Former public administration student stresses value of internships

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Graduate said employers look at experience and academic preparation.

By Thomas Macias

Employers value education as much as experience, a former student who is professional service coordinator at Carter Healthcare, said Feb. 21 to 20 students and faculty in the public administration program in Oppenheimer Academic Center.

Gerald “Jerry” Gonzales Jr., a 2001 graduate of this college, spoke in a presentation “Leaders Going for the Gold,” organized by public administration Coordinator Sylvia De Leon.

Gonzales stressed the value of a college education and the high value of internships.

Of all the positive things he experienced at this college, “the internships are what I found were really valuable.”

“Students have a special status and are given special consideration,” Gonzales said. “Employers do not see students as a threat. They are see them as an asset. Employers feel comfortable sharing their knowledge.”

He received local internships with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a local nonprofit Seton Home and the Social Security Administration.

Under the sponsorship of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, whose internship program he described as “great,” Gonzales did a two-month public affairs internship with the USDA Forest Service in Washington, D.C.

In addition to being able to work outside San Antonio, in his time at USDA Gonzales said he traveled to Colorado to help webmasters design the organization’s website.

Gonzales said he met high-profile individuals, including his then-U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-Texas; fellow Texans then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez and then-President George W. Bush.

Also as an USDA intern, Gonzales met Miss Universe Denise Quiñones who was speaking at a tourism expo for Puerto Rico.

Gonzales said his internships led to long-term networking contacts and even lifelong friendships.

Gonzales said in an interview before his talk it is a misconception that work experience alone is what employers value.

Employers will look at a person’s educational background as well, Gonzales said.

“They’ll look at everything. You can never go wrong by having a degree. It is something that can never be taken away.”

Gonzales said students have nothing to lose by applying for internships.

The worst that can happen is for an employer to say “no,” he said.

For those interested in internships, Gonzales said students should start with sources on college campuses, such as a career service office, professors and the websites of organizations.

Also during the presentation, De Leon spoke about the college’s public administration program.

She said the program conducts classes on jobs, interview preparation and salary negotiation.

De Leon said salary negotiation was a particularly important skill for people beginning careers as statistics show the typical individual shortchanges themselves $500,000-$1,000,000 in lost career earnings.

Regarding the college’s internships, De Leon said students from this college have been done federal internships at USDA, the U.S. Forest Service, the Department of Labor and Department of Commerce.

De Leon said all 51 of this college’s public administration interns were asked to remain by their organizations.

The college’s program and students have been successful, said De Leon because “we really try to get them prepared here.”

De Leon said the public administration program will help students with their essay, a key requirement by organizations.

Also in attendance was Dr. Martha Treviño, director of the office of experiential learning for Alamo Colleges.

Treviño directs internships opportunities for students in the five Alamo Colleges.

Since 2015 her office has been “encouraging students to engage in experiential learning opportunities” such as work-study programs and internships.

A primary service of her office is to manage community-based work programs with  nonprofit organizations.

De Leon and Treviño said they organize workshops on how to apply for federal internships.

Treviño said more than 100 students have participated in these workshops in four sessions this academic year.

Students learn how to do a résumé, a federal résumé, and a quality cover letter.

“We provide the templates; we give it all away,” Treviño said.

 “Federal internships are incredible. If they invite you back after the second summer, you don’t have to compete for a federal position,” Treviño said.

Treviño encourages students interested in nonprofit and federal internships to contact her office at 210-486-5900. All majors can apply.


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