career services

Corporate communications senior Stephanie Robalino completed a seven-month-long virtual internship for Too Good Strategy, a business-consulting agency. Virtual internships allow students to gain experience while working remotely.
Photo Credit: Mariana Gonzalez | Daily Texan Staff

Corporate communications senior Stephanie Robalino walks out of class and heads to a nearby coffee shop. She has a few hours to kill, so she sits down and flips open her laptop. Instead of turning on Netflix or sifting through Buzzfeed articles, she rebuilds a company’s website and analyzes competitors. By the time her next class rolls around, she’s earned $30. 

Robalino is part of the trend of students across the nation working in virtual internships. From the comfort of a coffee shop between classes or her bedroom at 1 a.m., Robalino completed a seven-month-long internship for Too Good Strategy, a business-consulting agency. She helped build a new website for the company, researched competing agencies and organized her boss’ notes — all done without stepping foot in the office.

“Virtual working in general is pretty normal,” Robalino said. “You see a bunch of people working in coffee shops every day. It was a big selling point for me.”

Virtual internships allow people to gain experience while working remotely for a company. Interns communicate with their employers via email, text, Skype and other forms of digital communication. Over the past few years, websites such as Internships.com and InternMatch.com have added virtual options to their sites. 

“I’d say that it’s growing, and it’s a huge value added for students,” said Robert Vega, director of career services in the College of Liberal Arts. “You can do a virtual internship with someone, say in San Francisco or London, during the semester.”

Instead of going into the office for meetings, Robalino had weekly 20-minute phone calls with her boss and the rest of the team. She logged her 10 hours a week on an online accounting software and earned $10 an hour. 

“I wanted an unstructured environment,” Robalino said. “I like being able to work on my own time and not be tied down by certain time restrictions.”

Over the summer, journalism sophomore Jazmyn Griffin interned at an online music publication called ABScream Media, but her boss lived nearly 2,000 miles away in Boston. She interviewed musicians and wrote stories for the site at the same time she was taking summer classes at UT. 

“You get to write for a type of publication that may not be available in your area,” Griffin said. “Some people live in the middle of nowhere, so they might not have a local music magazine that they could be a part of.”    

While this type of internship eliminates commuting to work, provides flexible hours and saves companies workspace, it comes with challenges and criticisms.  

“Some of the challenges for students, especially for those where it might be their first professional opportunity, are, ‘How do you communicate with a supervisor virtually?’” Vega said. “‘How do you receive feedback? How do you become integrated into a team when you might be the only person who’s not in the office?’”    

Vega said the lack of a structured learning environment is one reason why virtual internships often do not qualify for academic credit. The College of Liberal Arts, for example, does not allow students to use their virtual internships to gain academic credit. 

Similarly, the Moody College of Communications’ website states that the “college will award academic credit for virtual internships in very rare instances.” The college reasons that “an intern left to learn by themselves … is rarely engaged in a learning experience worthy of academic credit.” Robalino was one of those exceptions and gained credit for her internship.

Even though these internships rarely qualify for credit, career services in colleges across campuses continue to promote these virtual opportunities. 

“I definitely see this as a big thing,” Robalino said. “I think that millennials are different in the way that we want more freedom out of our jobs in general.”

Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Alex Marin Photography | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of Q-and-A’s with the deans of the University’s 18 schools and colleges. John Dalton was appointed assistant dean of graduate studies in 2006. Dean Judith Langlois was unavailable. This interview has been condensed to fit space requirements. 

 

The Daily Texan: Could you tell us about the graduate school’s goals?

 

John Dalton: Our main objective is to recruit and support the very best graduate students, and that means a lot of things. It means financial support; it means services for graduate students of all sorts. Two of the main things that we have been focusing on over the last couple of years, one of them is graduate student housing. We have a lot of graduate students on campus, and we don’t have a lot of opportunities for them to have housing either that is owned by the University or subsidized by the University. The other issue that we’ve moved the needle on, I think significantly, is career services for graduate students, particularly PhD students. If you’re a non-professional student, like if you’re an MBA student or at the LBJ school or even in engineering, your career services actually does a very good job of helping you facilitate interactions with potential employers, setting you up, but if you’re in a non-professional school, like the College of Liberal Arts or the College of Natural Sciences, two or three years ago, there just literally weren’t services for graduate students, and I didn’t know this until we did our climate study and one of the things that came back was we need more career services. 

 

DT: How are you planning on addressing the issue of low availability of graduate student housing?

 

Dalton: Most [graduate housing] is done on Lake Austin Boulevard... and the wait list is several hundred students long. There’s a large international student population there. There are a lot of families there. That’s also part of that Brackenridge track which is very valuable to the University. It’s part of the municipal golf course, so there are lots of conversations going on about what’s going to happen to that down the road. We have been working with the Graduate Student Assembly and various administrators and the president to talk about a new facility for graduate students, and we’re in the preliminary stages of that discussion, but it seems to be going really well. I think within the next six to nine months, the campus will see a proposal for a new facility, and we’re not sure of the location yet, but we’re focusing our efforts on east Austin. 

 

DT: Is it normal for a university to have one graduate school that encompasses all of the different graduate programs?

 

Dalton: The way our administrative structure is set up is very typical across the U.S…. Everything about the graduate student experience is very different than the undergraduate experience. The department makes [admissions decisions], and students become a part of that department. They work with individual faculty. Administratively, the graduate school supports and just oversees the different processes as graduate students move through their programs... We handle all the incoming [admission] applications and distribute those out to the programs to make those decisions and then we verify those decisions, and then at the end we certify the degree, but in the middle, there’s lots of things that happen. We handle everything from late registration petitions to grievances from graduate students who are having either employment issues or academic issues.

 

DT: What kinds of challenges does this type of structure pose?

 

Dalton: We have a very large student population: 12,000 students. The graduate school staff in the graduate school is about 30 staff. It’s a lot of services to provide with few staff. We count the graduate coordinators as an extension of our staff; there are over 100 of those, and they’re located in each of the departments. We couldn’t do our jobs without the graduate coordinators. One of the challenges is the diversity of needs. You can’t say something’s going to work for all graduate students. Very rarely will one solution work for everybody. So we’re always talking about the differences between the sciences and the humanities and trying to figure out what their needs are, even in career services, very different needs going into preparation for the job market... We’re getting ready, I think next fall, to engage in a series of conversations about graduate education, and we’re going to ask really basic questions like, “What is a dissertation?” We expect a different answer from every college and school.

 

DT: How are graduate student stipends looking?

 

Dalton: Stipends are really paramount in supporting graduate students. That is one of the key factors... It is one of the major factors students use in deciding where they are going to go for their graduate work. To get the very best students, you’ve got to have competitive stipends. Every college in the school has a different stipend amount. They range across the board, low to high, just depending on market forces, depending on the source of funds, so we are always thinking about how to find more money to support graduate students. The graduate school can do some of that. We can work on providing those stipends, but a lot of that money from the stipends comes from external to the University, so in the sciences and the STEM fields, most of that money that is paid to graduate research assistants, or GRA’s, comes from external sources like grants from the federal government. Faculty are getting those grants, and those students will be paid off of that grant and not out of the University coffers. We have lots of conversations with college deans about the levels of stipends. We’re always looking at our budgets and trying to figure out how we can increase stipends.

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

This past September, there was a palpable change in the air during the latter part of McCombs’ signature Undergraduate Career Expo. All seemed ordinary — there was the usual mass of black suits and the familiar buzz of elevator pitches — but there were hundreds of new, non-business faces in the crowd. It was the attendance of these students that had much of McCombs engaged in critical discussion about the implications of opening the Career Expo to all majors for two of the five operating hours, between 3 to 5 p.m. Now that McCombs’ heaviest on-campus recruiting season is primarily over for the year, the chatter has quieted. Though there’s no denying that many business students were concerned about opening their beloved Expo doors, there now seems to be a stigma against business majors for expressing those concerns in the first place. But that’s not a justified judgment.

At first glance, it’s difficult to understand why McCombs’ Career Expo was ever closed at all. After all, the career fairs of every other college have always been open to all majors, including business students. The Expo’s exclusivity barred non-McCombs students from accessing valuable career opportunities. In short, the exclusivity seemed plainly unfair. We’re all Longhorns after all, right?

That’s a lovely sentiment, but it also reveals a shallow understanding of the implications of opening the Expo. When you get to the heart of the argument from the business perspective, it boils down to two main points: money and McCombs’ rankings. All colleges at UT have certain tuitions they ask of their students, and most of those dollars go toward investment in resources specific to that college, such as a top-notch laboratory for the College of Natural Sciences. That laboratory, in turn, goes into CNS’ rankings, which affect a whole list of other things, including the caliber of students and professors it attracts. Similarly, the fact that McCombs is a business school means it invests in Career Services, which include its Career Expo.

Michael Daehne, a 2012 graduate of McCombs, former Undergraduate Business Council president and current Expo recruiter, told the Texan, “I don’t think it would be fair of me to go use the labs Natural Sciences chose to invest in, and the same holds true for liberal arts or communication students wanting to use McCombs’ career services.”

On the topic of money, Daehne also noted, “When this conversation comes up, many tend to ignore the fact that a) McCombs students pay higher tuition than others across campus — specifically for things like top-flight career services — and that b) McCombs itself chooses to invest more in career services programs than most other colleges on the campus. Beyond that, McCombs has historically invested more dollars in career services than the other colleges, meaning the current career programming — like the McCombs Career Expo — is the result of decades of investment by BBA students.”

The second reason opening the Expo doors was so complicated? Rankings. Top high school graduates choose which business school they want to apply to by looking at national rankings in publications such as Bloomberg Businessweek and US News, and Career Services is a huge factor in determining McCombs’ magic number. In theory, it’s a great idea to let all Longhorns have access to a Career Services as developed and talented as the one offered at McCombs. The fact is, however, that McCombs’ rankings are determined by how well Career Services serve business students, not the University.

Another major reason that business students were so concerned about reopening the Expo: When it was open in the past, recruiter feedback was poor and rankings fell. Career Services wanted to do something to improve McCombs’ rank, so they decided to close the Expo to non-business majors beginning in the spring of 2008. It stayed closed until this past spring.

Despite all the concerns, the University has seen two re-opened Expos in 2013. And as it turns out, both Expos have gone remarkably well. The Expo served 26 more employers and 794 more business students than last year, in addition to 442 non-business students. Career Services also made sure to create new workshops with the College of Liberal Arts and College of Natural Sciences that specifically addressed how to navigate the McCombs Expo.

The question remains: How did the Expo recruiters feel about non-business majors being present again?

“They notice,” BBA Career Services director Velma Arney said. “The reaction is extremely polar — 50/50 survey responses. Some employers love it, and some don’t want anything to do with it and are packing up and leaving. It tends to be companies with large recruiting teams that dislike it because they go to each college’s respective fairs already, but companies with smaller teams [that don’t attend other colleges’ career fairs] favor it because it gives them a wider reach.”

Though the arguments for why the Expo should or should not have opened were extremely compelling on both sides, BBA Career Services turned out to be well prepared and developed enough to serve the entire university’s demand. The numbers say it all. Not only are the initial concerns about Career Services being unable to serve McCombs a non-issue, but Career Services was actually able to serve more business students, and they did it even better than before.

“That’s our goal,” Arney said. “It’s more than just dropping your resume and employers selecting from all the names without a face. We want you to go to the events, go to the programs, and make those connections. While we are involved in the university-wide career services process in a way that we weren’t last year, [McCombs Undergraduate Programs] Dean Platt and I are still going to make sure the McCombs voice is heard.”

Huynh is a Plan II and Business Honors sophomore from Laredo.

McCombs' MBA program ranks 19 in annual survey

Bloomberg Businessweek ranked McComb’s School of Business’ MBA program 19 in its annual survey “best business schools”, a six rank increase since its previous rank of 25 in 2010.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, student and corporate recruiter service were the determining factors in ranking McCombs’ MBA program.  MBA graduates across the nation completed surveys, ranking schools based on teaching quality, career services, critical thinking, leadership skills and caliber of classmates.

McCombs’ MBA program received an overall student survey rank of 28 and an employer survey rank of 15. It received an A in the categories of career services, leadership skills and caliber of classmates.

MyEdu announced its student profile Wednesday morning, which will help students connect with potential employers (Photo courtesy of MyEdu).

Coinciding with a restructuring of UT’s career services on campus, MyEdu.com will now help students in the hunt for jobs and internships.

The online higher education platform launched an overhaul of its website Wednesday morning and introduced “the student profile,” designed to connect students with potential employers. Students can search for jobs and internships, while employers can search for candidates who are matches for their company.

“Our mission is to help students get a better return on higher education,” said Frank Lyman, senior vice president of products and marketing at MyEdu. “After a couple of years of doing a lot to help students on the academic side, we are now adding this career aspect.”

Last year, the UT system invested $10 million in the online platform. MyEdu executive board member John Cunningham is the son of former UT President and UT System Chancellor William Cunningham.

Previously, MyEdu was a tool students could use to plan out their schedules for years in advance. The website has course data collected from more than 800 institutions, and Lyman said the scheduling service helps students graduate on time and save money. The scheduling service is still a part of MyEdu’s website, but now students can create a profile that shows their interests, skills and abilities.

Lyman said MyEdu spent a lot of time talking to students and trying to figure out what kind of services they were not receiving. He said many students wanted help finding careers and internships.

“What we are trying to accomplish is help students tell their story uniquely,” Lyman said. “The resume is a piece of paper, and everything interesting about a student is in one line at the bottom.”

The student profile will allow students to create an interactive resume where they show their work experience, volunteer hours, passion, skills, dream job, Facebook and twitter accounts, projects and more.

MyEdu’s new service coincides with UT’s establishment of the University Career Interview and Recruiting Center, which will oversee each college’s career services. The center was announced last spring.

Gretchen Ritter, vice provost for Undergraduate Education and Faculty, said having multiple career services across campus that were not overseen by one center made it confusing for employers who were trying to find an entry point to the University.

“We also felt that some of our students were not being served as well as we’d like them to be,” Ritter said. “Some of the smaller schools may not have as many resources.”

Ritter and Brad Englert, UT’s chief information officer, help lead the implementation effort for MyEdu on campus. Englert said this center will encourage students to use MyEdu’s student profile.

“I think they’re going to coordinate multiple tools to help students,” Englert said. “MyEdu is one of the tools in the toolbox. It is something that can be used.”

Ritter said UT System officials have been working with MyEdu since the company approached them about the idea of a student profile.

“It’s been something that has been refined through extensive dialogue between the company, the system, the regents and the campuses,” Ritter said.

Englert said the UT System responded very positively to MyEdu’s intial presentation of the student profile.

Lyman, senior vice president of products and marketing at MyEdu, said MyEdu will work with career service officers across the nation to ensure they understand what the new student profile can do for students.

“Career services uses a lot of different tools to help students,” Lyman said. “Our hope is that this will be another tool career services will recommend to students.”

MyEdu is a free service for students, and the company said Wednesday it will always remain free.

Printed on Thursday, October 11, 2012 as: MyEdu evolves to include career services for students

A newly formed student committee submitted recommendations to decrease tuition and increase the quality of UT’s liberal arts education to the college’s dean on Wednesday.

The College Tuition and Budget Advisory Committee for liberal arts compiled information from a survey of more than 400 liberal arts students and urged the college to improve faculty, career services and advising and guarantee smaller classes. According to the recommendations, 65 percent of students are against any kind of increase in tuition, but if a hike is unavoidable, the money should first go toward the resources students feel the most strongly about.

Once approved by the dean of the College of Liberal Arts, the committee’s suggestions must be approved by Tuition Policy Advisory Committee. TPAC is a nine-member committee made up of four UT students and five faculty and staff members, including vice provost Steve Leslie and chief financial officer Kevin Hegarty. If TPAC approves the recommendations, they will be reviewed by President William Powers Jr. before going to the Board of Regents, which ultimately sets tuition.

The college will implement CTBAC’s recommendations, which also include funding a summer enrollment program for incoming freshmen and hiring more lecturers for courses that might delay a student’s graduation time, said Randy Diehl, the College of Liberal Art’s dean.

“It’s been key to have [CTBAC] involved in the discussion early on,” he said. “They’ve provided thoughtful and well-organized recommendations.”

The college plans to accept the committee’s recommendations with the addition of extending increased support for study abroad programs in the college, Diehl said.

The letter of recommendation coincided with TPAC’s first open forum, as the Committee has traditionally held closed meetings. The $92 million state cut for UT’s budget over two years will not be made up by tuition increases, Leslie said at the forum.

“We will try to cover the necessary costs to keep the University strong,” he said.

TPAC members will state their official opinion on the Liberal Arts CTBAC’s recommendations on Friday, after reviewing the committee’s letter to Diehl, said Carisa Nietsche, president of the Senate of College Councils and a TPAC member.

“In terms of personal thoughts, I was really impressed with their recommendations,” she said. “They did a really fine job of combining student opinion from the survey with what’s most feasible.”

Although ideally tuition would not go up, the college’s CTBAC took into account a tuition hike may be necessary and stated what they wanted to focus on should there be an increas, Nietsche said.

“It’s a nice balance, saying we recognize we aren’t the only college involved so we might not get what we want, but here are our priorities should tuition raise,” she said.

Printed on Thursday, October 13, 2011 as: Students offer input about tuition changes: Liberal arts college survey finds support for allocating funds to student resources