March 23, 2007

Externship provides valuable experience

by Sun Min

CARBONDALE, Ill. – While some students spent last week's spring break soaking up the sun on terra firma, Ricky A. Barr was flying high at Continental Airlines in Houston, Texas.

Barr, of West Jefferson, N.C., a graduate student in Southern Illinois University Carbondale's College of Business and Administration, was one of more than 150 University students who spent last week gaining valuable hands-on career experience through the SIU Alumni Association's Extern Program.

Barr is interested in the travel industry so he signed up to spend time with the internal audit team at Continental. "I did real audits," said Barr, who is studying accounting. "I examined documents, interviewed people and reported my results. I loved the work because I was never treated liked a student. I was part of a team."

In all, nearly 60 students from the business college spent spring break participating in externships. They were spread across the country at places such as Ketchum Public Relations in Chicago, FusionStorm in San Francisco and AG Edwards & Sons, Inc. in Miami, to name a few.

"It's a win-win situation for employers and students," said college placement Director Donna M. Margolis. "Companies get introduced to potential employees and students gain real world experiences."

Last week's stint at Continental is an experience Barr will never forget. He credits Margolis with helping him to land the plum externship at the Fortune 500 company.

"Donna and her team at the College of Business placement office basically found the externship for me," Barr said.

This summer Barr will intern at accounting firm MPP & W in St. Louis, thanks to the career development team in the college. "Donna creates a positive atmosphere in her office and her team is always there to assist students."

The Student Alumni Council and the SIU Alumni Association, together with the undergraduate colleges at SIUC, sponsor the award-winning Extern Program. Established by the SIU Alumni Association in 1984 to provide students with the opportunity to observe and experience their chosen career fields, the program matches students with alumni and friends of SIUC during spring break in March.