SVC Internship program gives students chance to try careers


BENNINGTON >> Through Southern Vermont College's internship and practicum program, dozens of students each semester are getting the opportunity to explore potential careers.

According to Betsy Dunham, TITLE at SVC, eight of the college's 15 majors require either an internship or practicum for graduating, so typically between 20 and 50 students are involved in one or the other each semester.

The internships involve 160 on-site hours, while the practicums are typically more guided experiences, and involve 130 hours on-site and classroom time. "It gives students the opportunity to see how the work they do in the classroom will effect the work they do in the practical realm," said Dunham, who said that the reverse is also true. Students often will take experiences back from their internships to the classroom, which benefits all of the students.

This semester, SVC studies are experiencing work-based learning with the following local businesses and organizations: The Cages at the Mill in North Adams, Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, the Center for Restorative Justice, Bennington Elementary School, College Steps, Bennington County Child Advocacy Center, Williams College Athletic Department in Williamstown, Seall Inc., the Vermont State Police, Rensselaer County District Attorney's Office in Troy, Equinox Resort, and for various departments at SVC.

Dunham described the internships as, "an exploration," and said that while many students love the experience, many find that the career that had envisioned might not be for them. She said that one of her previous students, who was studying nursing, and learned, after an internship at the hospital, that she didn't enjoy working with patients as much as she had imagined, and suddenly found herself at a loss for what to do with her life. Dunham suggested she look into healthcare advocacy as a potential career, which the student ended up enjoying much more.

Two of SVC's best partners, said Dunham, have been Bennington Elementary and the Center for Restorative Justice. Under Sean Morin at CRJ, Dunham said, one to two students per semester, "are able to explore the justice system while gaining exposure to alternatives to conventional means." This semester, Amber Flagg is doing her work there.

Jahanna Foreman is currently working at Bennington College, under assistant principal Jerry O'Connor. "Working with students at Bennington Elementary School provides SVC students with an opportunity to explore all aspects of working in a school environment," said Dunham, "From shadowing Occupational Therapy, observing classroom management, to learning behavior management styles, SVC interns gain integral experience toward their future plans."

Dunham said that she is proud that the numbers back up the success of the program. According to an outcome survey of recent graduates, said Dunham, SVC found that last year, 35 percent of students had a job in their field immediately after graduation, higher than many national polls. Additionally, 82.7 percent of SVC students will have graduated with an internship, practicum, or clinical under their belts, compared to 65 percent of students nationally. She said it's also a great way for the college community to get involved with the larger community.

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.


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