Baker touts internships for student career success

Published: Thursday, April 3, 2014 11:52 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, April 8, 2014 12:14 p.m. CDT
(Debbie Behrends - dbehrends@shawmedia.com)
Northern Illinois University President Douglas Baker spoke during Thursday's meeting of the DeKalb County Economic Development Corp. Baker spoke about his vision of internships for every NIU student.

SYCAMORE – Northern Illinois University student Timi Adeboje called his internship with Nestle USA’s pizza division a “life-changing, rewarding experience.”

“They never referred to me as an intern,” Adeboje said. “I was a member of the team. They made sure it wasn’t just a coffee-and-copies type of internship.”

Adeboje and student Tyler Hayes, who interned with Geneva-based flavor company FONA International, joined NIU President Douglas Baker in stressing the importance of internships Thursday at a meeting of the DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation.

“Internships are the cornerstone of student career success,” Baker said, “and a keystone goal of the university.”

Baker said his vision is for every NIU student to have an internship experience, which he believes is possible with the vast number of businesses in DeKalb and Sycamore along with the more than 200,000 alumni within two hours of the university.

Many of the pieces are in place to make it happen, Baker said, but to use a sailing metaphor, planking and rigging are still being put in place.

“Join us to create transformational experiences,” Baker said. “Not everyone wants a job. Some want to go to grad school, travel the world, have Peace Corps experiences. But, at some point, they’ll want a job.”

Baker also talked of providing more internship opportunities on campus, an idea that came from one of the Bold Futures workshops Baker facilitated. He said the university employs between 3,000 and 3,800 students, and many of those employment opportunities can be turned into internships.

For his part, Hayes said he had a good experience. Although he calls himself an introvert, he said he learned the value of networking.

“No matter how well I did my job, if people didn’t know me, it didn’t matter,” Hayes said.

Cindy Henderson, NIU’s executive director of career services, spoke briefly about how her staff can help a company tailor an internship experience. She said anyone interested in starting the discussion about NIU interns should start online at niu.edu/careerservices.

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