Professional Exploration Program Introduces Freshmen to the Workplace

Program helps LAS and CSH students connect the classroom to careers

DePaul’s University Internship Program (UIP) has designed an innovative program to help LAS and CSH students explore career interests through a hands-on employer shadow experience called the Professional Exploration Program (PEP). Piloted during winter intercession 2014, 19 first-year students (14 LAS and 5 CSH) completed the one-day, on-site shadow experience.
 
PEP introduces students to transformational, pre-career experiences as early as their first year at DePaul. From shadowing Chicago aldermen to meeting with executives at some of the city’s leading nonprofits, students gained immersion experiences in workplaces within their field of interest. PEP was designed to provide career direction for LAS and CSH students—many of whom have challenges connecting their coursework to future careers. With the PEP experience under their belts, participants will also be more competitive for future internships.
 
Students participated in a competitive application process to be selected for a shadow day at one of 11 Chicago employers:
  • Aerotek
  • Ald. Brendan Reilly’s Office – 42nd Ward
  • Ald. Scott Waguespack’s Office – 32nd Ward
  • Chicago Council on Global Affairs
  • Congress for New Urbanism
  • Council on American Islamic Relations
  • Feeding America
  • Imerman Angels
  • National Ovarian Cancer Coalition
  • Open Books
  • The Art Institute
These employers were specifically selected based on their relationship with the Career Center, history of hosting quality internship programs, or desire to enhance current programs. PEP offers another opportunity for these organizations to strengthen their relationship with DePaul and increase their exposure to high-caliber DePaul students.
 
Employers received résumés of students beforehand to match the students’ interests and skill sets with the appropriate people within the organization.  They then designed learning goals and activities for students, including one-on-one meetings with department and executive leadership who shared about working in the field from first-hand experience.  Students were prepped for the day through an orientation provided by UIP staff.
 
The program yielded immediate results.  Two students were invited back for summer internships and one decided to volunteer at the organization.   In addition, feedback about the shadow day experience was overwhelmingly positive—from students and employers alike. “Our student was an absolute pleasure. Everyone loved her!” remarked Vanessa Villagomez, office and volunteer manager at Imerman Angels.  “She was so thoughtful and inquisitive during our staff meeting, lunch and learn, and throughout the day as she spoke to various team members, including our CEO and COO. She was consistently pleasant, helpful and professional.”
 
Based on the success of the pilot, UIP is planning to expand the program and offer it again in winter intercession 2015-16. For more information, contact Carrie McAteer, associate director for UIP.