By Emma Martinez
As graduation approaches, many students are questioning how prepared they are for the next steps ahead of them. Thankfully, most academic programs involve opportunities for students to be on-site in their field to prepare them for the future. With the installation of the Pendle Hill Pledge, internship and field experience are only increasing in importance within each program.
Departments that featured off-campus experiences in their educational tracks prior to the Pendle Hill Pledge include the nursing, social work, and education departments. These experiences offer students the opportunity to do hands-on work in their future professional fields throughout their time at Malone.
“[Clinical is] where we learn everything,” Melody Weaver, senior nursing student, said. “Without clinical we would not know anything… We can learn in a textbook and know the idea of something but knowing the idea and actually doing it are two different things.”
Nursing students are taken to various health providers in the region in order to participate in on-the-job training.
“We[‘ve gotten to go to] Summa in Akron; I’ve been at Mercy in Canton,” Weaver said. “I’ve gotten to [work in] post-op, after-patient care, I have been on a therapy floor, a cardiac floor, an oncology floor, and a maternity and labor and delivery [floor. These experiences are] definitely something that pushes me.”
Social work is similar to nursing in terms of how integral the field experience is to the program as a whole.
“For social work, [field] is such a big part because we’re preparing practitioners,” Dr. Elizabeth Patterson Roe, director of the Center for Intercultural Studies and professor of social work, said. “We’re preparing [students] to work out there in the field with people, and the more experience that [they] can get to not just learn knowledge but apply it in the field is particularly important.”
“We do have accreditation requirements that students have to complete,” Roe said. “[The requirement is] a minimum of 400 hours… but here at Malone, we actually don’t just [require] the one 400-hour internship. We do a couple of small internships before that because we want our students to gain a variety of social work experiences beyond just the minimum requirements”
This is easier said than done, considering the sheer number of hours that social work majors put into internships throughout their time at Malone.
“My sophomore internship was a 40-hour internship that I did at Canton Christian Home to experience what nursing home social work looks like,” Ashley Zehr, senior social work and global international studies major, said. “My junior year I did a 60-hour internship at Frontline Ministries International with Redemption for Life and their anti-human trafficking realm.
“This year, I am doing a 450-hour internship at Immigrant Worker Project which is all for [my] social work [major],” Zehr said. “[For my] global international studies [major], I did a 40-hour internship last semester at the Immigrant Worker Project.”
The 450-hour internship is the most daunting task that future social workers face, yet it is also the most important, both Roe and Zehr agreed.
“Their senior year [the students] have the 450 [hour internship], and by that point they’re working about 30 hours a week; they’re becoming professionals,” Roe said.
“I’m already noticing in this 450-hour internship that it’s a big rubber-meets-the-road [moment],” Zehr said. “You hear everything in class, and [you] can write the paper and turn it in to get the grade, but it’s a different story when you’re actually working with the person right in front of your face and you’re like ‘alright, do I actually know how to solve this problem or help this client?’”
However, as Roe and Zehr also emphasized, having more variety than just one internship is also crucial to the social work students’ experience.
“Because social work is a super broad [field], it’s really helpful being able to have those internships, especially the smaller ones, because as a sophomore, who knows what type of social work you really want to get into since you’re just learning what social work is,” Zehr said. “Like [my internship] at the Canton Christian Home. I went in, I learned a lot, but I also learned I did not want to be a nursing home social worker so it helps narrow down the avenue of where you want to go. Each different [internship] gives you a different idea of what social work can look like and gives you different tools and skills to be able to move [forward] in your future.”
Much like nursing and social work, the education program is training students directly for specific jobs and has specific requirements for the level of field experience needed to truly prepare them.
“What I love about student teaching is the experience is exactly like what I will be doing in the fall [as] a first-year teacher,” Courtney Cearns, a senior education major, said. “You get to have a class of real students, you get to work with a mentor teacher every day so you really get to know that group of kids and you get to a point where [you’re] gradually taking over subjects.
“You eventually will get to the point where you do everything: you teach every subject area, lesson plan, teach all day, you’re assessing kids…calling parents, going to conferences,” Cearns said. “You’re doing everything so it’s exactly what you’ll be doing in the fall. It prepares you really well.”
Cearns agreed with those from other departments that the variety of different field experiences was important to become prepared for practicing their profession after graduation.
“I’ve seen different grade levels in different schools all around Canton, and that’s really prepared me,” Cearns said. “[It’s been helpful] seeing different ways that teachers manage their classroom, assess students’ resources and different methods of teaching. It’s very broad.”
The importance of field experience for these programs could not be stressed enough by the students.
“[Clinical] gives me the confidence to talk to a patient and really learn,” Weaver said. “It’s very different to be in a hospital setting than to just read in a book what you’re supposed to do.”
“I’ve had a wide variety of experiences,” Cearns said. “They’ve placed me in Canton city schools [and] suburban schools, which is where I’m at now… So [I’ve learned from] a variety of placements [and] a variety of teachers.”
“There are definitely times where it can be stressful trying to do an internship and school at the same time,” Zehr said. “But it’s an opportunity that I know I will remember for the rest of my life, and [I’ll] use skills from it for the rest of my career.”
The students’ belief in the importance of their field experiences was emphasized by faculty as well.
“It gives [Malone] an opportunity to serve in the community, to make an impact [and] really live out the principles we stand for,” Roe said. “We really believe that our students will benefit, and the community will benefit, from having these opportunities to serve and to apply what they’re learning.”
Internships and field experiences give students a chance to explore the field they are committing to and to learn and prepare for what the future holds. There is no doubt that Malone’s commitment to fostering such opportunities through the Pendle Hill Pledge will encourage students to chase their callings and follow the path God has put before them.