The Power of Experience
The College of Arts and Sciences’ new Director of Internships, Sarah Hays, will expand support for students in their search for internships and career exploration.
Looking to continually improve the student experience, the College of Arts and Sciences recently created a new position that will solely focus on student internships. As the first Director of Internships, Sarah Hays is working to broaden and amplify internship opportunities for all students in the College regardless of their majors. She just launched a website that students, alumni, faculty, staff, and community partners can utilize to explore opportunities, network, discover career-building tips and tricks, and more.
Though new to this position, Sarah is not new to the College or to Santa Clara University. She has been with the Public Health Department since 2014 and brings over 15 years of experience at SCU. Additionally, Sarah serves as the program manager for the Valeriote Goldman Public Health Leadership Program, and teaches PHSC 139 and PHSC 197 which focus on the internship requirement for all public health majors, bridging the academic and aspirational goals of every student to find a meaningful experience that moves theory to practice.
Learn more about Sarah’s role as Director of Internships and what she hopes to accomplish.
As the College’s Director of Internships, what is your role?
My role is to help facilitate experiential learning opportunities for all of our undergraduates in the College of Arts and Sciences as they take academic theory and put it into practice. It’s also my role to help build partnerships that our students want and need in the external community, and to support faculty who understand the power of internships and career exploration.
Why are internships important?
Internships are really important for students because you can imagine what a certain profession is like, but you will never know until you actually go out and try it on. That’s a repeating theme for me—I really believe in the idea of trying something on. Just like clothes, some things look better on a hanger! So, if students can go out there and really see what long-term experiences look like—maybe a quarter or 100 hours—that’s going to give them a nice sense of whether they’re on the right path. Internships also allow Santa Clara, as a university, to get out into the community, into the larger Bay Area, and beyond, to showcase the capabilities of our students.
Why was the creation of this position important for the College?
This position is something that students want and need. The arc of what a college experience now looks like to many students is not just being in a classroom and gaining intellectual knowledge. It is more than learning about a subject; it is experiencing everything that that subject entails. Students know how important internships can be when they search for their first professional job, so this position will really help prepare our students for success. Daniel Press, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, is a huge advocate for experiential learning and internships, so this is also part of his strategic goals and priorities for the College.
How will the addition of this role aid CAS students in finding internships and career preparation?
It’s a multi-phased approach. First, I am working with departments across campus to learn what they already do, what they know, and who they know—I’m looking to be a clearinghouse of information so all of the things that we already do can be amplified. I want to make sure there is one place on our new internships website where students, faculty, and community partners can go to discover this information and learn about our current programs.
Second, I am proposing a standardized course that could be used for students seeking internship credit in any major where there isn’t a set internship course. There is a value to every experience, and when this value is not financial, what are the other ways to make it valuable, make it visible, and allow students to utilize it for their future career goals? While the College’s REAL program already helps support summer experiences, I am going to be looking for academic year experiences as well as summer opportunities. One of my biggest passions is making sure that students can take these opportunities at any time, not just in the summer. Only a few departments have a mechanism to do this by having an internship requirement for their majors that includes a guided, 10-week class experience. With this proposed course, students of all majors will be able to have their internship on their transcript and get credit for this experience.
Third, students will also have me as a resource. I’ll be available to meet with them and help with anything I can to move them forward. I will provide them with tools and teach them more about where they should be looking and who they should be talking to. One of my roles is to help students learn the necessary steps of vocational discernment to discover not only what they want to do, but what drives their passion and their interest. That’s the other piece that’s really a part of what I’m hoping to bring to the table with this position.
How will this position expand upon the internship opportunities that are already available to students?
One big area is access to resources for our students.The website will play a big part in that and eventually be a repository for a number of things. This summer, I will begin to build out lists of current organizations that students have found to be beneficial in career exploration. The site will also guide students to information that already exists in their home departments. It’ll have information about successful placements of other students, contacts in different industries who have previously worked with Santa Clara students, and more. Eventually, I will also share on the website some best practices that I cultivate alongside the Career Center. I want to make sure that tips and tricks and ways to build your resume will be there for students to utilize and find partners to further build their skill sets.
Over time, I want and expect that the website is going to evolve to meet three different sets of needs: students, first and foremost; faculty who want to support these experiences; and our community partners, those that we work with consistently, as well as new partners we build relationships with.
What are you most excited about for this new position?
I’m honestly most excited for our students. I know that our students already go out and look for opportunities, but I want all our students to have the access, the support, and the ability to find opportunities that are meaningful. I want students to come away from any opportunity having some value-add to what they did and where they're going. One of the things I tell my students is that a really powerful internship experience is wonderful. When it’s positive, fantastic. But powerful experiences sometimes come from a not-so-great experience… you learn more! The thing that’s really wonderful about that is you get a lot of clarity. I want everyone to be successful. But, I also want everyone to have opportunities to learn in each of their experiences.
What do your plans for this position look like? What are a few things you hope to accomplish in the next year or two?
Within the next year, my hope is to continue expanding outreach and building out the website. Next year, I look forward to running a few town halls, tentatively titled the Internship Roadshow. I want to come to any faculty meeting that will have me and be ready to give a 10 minute spiel in any classes. I love being a guest lecturer, so any time I can bring my passion for vocational discernment and career exploration to students, I’m happy. I’m looking forward to being invited to come talk to people about all the ways they can dip their toes into what comes after Santa Clara. Next year will include a further expansion into Santa Clara University, and after that, I would really like to turn the website into a cyclical, powerful method of sharing information and opportunities amongst all of our students, alumni, faculty, staff, and community partners.