By Kelsey Wagner
BSBA Marketing ’12
As members of ELITE — Eller Leadership and Integrity Training for Excellence — pre-business freshmen Eric Brady and Aaron Iffrig were asked to attend their first career fair to get their feet wet. As the two of them tried to network and gain insight into the professional world by asking questions about internships and future opportunities, Brady said they spotted a gap in the system.
“In asking about current openings, we were both shot down numerous times because of the fact that we were freshmen,” he said. “This is when we realized the need for younger students to obtain experience early on to prepare for internships and full-time positions, moving out of college.”
They also noticed another opportunity right here on campus for university departments and programs that need help. “We figured that they mainly hired seniors to do intern work for them, but we thought having to re-train a new student every year or every semester is not efficient.”
It was to solve these two problems that Brady and Iffrig launched the E-tern program.
The E-tern program gives a convenient and unique opportunity to pre-business students. E-terns apply, interview, and are hired by departments to work during the semester for academic credit. At the end of the semester, the employer has the chance retain the employee for the following semester with compensation.
The program came to fruition through the help of associate dean of undergraduate programs Pam Perry and director of professional development Sara Diaz. Iffrig and Brady did everything by the book: they put together a business plan and timeline, and pitched their idea to different departments on campus. They also connected with Wildcat JobLink, which created a site for the program where departments could post their internship positions.
Iffrig and Brady are not E-terns themselves, as they believe it is a conflict of interest, but three other ELITE students are E-terns. The two founders of the program say that the perfect E-tern candidate is a pre-business student who recognizes the need to gain experience and is eager to learn and get ahead of fellow classmates. Brady describes the perfect candidate as “competitive, smart, and competent.”
Current E-tern Caroline Wilson fits the bill. Wilson works at Sponsored Projects Services (SPS) on campus, which she said has taught her about the professional world, and has also helped her hone in on a specific major. “Through working at SPS, I have learned the skills necessary to become an accountant,” she said. “I have learned how to work with a team, how important it is to ask for help when needed, and how to follow directions.”
The E-tern program has opened up a lot of doors for experience and networking, Wilson said. When giving advice to classmates looking for their first internship, she said, “Never give up or get discouraged: patience is key!”