Throughout Wichita, the U.S. and the world, Wichita State University students are building a strong foundation for their careers through Experience-based Learning. Here are some of their stories.
Wichita State alumnus Troy Fischer knows from experience that making the most of opportunities as a college student can pay off with a career.
"The more connections you can make in your field before graduation, the more potential to open up a wide spectrum of opportunities after college," he said. "Maybe even an opportunity that wasn't expected."
Many of the relationships Fischer built with professors and area professionals turned into references when he was looking for a full-time music education job.
Lunda Asmani has traveled a long way to get to his job as assistant city manager and chief financial officer for the city of Newton.
Asmani, who earned a master's in public administration from Wichita State University in 2002, is originally from Tanzania, East Africa. He grew up in a diplomatic family and was able to travel all over the world as a child.
Despite those advantages, Asmani credits his on-the-job training as a WSU student with his ability to land a successful job.
While at WSU's Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs, Asmani connected with the university's Cooperative Education and Work-Based Learning program. That connection helped him score two valuable internships: first for the city of Maize and then for the Sedgwick County manager's office.
He was employed full-time as soon as he graduated.
"I truly believe that my WSU co-op experience bolstered my resume and gave me a leg up on the competition," Asmani said.
One of the things Angela Buzard enjoys most about her job is the opportunity to provide direct assistance to communities.
Buzard is director of the Environmental Finance Center – housed in Wichita State University's Hugo Wall School for Urban and Public Affairs. The Center provides environmental finance training and assistance to communities in Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas.
Wanting to someday continue down a career path in public administration, Buzard came to Wichita – specifically to attend WSU's graduate school.
Through her graduate studies, she found a desire to work with local governments and decided to apply for an internship with the City of Wichita.
Buzard was hired as an intern for one year in the city of Wichita manager's office. Her job included handling special projects for the city manager, assistant city managers and various city department heads.
UiSan Cheah learned about Wichita State University as a college student in his native Malaysia. Some of his friends attended WSU and had good things to say. Looking for new opportunities, he decided to follow suit. In 2006, Cheah moved to the United States and settled in as a communication major at WSU.
He initially tried his hand at advertising copywriting because he enjoys the process of creative writing. But, Cheah said, as he progressed through the Elliott School of Communication's program, he realized he wanted a career in marketing communication.
"I still enjoy the writing process, but I also like the process of developing various marketing communication programs," Cheah said. "It's an opportunity to learn more and diversify."
While Cheah worked toward his degree, he also took advantage of on-the-job experience through WSU's Cooperative Education and Work-Based Learning program.
Those opportunities helped Cheah stand out when it came time to pass resumes around and look for a job.
"I definitely would not have been as successful, because I've been told many times by recruiters and managers that they like seeing potential candidates with some real-world experience," he said. "Some have said that they will not even consider an applicant that has never had an internship. It just shows that you're prepared to enter the professional world and have had the opportunity to apply some of the knowledge and skills you learn while at school."
Andrea Denton had already finished active duty in the Marine Corps and was working full time in the legal field when she decided to make an abrupt change.
At 24 years old and married with a little girl, Denton quit her job and enrolled at Wichita State University.
"While working as a receptionist at a law firm, I met the wife of one of the attorneys, who was a reporter for KAKE-TV," she said. "I had never even thought of becoming a reporter, but meeting her made me realize that I had always loved the news, and this is exactly the area I was interested in pursuing."
Denton, a New York native, said she looked into Wichita State and realized it had a great communication program. With bills to pay while she pursued her degree, Denton quickly took advantage of Wichita State's Cooperative Education and Work-Based Learning Program.
"While at WSU, I was very lucky in taking part in several co-op experiences," she said. "I had quit my full-time job, and it worked out well that I was able to continue to earn an income, getting experience in the field I was pursuing, while going to school full time."
Seth Rongkawit knows he was fortunate to land a job in his desired career field right after college. Two things that helped him were real-world experiences he received as a student and his involvement in campus activities at Wichita State.
Rongkawit, who graduated from WSU in May 2012 with a business administration degree, majored in entrepreneurship and marketing, with a minor in management.
Upon graduation, he was hired as director of marketing at Specs Eyewear in Wichita, where he is responsible for print advertising, social media, promotional items, brand management, design administration and donations.
As a WSU student, Rongkawit was a student brand manager for Red Bull North America. In the internship position, he worked with professionals from across the country and built relationships with local companies in Red Bull's distribution channel.
"My experience working for Red Bull helped give validity to the things I claimed I could bring to the table with the new position at Specs," he said. "I had a track record of success that led to a vote of confidence with the owners."
Jake Fox began training in martial arts as a teenager, taking basic judo classes through the Wichita Park and Recreation Department. Kimberly Fox started boxing in 2005 during a deployment in Iraq for the U.S. Army.
Both credit their martial arts passions and real-world experiences they received as Wichita State students as two key components for their current business success.
Married couple Jake and Kimberly recently opened Fox Fitness, a martial arts gym in northwest Wichita that provides clients with specialized training options. Fox Fitness offers adult and child Brazilian jiu jitsu classes, a cardio class, sport-specific conditioning, kettleball training and personal training.
As an undergraduate at WSU, Jake interned at Player Development Solutions in Wichita, where he focused on exercise training. While working on his graduate degree, he held a cooperative education position with Janjira Muay Thai of Kansas to study the business portion of running a gym.
"The key is to learn from every experience, good or bad," said Jake. "Real-world experience benefits the student who has only been exposed to classroom lecture."
For 2007 Wichita State graduate Shauna Martinez, the drive to dance started when she was only 3.
Now 27, Martinez works as a performer and rehearsal director with Diavolo Dance Theater in Los Angeles, Calif. Diavolo tours across the United States and world, dancing and teaching through educational and community outreach programs.
While a dance major at WSU, Martinez gained valuable experience participating in events that helped her learn what life in the real world of her desired career would be. She also made valuable contacts that helped her get where she is today.
"This experience definitely made my career transition easier and more successful," Martinez said.
Kayla Conely said she owes her career to the opportunities she received at Wichita State.
Conely graduated in May 2012 with a bachelor's in education and an emphasis in speech and theater. She learned a lot inside the classroom, but it was her time spent away from school as a co-op student for three semesters at Wichita High School South that gave her the real-life experience necessary to get a job straight out of college.
Her hard work paid off, and Conely is now an English teacher at South and has also become licensed to teach speech and theater.
"I am so glad I chose to do co-op," she said. "In fact, I'm sure I wouldn't have the job I have now if it weren't for my experience here at South doing co-op while in school."
Conely also points to the fact that getting that co-op position allowed her to make a name for herself and stand out from the competition.
"I met the principal and got to know many teachers here at South, and that helped when it came time for me to interview for a teaching position," she said.
Landon Barton knows firsthand how essential an internship can be for a college graduate—especially a graduate with a graphic design degree in a competitive job market.
Barton, who graduated from Wichita State University in May 2011, works for Greteman Group in Wichita as a graphic designer. He landed an internship at the full-service branding agency as a junior and was hired upon graduation. Barton creates logos and motion graphics, and does editorial work, video editing and full branding for clients; his specialty is aviation marketing.
"The best part of the job is seeing the finished product in use around town or online," said Barton. "To see something I made being used and seen by others is pretty awesome. Functional design is pretty incredible, and creating a great user experience is very rewarding."
Barton credits his hands-on experience as a student, his internship and involvement with the American Institute of Graphic Artists (AIGA) as prominent reasons for his success.
If Joel Escarpita could tell current Wichita State students one thing, it would be to take action for their future.
It's what he did. Within two weeks of starting as a freshman art education major at WSU, Escarpita was already exploring his options for internships and other experience-based learning opportunities to increase his odds of getting a job upon graduation.
Through the Cooperative Education and Work-Based Learning program, Escarpita was able to work as a paraprofessional educator in three different Wichita schools – all while still a college student.
Like many Wichita State students who got internships through the university's Cooperative Education and Work-Based Learning program, Olga Khakova had a job offer as soon as she graduated in 2011.
Actually, she had two.
Khakova, a native of Ukraine who moved to the United States at age 12, was a marketing intern at WSU's Rhatigan Student Center (RSC) and a Safety Standdown intern for flight operations at Bombardier Aerospace. All this while earning her marketing degree.
After fourteen months at Bombardier, she was able to make the connections that led to full-time job offers with Bombardier Transportation in New York and Bombardier Aerospace in Wichita. The job in Wichita allowed her to choose a career path in event planning and marketing, her true passion.
"The real-world experience was crucial in securing a full-time job," Khakova said. "Today, employers are more selective and have more choices when it comes to the finding candidates for open positions. The real-life leadership experience can be the difference between whether you receive the job or not. I am grateful WSU equipped me with dynamic, professional experience which made me stand out during interviews."
Abhishek Bajaj wasted no time as a student at Wichita State University. While undertaking a full load with a major in finance and a minor in economics, Bajaj worked for seven semesters as a pricing intern at LSI Corp. in Wichita.
The Bangalore, India, native graduated in 2011 and was offered a full-time position at MGP Ingredients Inc. in Atchison, Kan., as a business analyst for the sales and marketing department.
Bajaj credits the opportunities afforded to him by WSU's Cooperative Education and Work-Based Learning program – along with the strong education he received in the classroom – for his success.
"It was the most important and beneficial experience part of my undergraduate studies while at WSU," Bajaj said. "My internship experience made me confident and expanded my overall business knowledge by leaps and bounds."
Work experience gained as students at Wichita State University was critical to the success of the recipients of the 2012 Elliott School of Communication alumni awards, taking place in October.
Denver television news anchor Jeremy Hubbard, and Jennifer Wright, president of Wichita's Orpheum Theatre, will return to the WSU campus Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 17-18 to accept their awards and make presentations to students during the Elliott School's annual Communication Week. A complete schedule for Communication Week will be announced soon.
Jennifer Wright Wright will be presented with the Elliott School's 2012 "One to Watch" award. The award honors an outstanding graduate from the past 10 years. Hubbard, who is the Elliott School's outstanding alumnus for 2012, had his start in broadcasting as part of Studio B, WSU's student-produced live weekly newscast. His career eventually led him to ABC News in New York.
KAKE Channel 10 reporter Lily Wu recently traveled to Washington, D.C., for the Miss United States pageant.
On this trip, however, Wu wasn't covering the story. She was part of it as the reigning Miss Kansas United States.
While she didn't win the national title, Wu, a 2007 double-major graduate from Wichita State with degrees in international business and integrated marketing communications, enjoyed it as another of the remarkable experiences she has pursued.
When she enrolled at WSU in 2003, she began working toward her business degree. Wu still felt the drive to explore her interests in television, though.
"I would say that is one of the best advantages to being at WSU. You can go and pursue your passions, and you can develop the skills to go and live out those dreams," Wu said.
When Kathy Latta entered Wichita State University as a freshman, she already knew she was interested in working as an accountant for Koch Industries, Inc. Her mom had been an accountant. Koch is a strong company, Kathy said. And she has family members who have worked there, as well.
Kathy, who graduated in 2011, is now a staff accountant at Koch.
Her identical twin sister, Amy, wasn't so sure what she was aiming for when she started attending Wichita State. After majoring in business administration for a short time, she decided to pursue a more specialized degree and joined Kathy in becoming an accounting major.
Amy is now a staff accountant at Lindburg Vogel Pierce Faris in Hutchinson.
The Lattas said they wouldn't have gotten where they are without the valuable real-world experience WSU offered through student internships.
The next time you choose a Hallmark card for Mother's Day, Father's Day, Christmas or Valentine's, it's just possible that it was designed by Wichita State University graduate Lauren Younkin.
In her early education at Colby High School, located in northwest Kansas, Younkin designed a handful of printed pieces for various projects. Her family, recognizing her talent, encouraged her to pursue graphic design as her career path.
The preliminary returns on her career show they were right.
After studying at Wichita State, which included an internship at Gardner Design in Wichita, Younkin is now a talented young graphic designer with Hallmark Cards in Kansas City.
Early in life Benjamin Michael Jung enjoyed playing with toys that showed his creative side. In high school he performed well in math and worked for his father's bicycle store in Wichita.
When it came time for Jung to think hard about his future, he realized that he had developed a set of skills that could take him to his next step.
After attending Butler Community College, Jung transferred to Wichita State University, graduating in December 2011. He earned a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering and graduated magna cum laude.
Finding employment after college can be challenging and intimidating. Fortunately it turned out well for Jung. Before he finished school, he had lined up an engineering job at Koch Industries.
By the time Jeff Freund was in fifth grade, he already knew he wanted to be a teacher.
Now, after graduating from Wichita State University's education program in 1998, Freund is head principal of Coleman Middle School.
This is Freund's first year at Coleman. He was an assistant principal at North High School before he moved to his current position. Before that, he taught creative writing and language arts for 11 years.
"The middle schoolers have been great during my first year," Freund said. "They're awesome."
For Freund, the experience of going through WSU's Cooperative Education and Work-Based Learning program made all the difference.
Camille Moore, a Wichita State University aerospace engineering student, spent her fall semester working as an intern for the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio.
Moore, who is from Waconia, Mich., found the opportunity to work for NASA through Wichita State's Cooperative Education and Work-Based Learning program.
For three months, Moore was part of the conceptual design team called Collaborative Modeling for Parametric Assessment of Space System (COMPASS), calculating the required propellant for different phases of a spaceship. She was also part of the design team for mission analysis.
Wichita State University graduate Gavin Gehrt realized early on that if he wanted a good job in the sports industry he would need to stand out.
He did just that by getting plenty of real-world work experience while a student at Wichita State, including his first internship as a video and camera operator for the Wichita Wranglers.
He continued from there, taking any opportunity he could before graduating in 2002 and heading to the Big Leagues. For the past seven years, Gehrt has been working full-time as a senior producer for the Houston Texans.
It's a job he said he would never have gotten without the experiences he received while at WSU.
When Jenny Farha was tutoring young elementary students and studying music education at Wichita State University, she switched majors.
"I wanted to be in general education instead of music," she said.
Farha said the connection she experienced with the students while mentoring inside the classroom inspired her to teach.
"Seeing the progress the kids developed," she said, "like kindergartners day one compared to day 180 is completely different."
Farha is a fifth grade teacher at Price-Harris Communications Magnet Elementary in Wichita.
If you ask Wichita State University alum Elizabeth Walker what she likes best about her job, she replies without hesitation.
"I'm able to do something different every single day. You get to meet a lot of interesting, different people."
Walker is client service manager at Kansas City's Sprint Center, a multipurpose performance venue much like Wichita's Intrust Bank Arena.
As a student, Walker, who graduated from Wichita State's sport management program with both her undergraduate and graduate degrees, had two internships through WSU's Office of Cooperative Education and Work-Based Learning.
As a student at Wichita State University, Vanessa Buehne could see herself as a sports expo coordinator. Buehne, a 2010 WSU graduate, prepared herself through an internship while at WSU. She never imagined supervising for a theme park such as Disney.
Today's Disney is not just classic amusement park attractions and fairy dust. runDisney is a new branch formed a year ago at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
"We are the brand that establishes all of the marathons and half marathons here at Disney World in Orlando, Fla., and also Disneyland in California," Buehne said.
Not many people can say they're doing now what they dreamed of as a young child.
Mallory Jennings always wanted to work at NASA, a desire that only grew stronger when she moved to Houston in the first grade.
She lived in awe of all things related to space and never once steered from that course, doing everything she could to reach her goal, including getting her pilot's license at age 17.
In 2010, Jennings earned a bachelor's in mechanical engineering from Wichita State University. Because of her years of hard work both in and out of the classroom, she was offered a full-time job at NASA before she even graduated.
From a young age, Wichita State graduate Tim Wilson was interested in traveling and working abroad. After gaining valuable international work-based learning experience while at WSU, Wilson – who graduated in May 2010 – is already in a successful career as an analyst with CID Group in Shanghai, China.
At CID Group, a venture capital firm and one of the fastest growing Asia-headquartered private equity firms in the world, Wilson uses his research to help determine which companies would be a good investment choice for CID Group.
It's a job he prepared for through years of international study, both during classes at WSU and through on-the-job training as a student.
As a student at Wichita State University, Michael Arruda took his love of airplanes and transformed it into his education, earning a master's in aerospace engineering in 2009.
While at WSU, Arruda took advantage of the opportunity to get on-the-job experience through the Cooperative Education and Work Based Learning program.
Jaime Coronado Newman, a 2008 Wichita State University graduate who majored in both international business and marketing, will be recognized on April 17 as the 2012 recipient of the Charles F. Kettering Award.
First awarded in 1978 by the national organization Cooperative Education and Internship Association (CEIA), the Kettering Award recognizes an employer from industry, business or government who provides outstanding resources and service to the cooperative education and internship field.
Coronado Newman is employed as the human resources intern program manager at Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita.
Through his employment at Spirit, he has placed 313 interns in the organization in three years.
When most kids were going to amusement parks or playing video games during the summer, Shanna Hein was developing her attachment for museums.
"As a kid my grandparents would take me on vacation for two weeks," she said. "We could go anywhere in the U.S., but it needed to be educational or meaningful to get something from it."
From the museum visits, Hein grew so interested in cultures and human behaviors that she decided to major in anthropology.
Then while a student at Wichita State University, she took three semesters of internships and volunteered in her field with WSU's Cooperative Education and Work-Based Learning program.
After time in the Marine Corps, Leighton Fetters and his family returned home to Kansas. The Towanda native needed only one class to earn his aviation management degree; most of it he earned in the service. Fetters started looking at Wichita State University to find his last course.
Then it hit him: He didn't want a career in aviation management. It was then that he stumbled upon the exercise science program offered at WSU.
At Wichita State University, Manny Thompson earns work experience, college credit and a paycheck—all while enhancing his resume and getting a jump start on the competition.
Thompson is a senior criminal justice major working for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). As an intern through Wichita State University's Cooperative Education and Work-Based Learning program, Thompson works toward graduation and a career at the same time.
"It gives me the credit, and it gives me the experience," said Thompson. "It's kind of the best of both worlds."