the classroom is important it’s some of the professional experience she has gained that is truly preparing her for her future.

“Beth is such a strong woman and just a really great mentor and I hope to follow in her footsteps,” Pitts says. “For The Woods to provide me with what they have, I’m so grateful, I wouldn’t want it any other way... I don’t know where it will take me, but I’m excited.”

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