Al Wayne has been hiring DePaul University interns for nearly a quarter century. He currently has three interns on staff, while seven of the nine degreed professionals working at his specialty insurance brokerage are DePaul graduates.  

“We are in the process of hiring another DePaul grad, but have not decided among the three excellent candidates,” said the president and founder of Alexander J. Wayne & Associates, Inc., in Chicago, an affiliate of Lloyds of London.

His hiring practices speak to the preparation and value of the DePaul interns he has employed through the years. In addition to students studying business, “we have had philosophy majors, political science, communication and history.”  Their transferrable skills, such as writing and researching, help his business excel, according to the economics major who graduated from DePaul in 1967. 

DePaul has a long and mutually beneficial relationship with businesses in the city and suburbs, one it plans to nurture over the next six years as it strives to deepen its distinctive connection to Chicago. Strengthening ties to the city is one of five overarching goals in the university’s new strategic plan, “Vision 2018: Dedication to Excellence, Commitment to Community.”
 
Historically and today, thousands of DePaul’s students staff Chicagoland business by day and attend class at night, advancing their skills to become even more valuable to their employers. Meanwhile, businesses, organizations and local government serve as training grounds for traditional-aged students.

Nearly 2,000 of them completed an academic internship last year through their department or the University Internship Program (UIP), a commitment that proved valuable to their future employment. The National Association of Colleges and Employers reports that 51.3 percent of students who completed internships got job offers last year compared to 39.6 percent who did not.
 
UIP courses requires at least 10 hours of employment per week coupled with class sessions that introduce students to important aspects of the professional world, such as ethical decision-making, leadership and creative innovation. Among the top hosts of interns in this program in 2011-12 were:

  • Bank of America/Merrill Lynch (22)
  • UBS Financial (13)
  • JP Morgan Chase (9)
  • Clear Channel Communications (6)
  • Northwestern Mutual (6)
  • PAWS (6)
  • Mix Media Solutions LLC/SocialTechPop (6)

Last year alone there were 4,480 internships posted in DePaul’s Career Center, 95 percent of which were located in the Chicago metropolitan area. “That’s not a surprise, but a good indication of the extent of our employer relationships and the importance of Chicago in providing opportunities for our students,” said Gillian Steele, managing director of the Career Center.

The volume and nearby location of these internships are significant. “It means our students can do internships anytime throughout the year—not just the summer—and don’t have to go to another city. That’s big,” according to Steele.

Another plus is the increasing volume of paid internships. Postings for them are the highest they have been since 2008 at 54 percent. “Paid internships lead to jobs,” Steele confirms. For that reason and many others, the Career Center has worked diligently to educate employers on the ethics behind paying students for professional work.


Julianne Wessman, a senior consultant in the Public Affairs and Communications office at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, has hired nearly a half dozen DePaul student interns in the past four years. She knows their quality first-hand, having served as an intern there herself in 2006-07. She joined Children’s full-time after graduating from DePaul with a master’s degree in public relations and advertising. 

“We have a good track record with DePaul interns,” she said. “They are full of ambition and want the best out of the experience. They don’t answer phones. We put them to work.” 

One of the factors she likes best about them is that they work a sizable number of hours each week and stay on location for the full quarter, providing time enough to be immersed in all aspects of hospital communication, writing press releases on research studies, assisting with photo shoots and press conferences as well as drafting articles for the employee newsletter.

Steele has heard feedback like Wayne’s and Wessman’s from employers many times, and it is derived from the type of students DePaul enrolls and what they do to succeed here. The National Survey of Student Engagement consistently finds that DePaul students work more hours than students at many other universities. “They already have some professional work experience before they become interns, so they hit the ground running,” Steele reports.

As a consequence, she said, “Employers are using their interns as a pipeline to hiring. They check them out, teach them about the organization and hire them at the end. It saves everyone time and money.”

For his part, Wayne is pushing the edges of typical internship responsibilities at an insurance brokerage. He has two students in the Geographic Information Systems certificate  program mapping flood zones and elevations along the Mississippi River, which marks the 390-mile western border of Illinois “to demonstrate to underwriters that the properties they insure are not as badly exposed to flood as their proximity might suggest on a conventional map,” Wayne said. “I feel this symbiotic project could lead to something larger.” For these two students, that “something larger” would be a job doing what they love and bringing value to their employer with this hands-on experience topping their resumes.

See the 2013 job outlook for college graduates.

Learn about the experiences of several DePaul interns.