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JWU Takes Internships Beyond the Cookie Cutter Model with Spotlight Internships

JWU Takes Internships Beyond the Cookie Cutter Model with Spotlight Internships

EACE Blog contribution by Akanksha Aga and Andrea Frost, Johnson & Wales University

The Need

Experiential Education is a critical component of the Johnson & Wales education.  Since its founding in 1914 JWU’s fundamental purpose has been to support its students in fulfilling their professional aspirations.

How do we do this? Our academic programs are enriched with various experiential and work integrated learning opportunities. Our internships are for credit and have clearly defined outcomes. Over 4,200 students, roughly 25% of our enrollment, participate in for- credit internships annually across our four campuses.  At the same time we typically post over 5,100 internship opportunities annually.  With that volume, we wanted to ensure that students were aware of and prepared for top internships with key employers.

The Spotlight Program

Spotlight internships is our internal term for opportunities not to be missed! We identified these internships based on very specific criteria. It is important to point out that this isn’t a program that employers pay for. We look for employers with internships that have quality learning outcomes tied to our curriculum. These factors help us determine spotlight internships:

  • The employer is a leader within their industry
  • They have an established training program with built in opportunities for mentoring interns
  • The internship will be a resume builder
  • We have historical evidence of quality internship experiences based on student internship satisfaction surveys
  • There is a strong intern to hire conversion rate

Facebook, Fidelity Investments, Hilton hotels worldwide, Hill Holliday advertising, Jean-Georges restaurants, Legends Foodservice at NY Yankee Stadium, Nordstrom, Providence Bruins are just some examples of spotlight internship employers. Needless to say an internship with one of the above would launch a student’s career path to success!

The Operations

cookie_jwuGreat! So now that you have world-class internship opportunities on your website how do you make sure they don’t expire there? Furthermore how do you ensure students are prepared for the selection process? This is an on-going cycle that involves each of the areas within our department to work in tandem. Experiential education, career advising, and employer relations need to communicate and collaborate at critical operating periods for this program to be successfully delivered to students and employers.

Develop employer relationships

It is important to understand the culture and selection criteria of each employer. We develop distinct campus plans to include on campus recruiting trips, classroom presentations, faculty and staff meetings, affinity group presentations etc. Internships and job opportunities are also promoted during these visits.

Promote internship opportunities

Each staff member has a specific group of spotlight internships assigned to them and they become well-versed in the company profile, employer requirements, application process, and deadlines. These internships are also promoted via our overall department marketing channels including success stories on our website, social media posts, and print pieces.

Collaborate with academics to identify students

We work together with faculty during several stages of the operating cycle. When appropriate we invite faculty and chairs to employer meetings or to visit their site. We also invite spotlights to speak about industry content within the classroom. Faculty appreciate learning about exciting opportunities and can share them with their students.

Prepare students through career advising

This is one of the most important steps in ensuring that students are prepared for the internship selection process while also acquiring valuable job search skills. Our career advising team helps them understand employer-specific do’s and don’t’ s through mock interviews. Students understand the intricate steps of applying online and are ready to present themselves well through phone and in-person interviews.

We’ve had a lot of success with this program as is evident from the increasing number of students interning at leading employers. It has also helped us stay ahead of industry trends and better educate our students. Take a look at some our internship success stories online http://www.jwu.edu/Internships/


Akanksha Aga

Akanksha Aga

Akanksha Aga is the Assistant Director of Employer Relations at Johnson & Wales University, Providence, RI. She is responsible for developing mutually beneficial recruiting relationships with industry partners for the purpose of internships and hiring. She is the primary relationship manager for employers such as Marriott International, Nordstrom, Wegmans, Target, Amica and more.

Akanksha started her career with the Taj Group of Hotels, a five-star hotel chain, in India. She acquired her MBA in Hospitality Management from Johnson & Wales University in 2002. Akanksha was the student commencement speaker for her graduating class. She is actively involved with the Women’s Foodservice Forum. Akanksha is married to fellow JWU alumnus Samir Dhamija. They have a toddler and reside in North Providence, RI.

Andrea Frost

Andrea Frost

Andrea Frost is the Assistant Director of Experiential Education at Johnson & Wales University, Providence, RI.  She has been in higher education for 19 years, ranging from admissions, financial aid, and to her current role in experiential education.  She oversees the entire internship department in Providence, which includes the daily operations as well as collaborating with academic deans and department chairs to facilitate quality experiential education programs for students and employers. 

Andrea received her BS degree in Communications from Fitchburg State University in 1994 and is a 2002 graduate of the MBA program at Johnson & Wales University.  She resides in Westport, MA with her husband Michael and two children, Sydney, 12, and Danny, 10. 

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