Josh Groppe likes to build apps. But not just any apps. Apps with a purpose, apps that will provide something valuable to the user.The past year and a half, he’s had a chance to do just that for Clemson. “I wanted to continue to learn about mobile app development, and I love Clemson. This internship allowed me to bring two of my passions together,” said Josh, who has been interning with the Clemson Mobile Innovation Team for four semesters now.
Groppe is just one of hundreds of students who have jumped on board a relatively new campus internship program that puts students into a job on campus that allows them fantastic, paid, on-the-job experience. The program is called University Professional Internship/Co-op Program, or UPIC (pronounced “you pick”).
“These UPIC internships are mentored and intentional. Students are working side by side University professionals to develop their skillset,” said UPIC Director Troy Nunamaker.
And students are recognizing the opportunity — and the impact. When UPIC began in 2012, they hoped to have 500 internships by 2016. In 2014, they will have more than 600 positions available — more than double their original target for the year. “This internship gives them the experience of what it’s like to work on real projects in a real work environment,” said Sam Hoover, manager for the Mobile Innovation Team within CCIT and Groppe’s UPIC supervisor.
Part-time internships consist of 160 hours a semester, and the pay is more competitive than a typical campus job — $10 per hour the first semester, then $11 and $12 for subsequent semesters. UPIC funds half the student’s salary and the department hiring the student funds the other half. Full-time co-op positions are also available. For a student like Groppe who’s putting himself through school, having a well-paid internship within minutes of his classes and within the scope of his planned career path is an incredible opportunity.
“I pay for school and my bills. So having this job helps me with life. I couldn’t do everything else without it,” Groppe said.
UPIC leaders manage the HR aspects of the program and help the departments promote and fill their open positions. To get a position approved, the department has to apply for the opportunity, assign a supervisor and provide the UPIC staff with intended learning outcomes.
“The best part has been building my ability to perform in a team and do it well,” said Summers Binnicker, a double major in financial management and marketing. Binnicker has spent the past three semesters working on a marketing team — almost entirely of students — within the Regional Entrepreneurial Development Center. The team works with entrepreneurs to help develop business and marketing plans, do market research or simply provide any resources they need to make their idea a reality.“I always considered myself an individual worker, but in this environment we have to divide and conquer responsibilities. Plus, I have had to learn how to present or decipher information and translate that into a product that has value to the entrepreneur we’re working with,” she said.
Groppe echoed Binnicker’s sentiments. “There’s value in talking something out, in really working and thinking as a team. When it comes to school I tend to go it alone. But I’ve learned there’s tremendous value in working and talking through a project with someone else.”
Having to tie the internship back to key takeaways has been vital for both UPIC staff driving the program and students participating.
“The format of the program really keeps you accountable. The reflection questions we have to answer really make me stop and think, ‘What did I really learn?’,” Groppe said. “I might forget these if I didn’t write it out.”
As Groppe and Binnicker prepare to graduate and begin looking for full-time work, these internships and experiences are going to place them ahead of the competition. In fact, according to the Career Center, Clemson students are 13 percent more likely to gain full-time employment if they have completed an internship. So what started as a simple idea — increasing the number of on-campus internships for students — has turned into much more. And its impact is growing into much more for students like Groppe.
“I like knowing that what I’m learning (in the classroom) has real-world application,” he said. “That drives me.”