“Shifting Tides: Today’s Experience for Tomorrow’s Jobs”

This was the title and focus of the New England Association for the Cooperative Education and Field Experience (NEACEFE) conference that I attended back on November 3rd-5th with Diane Bell, Director of Internships.  The NEACEFE conference brings together career development and academic professionals who work with students regarding internships, cooperative education and other experiential learning programs on college campuses to share best practices and trends in the field.  This year’s conference held at the Sea Crest Beach Hotel in Falmouth, MA was attended by over 50 representatives from schools across New England.

The conference title focuses on some of the changes that are occurring both for professionals (with changes in federal and institutional guidelines for experiential experiences) as well as the increasing and changing demands for our students in the job market post-graduation.  Internship professionals are seeing how increased federal scrutiny of internship programs, issues of payment, higher expectations of employers and the increasing needs of the student populations have changed the landscape of the field.

Of the variety of session provided, I focused in on the following topics:

  • Creation and automation of the internship application, evaluation and grading processes
  • The importance of creating and evaluating internships as an educational tool vs. just a way to get payment or credentials
  • Creation of variable credit internship programs
  • A panel program of experienced career center directors discussing the future of the field

One of the closing parts of the conference was a Dining Etiquette dinner presented by a colleague from Tufts University.  After coordinating these types of programs for years, it was a fun activity to end the conference with that allowed for a lovely meal, great company as well as learning a few new tips!  The small size of this conference and everyone’s collegial nature really allowed for a great networking and learning experience.

With the creation of the new Internship Program department and our two offices need to be coordinated, attending this conference together allowed Diane and I to learn new information, chat with colleagues about the challenges we are facing and to have the time to brainstorm on how we can work together to help advance students experiential learning on campus.  With the movement to an online application process, a review of internship credit approval procedures, internship funding and centralized student data systems this conference came at a perfect time.  There are a lot of changes happening in the field and here at BSU, but I think they will all lead to expanded and better coordinated opportunities for our students.

Submitted by: Laurent Troland, Assistant Director, Career Services

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