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Integrate academic and experiential learning with an internship

Posted January 20, 2021

Metropolitan State student, Israel Gray

By Sarah McVicar
Student Writer, Institute for Community Engagement and Scholarship

As the eve of Metropolitan State’s 50th anniversary approaches, the university remains deeply committed to its roots, providing students with the resources they need to succeed in their unique educational, personal, and professional goals. In this profile, we highlight Metropolitan State student, Israel Gray ’21, who is taking full advantage of the opportunity to integrate academic and experiential learning through his internship at Peerless Plastics.

Earlier this fall, I had the chance to catch up with Gray and get some of his first-hand reflections, perspective, and insight on the academic internship experience.

Was an internship required for your degree program?
Gray explains that for his supply chain management program an internship was only suggested, but that he chose to pursue it “as a way to gain knowledge and practical experience within [his] field;” noting that internship experience is helpful “both for career and credits that could apply to graduation.”

What are you getting out of your internship?
The first thing, for Gray, is experience! “My internship experience has been amazing,” says Gray. “You get to apply the things you learn in the classroom and watch them come alive.” Gray describes his personal internship learning as “huge” and “eye-opening,” helping him to recognize the importance of developing as a careful, conscientious professional. Gray also describes how for him, starting in the company’s peak season, he was forced to learn very quickly in a high-pressure environment. While that may not be good a fit for everyone, Gray found it a rewarding opportunity to rise to the challenge as it pushed him to hone his ability to work both efficiently and accurately. Explains Gray, “It taught me that I was capable of more than I even knew.”

How has COVID changed the internship process?
Gray acknowledges that, as with many aspects of our world, COVID has made internship-seeking more challenging. Indeed, Gray recalls how during his own internship search, when the impact of COVID first became deeply felt, most of the places he applied wrote to say that internships were no longer being offered. Refusing to give up, Gray instead expanded his search and was ultimately able to secure a position.

“It can certainly be harder to land an internship with COVID,” Gray says, “but don’t give up. As much as there are the negative [aspects], there are also good stories coming out of this.” Indeed, Gray notes, after a decline over the summer he’s now seeing an encouraging increase in internship opportunities as more employers are figuring out ways to provide internships virtually.

Advice for fellow students?
In considering internship options, Gray recommends keeping in mind location and commute (close to school and/or home), work-life balance, work environment, and alignment with future goals. “Look for a company that has a good reputation and environment,” Gray says. “It’s important to be at a place where you’re treated well and fairly. Look at the company culture, and the opportunities for cultivating networks, mentorship, and growth.”

Finally, Gray advises, “Don’t think of it as just an internship. Think of it as a possible step toward a job opportunity. Come with a good attitude; put your best foot forward and try to learn and take advantage of as much as you can. Nothing you learn is ever wasted.”