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Internships Foster Confidence, Creativity and Career Growth

Student perspectives on the transformative power of internships and their real-world experiences.

The benefits of an internship are often invaluable. Students gain important experience and career insights, engage in hands-on learning and build professional relationships. We invited five Syracuse University students to share their thoughts on recent internships.

People talking in a meeting room.

Jae Bin Lee ’24 (center) discusses a design concept with Suzanne Lefebvre ’97, interior design discipline leader at CannonDesign, and Christopher Whitcomb, who works in communication strategy and media relations.

Embracing a Trusting Work Culture

Jae Bin Lee ’24

Major: Environmental and interior design, with minors in architecture and information technology, design and startups

Hometown: Seoul, South Korea

Internship: CannonDesign, Buffalo

Jae Bin Lee was inspired by a presentation that Suzanne Lefebvre ’97 gave about CannonDesign in his Professional Practice for Interior Designers course (EDI 354), so he asked her about an internship position after the class. Lefebvre, who leads the firm’s interior design team, encouraged him to apply online and remembered him during the interview process—and he mentioned their interaction in his cover letter. “I think that connection was one of the reasons that made me stand out as an applicant,” he says, and Lefebvre was his internship supervisor.

Skills developed:

A lot of things! Technical skills, such as creating construction documents, Revit, etc., as well as professional skills, such as meetings with clients and preparing and presenting in front of clients. I also met so many wonderful people in my industry during my internship—I now have such a broad network of professionals that I can go to!

Most enjoyable part of internship:

I really loved the work culture—it was all about trust. CannonDesign trusted in me—and that is why I was able to work on real projects with professionals as an employee, not just an intern shadowing. I was able to make design decisions, which not every intern gets to do at their placements.

Career preparation:

I felt like I was treated like a regular employee, so I had to make sure that I was keeping up with the quality of work, and a good attitude. I think I was impressed with myself on how much I can do!

Advice for students seeking internships:

Do not be afraid to reach out! There is nothing embarrassing about reaching out to people—it just shows that you are interested. That is what makes you stand out from other people!

Student teacher working with children.

Valeria Martinez Gutierrez ’26 works on an art project with children at La Casita Cultural Center. Martinez Gutierrez enjoyed introducing the children to different aspects of sustainability through various projects.

Benefiting from an Uplifting Personal Experience

Valeria Martinez Gutierrez ’26

Majors: Environment, sustainability and policy; sociology; Earth sciences

Hometown: Laredo, Texas

Internships: La Casita Cultural Center, Syracuse; Environmental Storytelling of CNY, Syracuse

Word of mouth led Valeria Martinez Gutierrez to La Casita, a cultural program that brings together the Hispanic communities of the University and Central New York. She learned that La Casita was seeking interns from her friend Evelina Torres ’25, who works there. She also gives a shoutout to Handshake—which connects students to internship and job opportunities—through which she found an online internship with the Syracuse University Engaged Humanities Network’s Environmental Storytelling of CNY. “Just in case y’all need to know—Handshake does, indeed, work,” she says.

Skills developed:

Responsibility, work ethic, customer service, patience, critical thinking, and the ability to reach out for help. I found my peace, really.

Most enjoyable part of internship:

I truly love working with children—it grounds me as a student working on three degrees. La Casita is a special spot that is truly incomparable and has enhanced my experience as a Latina in Syracuse. I’m a research associate there now, and my work focuses on analyzing the impact of La Casita on Syracuse University and the community.

Career preparation:

La Casita has given me the tools and network to be an efficient employee and has helped me as a person—it’s odd to say that it healed me, too; but it did.

I want to become an environmental lawyer in the future, and my environmental storytelling internship helped reassure me that I’m on the right path. Writing about Native sovereignty (the Environmental Storytelling Series theme for Fall ’23 semester) was a learning experience as a Latina going into climate work. This experience especially helped me as a writer and storyteller, which are two of the most important elements for law.

Advice for students seeking internships:

Follow your heart—joining the team at La Casita has been like finding a second home. Again, it’s not directly tied into my future career, but I’ve enjoyed working in such a different field because I’ve been able to interconnect all of my passions, which has made me more successful as a student.

People working at news station.

Fabiana Suarez ’23, G’24 meets with John Casparino ’23, a media specialist at WCNY in Syracuse. Suarez appreciated the opportunities and support she received at the Syracuse public television station.

Building Communication Skills

Fabiana Suarez ’23, G’24

Major: Master’s program in advertising

Hometown: Pulaski, N.Y.

Internship: WCNY, Syracuse

Fabiana Suarez, who earned a bachelor’s degree in communication and rhetorical studies, landed her internship with WCNY through networking. She was attracted to the PBS station because of its involvement with the local community, and after meeting the human resources coordinator, she asked about internship opportunities. “After my interview, I immediately knew it was an environment I wanted to work in,” she says. “I now work with a few Syracuse alumni at my internship who teach me new things every day!”

Skills developed:

My communication skills have vastly improved since I started my internship. With such a close-knit team, it is crucial to be able to communicate effectively so everyone can perform to the best of their ability.

Most enjoyable part of internship:

The creative freedom I was allowed. My supervisor and team put their faith in my abilities and trusted me to take chances. This has not only helped me become a better intern but has also allowed me to hone my decision-making and risk-assessment skills.

Career preparation:

This internship has taught me so much about mass communications and knowing my audience. The communications I send out must align with brand guidelines and must intrigue our customers, while also encouraging them to check out new programming. These client-facing skills will carry with me into my future career.

Advice for students seeking internships:

Be relentless and believe in yourself. Before I interviewed with WCNY, I completely bombed an interview with the company where I thought I would have my dream internship. I was absolutely crushed and felt hopeless. It turns out that my dream internship was actually at WCNY. I could not imagine working anywhere else now.

Person standing on the streets of New York City.

Zachary Morrison ’24 stands near the Saks Fifth Avenue building in Manhattan. Morrison embraced the fast pace of Manhattan, seeing it as a great experience for launching his career there.

Exploring the World of Investments

Zachary Morrison ’24

Majors: Finance and real estate

Hometown: Chardon, Ohio

Internship: Acuity Partners, an alternative investment firm, New York City

Zach Morrison credits a collaborative effort with the Whitman Career Center for securing his internship as a spring/summer analyst. Assistant director Christine Waby connected him with Whitman alumnus Bob Spiegel ’94, whom he initially reached out to via LinkedIn. “Bob extended my interests to his partner,” Morrison says. “Subsequently, after a series of interviews, they extended an internship opportunity to me.”

Skills developed:

Throughout my internship, I developed a thorough comprehension of the private markets, with a specific emphasis on real estate private equity, early-stage venture capital and pre-IPO secondaries. This internship experience played a pivotal role in enhancing my analytical skills, enabling me to proficiently source, assess and underwrite multifamily investment projects with confidence.

Most enjoyable part of internship:

My most significant enjoyment stemmed from my immersion in the fast-paced environment of Manhattan. The culture of the city provided the ideal foundation for launching my career. Furthermore, I found great satisfaction in sharing a common Syracuse background with both my employer, Bob Spiegel, and my co-worker, Max Najarian ’20.

Career preparation:

This internship, particularly the Whitman in NYC experience, has significantly contributed to my professional preparedness for my future career. It provided me with valuable insights and a practical preview of the challenges and dynamics I can anticipate when living and working in Manhattan on a full-time basis after my graduation. Moreover, through this internship, I fostered meaningful relationships with individuals across the country, which I anticipate will serve as valuable resources throughout my career.

Advice for students seeking internships:

I would recommend to future interns that they dedicate their initial month in the office exclusively to active listening and diligent note-taking. Remaining in that environment, simply focused on listening to seniors’ conversations and asking the correct questions, is sure to result in new knowledge. I would also advise a new intern to reserve the most intricate inquiries for senior partners and managers; if an analyst can address the question, it is prudent to direct it to them first. The final advice I would extend is to never feel like a task is beneath you; even if it is unimportant, treat it as if it is. People will notice when you do everything with attention to detail, and many times this attitude will grow into real work.

Person working at a recording studio.

VJ LaShomb ’24 works the soundboard at Subcat Studios in Syracuse. LaShomb enjoyed connecting with local artists as well as gaining insights on the workings of a recording studio.

Mixing It Up in a Sound Studio

VJ LaShomb ’24

Major: Sound recording technology

Hometown: Lawrenceville, N.Y.

Internship: Subcat Studios, Syracuse

VJ LaShomb learned about their internship through the Soyars Leadership Lecture Series. When some upper-class students gave presentations on their internships, LaShomb found out that Subcat Studios welcomes sound recording technology (SRT) majors for internships. “I applied online for the internship and interviewed with the studio manager, TJ James, who also teaches a course in the audio arts graduate program,” they say. The Orange connections also included Subcat founder Ron Keck, who studied at Syracuse, and fellow SRT major Jason O’Neal ’24, who joined LaShomb as an intern.

Skills developed:

I gained skills in my recording engineering abilities, improving my efficiency as I learned new techniques and tricks. I also gained some insight into mixing, new techniques to use and software to look into. Our professors and alumni also repeatedly emphasized the importance of being ‘a good hang’ in the studio, interacting with others and contributing ideas in a way that makes the other artists and engineers feel good and be happy to have you around. Tracking sessions let me work on this aspect a lot.

Most enjoyable part of internship:

I enjoyed the tracking sessions the most—the opportunities to connect with local artists and work with them. I was exposed to lots of different genres, personalities and workflows, and it really let me start to spread my wings.

Career preparation:

This internship set me up with a good network for future employment opportunities and gave me valuable insight into how a recording studio functions day to day.

Advice for students seeking internships:

Highlight the things that make you different and stand out from the rest of the applicants. What experiences have you had that maybe others haven’t? What things have you done that could change your point of view? Even if they seem a little unrelated, silly or underwhelming at first, those things will make your applications stand out.

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