September 15, 2009
While some students from Oklahoma Baptist University spent their summer break working, taking classes and going on vacations, Natalie Syharath, an OBU senior strategic communication major, interned at a non-profit agency in Texas called Texans Can! The organization was created to help people who were unable to finish high school earn a diploma in a program designed to meet their specific needs.
Syharath, a resident of Bedford, Texas, was one of 75 paid interns in the Dallas metro area selected through the ExxonMobil Community Summer Jobs Program. While on the job, Syharath used skills she learned in her public relations and graphic design courses at OBU to fulfill the demands of the internship.
During her time spent in the company's development office, Syharath wrote pitch letters, updated social networks for the alumni, sent out press releases, created fliers and designed brochures. She also attended three seminars designed for interns to receive advice from ExxonMobil intern alums and meet corporate people from ExxonMobil.
"I worked with several marketing assignments to create fliers for certain events such as enrollment days and a new class Texans Can! was offering," Syharath said. "Also we paired up with Smartgivingcards.com for a fundraiser, so I made a brochure."
Not only did classroom experiences aid her during the program, but interacting with the wide variety of people on campus during the last few years benefited her as well.
"Because of OBU's diversity in relationships, I was able to adapt well to my internship environment," Syharath said. "OBU taught me to focus and invest in relationships in order to create genuine friendships, whether that is with another student or professor."
Although internships are not required for most of OBU's degree programs, they are recommended by professors.
"Internships add to the value of education because it gives students hands-on experience in their desired area of profession," Syharath said. "It also helps students figure out whether or not they want to have that type of career experience when they do enter the job field."
Syharath's experiences at OBU and in the classroom equipped her to successfully complete the summer internship program as well as provide hands-on experience in the public relations field. The quality of her work was evident when the organization chose to use her as a contractor after the internship ended.
"Even though I'm done with my internship, they leased me as an independent consultant for the next year," Syharath said. "This is where I'm still getting paid to ‘work from home,' and my job is to keep the social networks updated and to keep blogs posted."