Experiential Learning at Holy Family University -- A Journey of Support

Step into the Internships and Career Development Center on the second floor of the Campus Center at Holy Family University and feel the support. Associate Director of Career Development Brett Fucci, and Internship Experience Specialists Schyler Paris-Ellerbee ’20 and Jeset Garcia-Velez ’20, have worked to develop a program that both launches students’ career paths by coaching them through intentional goal-setting and also provides a safety net for those who are now dipping their toes into the workforce.

The trio work in tandem, and alongside faculty, to ensure that all Holy Family University students gain practicalapplication of their classroom learning by completing an internship in their field of study, as well as an online academic component, both of which are required for graduation.

“Every student is not only required to have an internship, but they also are required to complete a virtual course where they complete assignments, access discussion boards and self-report on their internship experiences,” Paris-Ellerbee said.  “They receive an on-site mentor and, if they have concerns while in their internship, they have a professor they can reach out to.  They have a go-to person who helps them navigate the process.”

Since 2015, the University has been expanding its database of potential employers and improving the career readiness of its students by enrolling them in an Experiential Learning course.  The course allows the Internship Experience Specialists to individualize the experience for students, providing them with personality assessment tools to ascertain their own strengths, weaknesses and areas of interest and properly prep for their workforce experience.

“The course is so helpful because it allows our students to take a ‘tell me about yourself quiz’,” Garcia-Velez said. “How far are they willing to travel for their internship?  What are they most interested in? What are your goals? What are your values?  What knowledge do I have? We also help them to complete their cover letter, craft a representative resume and provide them with feedback to finalize these documents. We give them extra prep with mock interviews. The course also allows them to refer to tips and reminders like how to prepare the night before an interview and how to follow up with a thank you note after the interview.”

“The beauty of Holy Family is that we are always being innovative,” Fucci said.  “We are keeping up with the times and at the forefront of trends. As a unit, we really enjoy the coaching piece and do really well with keeping up with what is expected in the job market, with getting our students where they need to be and staying ahead of the curve.”

This includes locating placement opportunities in growing fields including biology, neuroscience, psychology, health promotion and wellness, health care administration, marketing and sales, supply chain management, and cybersecurity. 

“We are constantly updating our database with new employers, so our students have a larger pool of opportunities and more places to send their resumes,” Paris-Ellerbee said.  “While we are doing this, there is also the expectation that the students do their part, that they are learning to reach out to people and advocating for themselves. It’s nice to be at a school where you can know your students by their first names, where you are able to have personal conversations, and where they feel comfortable enough to come to see us and tell us that they loved their internships.  We are ethical, efficient and effective, and the students appreciate it.”

That process of building trust and independence, while also polishing their professional image, also is becoming apparent to area employers who are reaching out to employ Holy Family students and are hiring graduates on full-time when their internships are complete. The Career Center has introduced monthly mini-job fairs where certain majors are invited in to interview with employers on site. The response from students and employers alike has been impressive and encouraging.

“The individualized services that are provided at Holy Family are what I appreciate the most,” Fucci said. “Not every student at every institution gets that.  My favorite statement that I tell students when I meet them is, ‘It is unfair to ask an 18-year-old what they want to do for the rest of their lives.’  The students respond, ’You’re telling me it’s okay that I don’t have a job title?’ or ‘I can’t tell you what 10 years out looks like?’ That’s when we can build that trust, where we can get them to the point that they are comfortable and confident. That’s the name of the game, and it is so important. We don’t like to call it hand-holding. We call it intensive support.  If you need us, we are here for you, until you say, ‘I’m good’.”






Jan Giel