Experiential Learning Connects Students with Real-World Internship Experience

careerfair sizedHoly Family University students looking to step outside the classroom to further their knowledge and gain real-world work experience have thrived with the revamped internship opportunities offered by the Experiential Learning Department. Eager juniors and seniors have been placed in top corporate and non-profit companies in Philadelphia and the surrounding area. Led by Angela Cutchineal, Director of Experiential Learning, the department is helping students find their passions prior to graduation.

Cutchineal, a 2006 graduate of Holy Family University, knew helping others was her passion—she just didn’t know in what capacity. As an Interdisciplinary Humanities major, confused as to what her future career might be, a chance meeting at the Spring Career Fair helped narrow her focus. It was there she met with representatives from AHEDD, a staffing company that helps individuals with disabilities find jobs. After a positive meeting, her objective was clear—she wanted to help others find jobs that they’re passionate about. After stops at CareerLink, Kaplan Career Institute, and ITT Technical Institute, Cutchineal joined her alma matter in 2016.

“When I was finishing my degree, I didn’t know that this field existed,” Cutchineal said. “I didn’t know there was a job where I could help people find internships and work experience. After being in the field, I knew right away this would be my forever career and that this is what I should be doing.”

The Experiential Learning Department teaches students all facets of securing an internship—from sending résumés to thank-you messages after the interview. It is an initiative Cutchineal doesn’t take lightly, as the preparation is instrumental when students eventually graduate from Holy Family University and begin to look for their first job.

“Any student that comes through my department will be taught how to apply to a job, how to properly prepare for an interview, how to write a marketable résumé that makes sense in today’s job market, how to market themselves, and how to do proper follow up. That way, when they graduate, I don’t have to worry about if they know what they’re doing.”

Beyond completing an internship and receiving the necessary credits to graduate, students who complete external internships gain invaluable experiences they can’t find in the classroom—a facet Cutchineal says is crucial, especially in today’s competitive job market.

“When companies are looking for an entry level person, most would say that they can teach someone the actual physical duties of the job, but they can’t teach someone how to be a social being, how to want to be at the company, how to become part of a company’s culture and naturally meld in to what those unwritten expectations are. Those are taught through experiential learning. Employers care more about what skills a student has to offer, particularly soft skills that are achieved only when you go to a place every day, clock in, do a job, report to someone directly, and go home.”

Fitting an internship into a student's schedule is easy. Student can enroll in the Experiential Learning course that falls under their major to receive academic credit for their work. In the classroom, students chronicle work achievements and perfect their personal marketing skills.

Thanks to a streamlined system, more employers are contacting Holy Family University than ever to have students join them for the semester. In the 2016-17 academic year, 63 organizations welcomed Holy Family students. Placements included 69 News – WFMZ-TV, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Fels Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Biology, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, Habitat for Humanity, and the Philadelphia Daily News.

“The bottom line is, students are working in their field of study, while they’re learning about it,” Cutchineal said. “That gap is being bridged. Now, when a student graduates, instead of saying ‘I promise I can do these skills I learned,’ they can now say ‘I know I can put these skills into practice because I’ve had an internship.’”