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Student Internships Lead to Jobs

Mary Ritter Heitkemper, Ph.D., director of Gonzaga's Career Center, conducts a mock job interview with a student. Gonzaga's increased emphasis on finding students internships is working. Photo by Zack Berlat.

Mary Ritter Heitkemper, Ph.D., director of Gonzaga’s Career Center, conducts a mock job interview with a student. Gonzaga’s increased emphasis on finding students internships is working. Photo by Zack Berlat.

SPOKANE, Wash. – Few words are more affirming to college graduates, their parents and their alma maters than “you’re hired.” In the highly competitive markets for higher education and employment, Gonzaga University is increasing its emphasis on finding internships for students to tilt the odds in their favor when entering the job market.

Student internships and career preparedness constitute one focus of the University’s Strategic Plan under development, said Mary Ritter Heitkemper, Ph.D., director of the Career Center.

“Students recognize internships provide an opportunity to apply and test their knowledge and problem-solving skills in their chosen career field and gain access to full-time opportunities after graduation,” Heitkemper said. “Research indicates employers are increasingly using their internship programs as the primary source for acquiring new talent for full-time positions. Gonzaga students bring a sense of service and commitment to their work. They care about making a difference, and that makes a Zag intern the ideal job candidate.”

Clearly, the initiative is helping. The percentage of Gonzaga students who had internships (paid or unpaid) or jobs rose from 34 percent in 2008 to 51 percent last year. Heitkemper says Gonzaga is on track for 70 percent of its students to experience internships by 2016. Most telling, 91 percent of Gonzaga’s 2012 graduates were working or pursuing service interests when surveyed a year after commencement. 

A 2013 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers indicates employers made full-time offers to 56.5 percent of their interns.

Preliminary data look promising for Gonzaga’s Class of 2013 as well, including these stories:

Dane Pavlik’s two-year internship at Opus Bank was instrumental in securing a position with the bank – a job he created. After interning in two of the bank’s departments, Pavlik, a business administration major, saw the need for a new job and pitched it. Seconds later, Pavlik had the job.


Lise Green’s internship with Gonzaga athletics provided the experience necessary to secure a job with University of Maryland athletics. As a determined freshman, Green emailed the entire Gonzaga athletics staff seeking experience. A sports management major, her persistence led to an internship with Gonzaga’s sports information where she worked for all four years at Gonzaga. At Maryland, she helps mentor at-risk student-athletes.


Antonia Hall credits Gonzaga’s Career Center & GAMP office for helping her get an internship at Levi Strauss this past summer that led to a role as a public relations contractor for the company. A public relations major with a minor in promotions, Hall used the Career Center’s offices for phone and Skype interviews, and for help polishing her resume. Also, Gonzaga’s speed mock interviews helped her succeed, Hall said.


Madeline Nolan learned about the importance of internship from GAMP (Gonzaga Alumni Mentoring Program). To pursue her dream job in theatre, Nolan knew she had to start networking. Eventually she was offered an internship with Seattle Children’s Theatre in the Promotions and Development department. Once her internship was completed, she was offered the job of House Manager for the 2013-2014 season. Nolan, a theatre arts major, is also currently interning at Pacific Northwest Ballet promoting The Nutcracker and works as the Public Relations Director for Tenacity Theatre Collective.


Many other recent Gonzaga alumni (and their employers) who have received jobs through their internships, including (among others): Michael De Haan (electrical engineering major) Parametrix; Brendan Krieger (business administration) The Boeing Company; Emily Wakefield (political science and history, international relations minor) The Artisans; Tessa LaVergne (broadcasting) KREM-TV; Stuart McDonald (business administration) ZenithOptimedia; Emily Oller (history and journalism) The Bend Bulletin; Agnes Pomykala (business administration) Alaska Airlines; Kaitlin Pursley (business administration) Microsoft; Drew Reeves (broadcasting and journalism, minor in public relations) KXLY-TV; Emily Rosenberger (public relations) Nike; Greg Talbott (broadcasting, minor in journalism) KNDU-TV; Kelsey Wickman (public relations, minors in promotions and dance) MSL Seattle; and Joe Worthey (business administration) Webtrends.

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