Building Bridges

Students’ applied learning opportunities enhance classroom experience

Building Bridges

By: Jennifer Sobolewski

Concepts that may be difficult to grasp in the classroom are sometimes easier to understand in a real-world setting. According to the National Survey of Student Engagement, BGSU is a national leader in providing opportunities in service-learning and experiential education, plus BGSU is the first institution in Ohio to offer an internship guarantee to incoming students. 

The first program of its kind in Ohio, BGSU’s Falcon Internship Program guarantees all students the opportunity to participate in an internship or other experiential learning activity during their undergraduate career.Add to that the Center for Leadership, which offers students a number of ways to challenge themselves, and a robust Center for Undergraduate Research and Scholarship that provides valuable hands-on experiences usually reserved for graduate students, and you will find students at BGSU are surrounded with opportunities that go beyond their classroom experience.

In today’s competitive global marketplace, these applied learning experiences aren’t just a luxury, they are a necessity. In the recent Marketplace and Chronicle of Higher Education survey, it was a clear message from employers: the single most important credential for recent college graduates is on-the-job experience through co-ops or internships. Providing these applied learning experiences is a priority for the University to ensure students are positioned for success
after graduation.

Real-life lessons

As she begins her senior year at BGSU, Jessica Miles already has a job offer from construction firm L.S. Brinker after completing an internship with the firm.It’s rare these days to find a successful college graduate who doesn’t have some relevant work experience on his or her resume. In co-ops, students earn an income while gaining valuable and practical experience in their related academic fields. Internships help students gain professional-level work experience in businesses and organizations related to their studies.

High-level, well-known companies and organizations recruit BGSU interns and co-op students, including Abercrombie & Fitch Co.; the Grand Ole Opry; Ernst & Young LLP; Habitat for Humanity; Mayo Clinic; E! Network; The Olympics; U.S. departments of State, Defense and Labor; and Walt Disney Co.

Senior Jessica Miles got the chance to spend her co-op with one of Detroit’s few African-American female construction project managers. Miles worked with L.S. Brinker on hospital renovations for the Detroit Medical Center.

“This was an amazing opportunity for me because there are very few African-Americans in the construction industry, and a woman in my field is similar to a rare diamond in the rough. It was great establishing a relationship with her as my mentor,” Miles said.

Miles was the assistant project engineer on all of the Detroit Medical Center projects.

“After this summer I know 100 percent I’m in the right field,” she said. “I want to become a project manager for an interior construction company like L.S. Brinker. Since I’m going into my senior year with an offer from them to work after graduation, I know my dreams are within reach.”

Eric Batts credits BGSU Theatre and Film alumni for the opportunity to work with the touring company of the Broadway smash “The Book of Mormon.”BGSU alumni are also a great resource for networking and internships. Theatre and Film alumnus Shaun Moorman ‘00 and Kevin Beebee welcomed student Eric Batts to the touring company of the Broadway smash “The Book of Mormon” during its run in Columbus, Ohio, over the summer. Batts was a stage management intern and got to experience the day-to-day operations of a major stage production.

“The experience as a whole was nothing short of a dream,” Batts said in a written recap of his experience. “I really want to thank Shaun Moorman and Kevin Beebee for offering me this opportunity and giving me a chance to take a closer look at the touring life. It was an experience I will never forget. Everything I learned while I was out there will definitely come back with me for the shows I will be stage-managing during my last year here at BGSU, and hopefully in my professional career.”

Recently, the Ohio Board of Regents, along with several businesses with operations or interests in Ohio, made an investment of close to $1.9 million to help create at least 96 new internship and co-op experiences at BGSU.

The second Ohio Means Internships and Co-ops (OMIC II) grant will focus on creating infrastructure to increase internships and co-ops in the JobsOhio key industries over two years. With the grant, BGSU will subsidize 50 percent of intern wages for employer partners in the first year of the grant. The subsidy will decrease to 25 percent the second year to prepare employers to fully fund the experiences.

Businesses in JobsOhio key industry sectors include advanced manufacturing, aerospace/aviation, agribusiness/food  processing, automotive, biohealth, energy, financial services, information services/software, polymers/chemicals, and business functions such as logistics, consulting, and research and development.

“It’s a great incentive for employers to take advantage of,” said Jeffery Jackson, assistant vice president for enrollment management and director of the Career Center. “We’ve already had a number of companies commit to participate.”

Another incentive, he added, is that the program will enable BGSU to teach companies that may not have had interns before
how to structure their internships and design a program that is mutually beneficial.

Data show that about 50 percent of interns transition into full-time employment with their companies, Jackson said. “They and the company have already verified whether it’s a good fit, and the intern is familiar with the culture and work processes.”

Another area of focus for the OMIC II grant is the creation of a group internship program. The goal of this program is to connect students and employers and have students work in collaborative, multi-disciplinary groups to solve actual company problems.

Grant money will also support a feasibility study of the Associate of Applied Science in Industrial Technology: Manufacturing at BGSU Firelands. The goal of this study is to better understand how a college and community-based manufacturing program, with an integral internship component, could best be realized in the region.

Finally, the grant will support the creation and implementation of advocacy boards composed of successful alumni and employer partners. These boards will share their expertise and advise colleges on curricula, alumni affairs, student mentorship, internships and co-ops, job placement, and faculty engagement with related industries.

Learning to serve–serving to learn

Maura Meyers ‘08 led 13 students in a summer art mural workshop run by BGSU’s Gordon Ricketts that enhances the community with public art while providing students with a rich hands-on experience.Many life lessons are free when students volunteer at area agencies and organizations throughout the academic year. Several times a year, usually during breaks, special trips are scheduled to immerse students in other cultures or learn about social justice issues or community organizing. Civic responsibility and service to the community are also possible through student organizations involved in service projects.

The BGSU Office of Service-Learning offers a wide variety of options for students to volunteer in their community
and beyond.

They include: service-learning courses, alternative breaks and community-based internships, along with the traditional community service opportunities.

For the past four years, Gordon Ricketts, director of the Arts Village, has run a summer art mural workshop. This year, his class of 13 students was involved in five murals of various sizes scattered around the Old South End and East Toledo neighborhoods.

Ricketts started the class after working with the Sofia Quintero Art and Cultural Center to design and paint a mural along a viaduct in the Old South End.

“Before we were even done people came out and used it as a backdrop for all sorts of events,” Ricketts said. “I decided it would be a good class opportunity and coordinated with the College of Arts and Sciences dean and Katerina Ray, director of the School of Art. We’ve painted close to 20 murals.”

This year’s murals were designed by Mario Torero, a San Diego artist who has been involved from the first mural, and Maura Meyers, a 2008 BGSU graduate and Perrysburg Junior High School art teacher.

“Students get to learn how to work with a large scale space in a collaborative way,” said Ricketts. “They do develop painting skills, but they are integrated into a culture and learn about the issues of public art. It’s not always art, and it’s not always clean.”

These communities have truly embraced the projects, Ricketts said. Three businesses in the Old South End have already contacted him about painting murals on their buildings.

“Nothing had been going on in this area that was visible. This is positive evidence that things are going on to make it a place that people want to come and see the work. That should certainly promote businesses and community pride.”

Active research participation

BGSU undergraduate students Christopher Sosnofsky (right) and Jon Mase (center) made strides in developing light-reactive materials in the lab of BGSU photochemical scientist Dr. Alexis Ostrowski.Active participation in actual research is encouraged as a way to provide intellectual stimulation and scholarly discovery. The Center for Undergraduate Research and Scholarship (CURS) provides support to foster meaningful and engaging  undergraduate research experiences.

BGSU seniors Christopher Sosnofsky and Jon Mase both received CURS grants this past summer to pay for their ongoing work in the lab of BGSU photochemical scientist Dr. Alexis Ostrowski.

Sosnofsky and Mase are developing light-reactive materials that will target heart patients’ narrowed arteries, or release antibiotics or tumor-destroying agents directly where needed.

Mase is first author on a paper about his project, the light-controlled release of nitric oxide from solid polymer materials, and is included on a patent the lab has filed. Sosnofsky will be a co-author on a second paper, about the development of a biocompatible polymer that will release its “cargo” only when irradiated with light.

Thanks to the CURS grant, Mase was able to devote himself to his research this past summer. “It’s a lot better,” he said, “not having to start an experiment and then leave for class, or only doing experiments you can finish in the time you have in the lab that day.

“Undergrads getting a paper on their own is a rare thing in chemistry,” he observed. “The more time you can put into it,
the better.”

Ostrowski shares the students’ passion for chemistry.

“I did undergraduate research beginning my freshman year in college, which is the number one thing that led me down this path,” she said. “I started out wanting to go to medical school but found that what I really was interested in was chemistry research.”

Mase said that, working in the lab, “I have an idea what grad school will be like and what I want to focus on. I’d like to work with biomedical materials, biosensors and analytical methods.”

But before he eventually leaves for graduate school, he will train the next undergraduate to take his place so the work can go on.

Viola Radcliffe participated in BGSU’s Fulbright-Hays funded program, “Walking Witness: Civic Responsibility in the Shadow of the Holocaust” in preparation for her career as an art historian.Sometimes research can take you unexpected places, as Viola Radcliffe, a graduate student in art history, recently learned. This past summer, she joined Heather Elliot-Famularo, chair of the digital arts division in the School of Art, and Dr. Tim Murnen in the College of Education and Human Development, on a trip to Poland, Hungary and Greece as part of their Fulbright-Hays funded program “Walking Witness: Civic Responsibility in the Shadow of the Holocaust.”

The project was developed as a component to the Holocaust documentary produced by Elliot-Famularo and allowed participants to conduct original research and connect with educators in those countries while tracing the life paths of Toledo’s Holocaust survivors.

Radcliff will use the experience to continue research in museum education and outreach. “As an art historian I believe art is always at the forefront of awareness and social justice,” she explained. “All art is a commentary on the world that we live in, including our environment and our communities. As individuals, we have a responsibility to use our talents and creativity to not only improve the life that we create for ourselves, but to also improve the world around us.”

LEADERSHIP SKILLS

Legendary NFL coach Vince Lombardi said leaders are made, they are not born — and that is certainly part of the philosophy at the BGSU Center for Leadership. Through workshops, classes and special programs, the center takes students through every facet of leadership. They learn the meaning of group dynamics and how to create a team that works as one to achieve its goals. Students also learn how to engage others and how to settle conflicts and receive direction on how to network, broaden their reach and excel in their missions.

Leadership programs at BGSU focus on helping students develop the attitudes, knowledge, and skills needed for inclusive and effective leadership in an increasingly diverse world.“It provides an experience to tie into what they’re learning in class and what they’re learning with other opportunities. It’s a cohesive experience,” said Dr. Jacob Clemens, assistant dean of students.

Some of the more popular programs include the BGSU Leadership Certificate, which encourages all students to explore and enhance their personal leadership skills, and the LeaderShape® Institute, an intensive, six-day program designed to encourage participants to become leaders with integrity.

“That’s a national program we’ve been bringing here since 2001,” Clemens explained. “It’s a best practice among national leadership programs and it really works for students. It’s a transformational experience that helps them to identify something they’re passionate about and how they can make a change in their world.”

One of the newer offerings is the Falcon Leadership Institute. Now in its second year, the yearlong program is open to incoming first-year students and rising second-year students. The group of around a dozen students meets every other week, plans a service and capstone project, and keeps a journal or blog to document what they learn. The institute is designed to develop self-aware leaders who have the skills to build professional networks and create personal connections within their cohort and throughout campus.

For the last three years, the center has been hiring a select group of undergraduate students to serve as Student Leadership Assistants (SLA). These students help facilitate the many workshops the center offers both on and off campus.

“The main thing that we’re doing is responding to what students ask for and what they want to see,” said Clemens. “We created the SLA position from student feedback and from that we’ve created a quality program. Our demand has grown every year and now it’s a staple for student organizations.”

Lindsay Marshall, a junior from Detroit majoring in public relations, is one of these assistants and said the skills she’s learned will make the transition from college to professional life much easier.

“I know I can definitely take away two things: One, a great deal of professionalism. The center has very high standards, so we carry ourselves with a high level of professionalism with whatever we send out, and that’s really important with meeting new people and networking. That’s a big thing with my future career in public relations. Secondly, I’ve gained so many communication and speaking skills, I feel like I can go anywhere and communicate with anyone about anything. It’s a great confidence booster.”

Whether students plan to teach music, market the latest technology or focus on international relations, the center offers programs that embrace intellectual skills, knowledge, and personal and social responsibility.

Ready to soar

Each of these experiences allows student Falcons to spread their wings while being able to return to the safety and security of the campus “nest” for further support, guidance and instruction. When they graduate, they will be able to soar with the skills and confidence gained from their guided forays from the nest. Whether BGSU students complete a co-op or internship, conduct research, or participate in service-learning or leadership activities, they are distinctively qualified for success as they begin their professional careers or pursue advanced degrees.  

Call to action for Falcon alumni!

Beginning with the class of 2018, BGSU guarantees students who complete the Falcon Internship Preparation Program, and meet the identified criteria, the opportunity to participate in an internship or other experiential learning activity during their undergraduate career. The first program of its kind in Ohio, it is expected to further enhance the value of a BGSU degree and advance the state’s economic vitality. If you or your company are interested in participating in the Falcon Internship Program, please contact the Career Center at 419-372-2356 or bgsucoop@bgsu.edu.

The Office of Service-Learning is always looking to engage alumni to be part of service-learning classes, or help with the growing regional BG Alternative Breaks program. Alumni who currently run or work with nonprofit community partners or service organizations that might like to host a trip, or help support a group of students traveling to work in their community, are encouraged to contact Paul Valdez at paulv@bgsu.edu or 419-372-9287.