Spring 2014 Issue | By Michelle Schraudner, '14
A unique internship program at Idaho State University provides students with career development opportunities and University departments with passionate employees.
The Career Path Internship (CPI) program, created by ISU President Arthur Vailas in 2010, has grown into a million-dollar program aiding hundreds of students' career goals.
"Students are eager to gain experience in their academic field and we believe that this gives students a competitive edge in the job market," said Dr. Patricia Terrell, vice president for student affairs.
Unlike typical student employment on campus, which often consists of answering phones or working in dining halls, CPI students are given a faculty mentor to work under in the field they want to pursue after graduation.
During the program's inaugural year, the president's office allocated $300,000 for the student interns. The University allocated $1.4 million for both the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 academic years.
"This program has grown so fast in such a short period of time," said Lance Erickson, director of ISU's Career Center.
Increased funding from the president's office and interest from ISU students has contributed to the program's growth. Erickson said the student interest speaks to the value of the program.
The first year of the CPI program had 232 student participants. This year, more than 600 students were CPIs.
Students at any point in their academic career are invited to become a CPI, with pay levels increasing for graduate students.
Internship opportunities are available for students across the University. Biology, business administration, mass communication and psychology have had the most interns in the past three years, but any student has the opportunity to find a CPI position.
At the end of their internships, students are asked to fill out a survey about their experiences. Last year, 97 percent of CPIs said their experiences were "positive" or "very positive." Eighty-five percent said their CPI supervisor was a mentor to them.
One student said they completed a study in collaboration with the American Society of Anesthesiologists. Another worked on local sustainability efforts.
Shawn Kelsch, a May 2014 graduate of the College of Business, has had the opportunity to work in three different areas on campus, keeping financial records, coordinating development campaigns and even doing some marketing writing. He has completed financial internships in the College of Science and Engineering, and is currently working in the ISU Foundation Office. Kelsch appreciates the fact that the internships are paid, a rare bonus. Already, he says, the experience he has gained has made him more employable.
"I've been able to learn budgeting, payroll, leadership skills, you name it," he said. "I've gotten experience in things I otherwise wouldn't."
The CPI program has been a boon for ISU recruitment. The Admissions Office has used the program as a marketing tool to attract new students.
Erickson said the average high school grade point average was 3.8 for the freshman interns who began in Fall 2013.
Together with program coordinators, the student affairs and admissions offices set aside 50 CPI positions exclusively for incoming freshmen. The lure of immediate career development and a guaranteed paycheck drew highly qualified students to ISU.
"I talked to one student who had been accepted at a university in Arizona and receiving the freshman CPI was the reason that she came to ISU," said Terrell.
A policy change in the past two years now allows students to seek CPI opportunities off campus as well.
"Businesses love it," said Erickson.
Not only do local businesses get career-driven, educated employees, but the University also pays the students' wage out of the funding allocated for the CPI program. Some businesses choose to supplement the student interns' pay with funding from their own payroll as well.
Erickson said ISU is the only Idaho university to have a program like this but that other universities are starting to take note of its impact and effectiveness.
Idaho State University's locations in Meridian and Idaho Falls also receive CPI funding, giving Bengals around the state career opportunities while they pursue their degrees.