Internships enrich college courses

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 9, 2014

SALISBURY — Catawba College senior Taylor Fender from Burnsville will tell you that there is much, much more to the lumber company in his home county than is apparent to the untrained eye. Bryant and Young Lumber Co. is big business of the most unassuming kind, Fender says.
This senior went home to the North Carolina mountains for the summer and completed an internship at this company. This gave him an opportunity to see classroom lessons turned into reality at a business.
Fender, like all students with academic majors in Catawba’s Ketner School of Business, was required to complete an internship as part of his graduation requirements. He also took a course during the fall semester, titled Experiential Learning, that complemented his internship and helped him get job-ready during the months before his 2014 graduation.
As part of the Experiential Learning course taught by Career Services Director Robin Perry, Fender and his classmates prepared resumes and cover letters, participated in mock interviews, heard from speakers on everything from needed networking skills to personal finance know-how, and made final capstone presentations about their internships on Dec. 12 using either Prezi or Pecha Kucha, a presentation software that allowed them 15 slides of information that last for 20 seconds each. Perry described it as a PowerPoint on steroids giving students a three- to five-minute time limit.
During his presentation, Fender explained that Bryant and Young Lumber Co. in Burnsville buys raw materials from local loggers and landowners and turns these materials, specifically Appalachian hardwoods and Eastern white pine, into milled products at its sawmill and kiln in nearby Marion.
Fender learned that loggers are paid based on the quality and number of logs they sell to Bryant and Young and that each log they haul in is graded and inventoried as it is unloaded. After the logs are milled, the products they create are sold around the world. Fender was able to see the lumber company owners interact with Chinese buyers, whom he said were particularly interested in Bryant and Young’s basswood.
“I learned a lot, but especially that you have to know a business from the ground up to efficiently manage costs,” Fender explained during his Prezi presentation. “I really like cost management and it’s huge in production.”
Senior Garrett Furr of Gold Hill spent his summer internship as an assistant manager at AutoBell. During the first two weeks of his internship, he learned the basics of the business, including AutoBell’s mantra: “20 minutes or it’s free.” In his role as assistant manager, he learned about hiring, dress code and procedures that all employees had to follow, including a certain way to dry a vehicle.
“Everything I had learned (in my classes) transferred. I gained experience with customers,” Furr said, adding, “I got so much hands-on experience with the customers.”
Senior Shekinah Gourley of Walnut Cove both interned and worked this summer at UNC School of the Arts. She worked for eight weeks as a resident counselor for a hall of 21, 13-year-old American Ballet Theatre students. Her internship, in residence life, with oversight from human resources, involved putting together a hiring handbook, a project she called, “most empowering.”
Noting that she learned how to handle responsibility, Gourley said her experiences this summer improved her time management skills — “where I had a problem and I grew the most,” learned proactive behavior, and exercised her communication skills. Her dual roles at the School of the Arts, Gourley said, “let me bloom outwards.”
Perhaps in an ultimate testament to her summer experience, “they tried to hire me,” Gourley explained.
Senior Jacob Jester of China Grove completed his summer internship at Plyler Supply, a Winston-Salem company that sells siding, countertops, cabinets, shakes, decking and windows. He said during his presentation that he learned about this business from the ground up. He started out working in the warehouse, learning the products, and he observed as salespeople interacted with customers.
“I got a lot of help in the beginning, but by the time, I left, I was able to take a job through the whole cycle — selling it to the customer on the sales floor and then pulling the order, having it delivered and invoicing for it. I learned that the relationships the business had with customers keeps them competitive.
“I also learned the stresses of running a small business,” Jester said. It was a big learning experience.”
Senior D.J. Colson of New London completed his summer internship working as a manager at Dairy Queen/Orange Julius in Albemarle. He said he was able to put into practice the business principles he had learned in the classroom, but working as a manager was difficult because he had previously worked at this business as an employee.
“Dealing with employees was the most difficult thing I experienced,” he explained. “I think I would have been more strict if I had been at a different Dairy Queen.”
Colson learned time management and people skills, about marketing and promotion strategies, and accounting systems and finance.
Perry, the course instructor, said the internship and this capstone course have proven extremely valuable for Catawba students from the Ketner School of Business who are about to graduate from the college. “The internships help them narrow their career focus and this course helps them be ready to enter the job market,” she said. “To help our students be successful in the workplace, we want them to be tuned into what employers expect and what businesses need in an employee. Their presentation/communication skills were definitely enhanced with their final presentations.”
Other students completing internships and taking the experiential learning course, in addition to those mentioned, include Jonathan Buffkin of Chadbourn, Black Lake Retreat Center; Zach Burkhart of Lexington, My Geek Technologies; James Everidge of Hamptonville, J.F. Hurley YMCA; Kayce Kimrey of Ramseur, N.C. Zoological Park, Asheboro; Adnan Podzic of Woodleaf, Beaver Brothers Heating & Air; Laurel Powell of Mooresville, self-directed internship in instructional video creation; John Scheich of Waxhaw, Stick With; Trevor Sieracki of Austin, Texas, Adrenaline Lacrosse; Zachary Smith of Granite Quarry, Yardi Systems; Jonathan Wallace of Salisbury, Novant-Rowan Regional Medical Center; Kimberly Weemhoff of new London, NSSA; and Hannah Wunschel of North Stonington, Conn., Bostian Retirement, LLC.