Internships Provide Real-World Responsibilities
Technically, Olushola Ogundele didn't finish the MDOT/MSU Graduate School Internship Program, which is why he wasn't given a certificate at the program's concluding luncheon on June 21, 2016. He didn't finish because he was hired as a database specialist by the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA), for which he was interning.
"I've learned a lot about data management," the recent Morgan State University MBA grad told his former fellow interns and their mentors at the luncheon. "This opportunity has been remarkable."
The internship also taught him the value of teamwork and effective communication. Ogundele, who has a bachelor's degree in computer engineering, said, "We have to ensure the data is accurate; that's why effective communication is so important."
Graduate students in the MDOT/MSU program, who work full time in the summer and part time during the school year, are assigned to mentors at various agencies within the Maryland Department of Transportation.
"This program gives you the working experience you often can't find anywhere else," said Dr. Andrew Farkas, director of the National Transportation Center at Morgan, which administers the program.
Dr. Gloria Gibson, provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs at Morgan, told the students and their mentors, "We know when we look at data that students who have engagements - mentorships, internships - are going to do much, much better. It's excellent that our students have access to internships."
The program also gives students not just a leg up on their career, but on what they want to contribute.
"If you have a passion for transportation or infrastructure, if you have a passion for what you do it is never a job. Even on the most frustrating day - and I can attest to that," Dr. Gibson said, drawing a laugh, "it is an extension of you and what you do to make a difference."
The program has served as a national model.
Moges Ayele, senior liaison for higher education with the Federal Highway Administration, noted that such programs are critical for readying future workers. "Workforce development and preparing the next generation is of huge interest to the federal government," he said.
Mentors in the various agencies also noted benefits beyond a future workforce.
Stuart Wilkins, a mentor in the MTA's Office of Strategic Management, said, "They perform a very valuable service us - they are able to help with some tasks involving daily information that we have to deal with. We can have the intern deal with it, and it frees up time for us. They deal with more tactile information, and we deal with more strategic information."
Phil Sullivan, also of the MTA's Office of Strategic Management, noted that interns often have a background that employees don't, such as economics. "It's useful to have that perspective," he said.
The next group of interns will begin the program in July.