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Students gain real-world experience in internships

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Several Bethel College business majors are getting some experience outside the classroom before graduation in May, hoping it will help them land jobs after.

“Most employers looking for full-time candidates prefer students who have had some real-world experience,” says Allison McFarland, Bethel College professor of management and marketing. “They look for candidates who have worked in their industry or one that requires a similar skill set.”

Two years ago, to address this concern, the department began offering seniors a choice: complete either a “research seminar or a senior-level internship as a culminating academic experience,” says McFarland.

Since then, most business majors have chosen the internship option. Seniors Cody Cole, Cunningham, Aaron Howard, Halstead, and Drew Pippin, Sand Springs, Okla., are three of 16 seniors currently completing internships in the Newton/North Newton area.

The three echo McFarland’s comments about internships providing valuable “real world” experience. Cole feels it gives him “the opportunity to apply what I learned in the classroom in business situations.”

Howard adds, “It also provides a chance to meet new people and develop relationships with business people in the community.”

Students start thinking about internship placements during their junior year. “Finding a quality internship is just like finding a job,” says McFarland. “It requires lots of time, research and networking.”

Many students are able to tailor their internships to their interests. Howard is completing his internship at Dewayne Pauls Accounting in Newton, where he has been working with tax returns and organizing client data.

“I am in an interesting position with my internship because it is in the field of accounting and Bethel only offers two courses in accounting, Principles of Accounting and Managerial Accounting,” says Howard. “It has been a very educational experience, considering I have never taken any tax or auditing courses. On the other hand, I have had the opportunity to work on my communication and critical thinking skills learned in class by working on challenging tax returns with my supervisors.”

Pippin, who plans to go to law school, adapted his internship to his plans and has been shadowing a judge at the Harvey County Courthouse. He spent the past two summers interning in a private law firm and his current placement is introducing him to the public sector.

While at his internship, he observes the daily proceedings at the courthouse. “This often entails watching a trial, reading the transcript and then discussing the matter with the judge who made the ruling,” Pippin explains.

Cole, who works as a marketing intern at Kidron Bethel Village in North Newton, has helped develop a revised marketing plan for the Suderman Assisted Living facility. At his placement, Cole has seen a connection between his Marketing and Research class and his current work.

“I have been able to apply many of the different research strategies and concepts to my internship,” he says. “I feel like the courses I have taken have helped me feel more comfortable in a business setting.”

McFarland says she sees growth in her students who choose this option.

“Internships allow students to apply the knowledge they gain in classes,” she explains. “Students find that they understand concepts taught in class much more easily after completing an internship.” In addition, students “learn about time management, discipline and effective communication skills.”

Cole confirms McFarland’s words. “I have learned that it is very important to be able to communicate effectively with people, especially in the business world. It is also important to be organized and manage time efficiently.”

“One of the most important things I have learned so far,” says Howard, “is the importance of surrounding yourself with great people. You can have the best business idea in the world, but without great people surrounding you, the business will not be successful.”

“Through successfully completing an internship,” McFarland adds, “students are more prepared to speak knowledgably about industries in which they have an interest. These skills should translate into improved interviewing and job search skills.

“The importance of internships to college students in terms of networking and gaining new resources cannot be understated. Especially during this economy, building a network of professional connection through college student internships can pay great dividends upon graduation.”

Area businesses interested in offering an internship opportunity to Bethel College students should contact Allison McFarland (316-284-5353 or

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the only Kansas private college to be ranked in’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2008. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at

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