Johnson & Wales Interview on Internship Program

An Interview with Maureen Dumas at Johnson & Wales

Student studying
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Maureen Dumas, Vice President of Experiential Education and Career Services at Johnson & Wales University answers questions about her very successful internship program where she works hard to place approximately 4,100 students each year. The Huffington Post featured Maureen in an article entitled "preparing for the real world."

I was happy to have an opportunity to speak with Maureen to get a better sense of what makes for a successful internship program and what students need to do in order to be successful at their internship.

Penny Loretto: In your opinion what makes Johnson & Wales Internship Program so successful?

Maureen Dumas: We have a very defined internship program at Johnson & Wales. We work directly with students and employers and have a handbook that defines the expectations for both parties. Getting feedback from employers is very important to the success of our program. At the end of each internship, employers provide us with information about the experience itself along with what type of learning took place and feedback on how our students performed.

All of our paperwork for our internships is done electronically. Students must receive credit for their internship and it has to be in the student’s field of interest. Internships are designed to help students apply the theory learned in the classroom and successfully use it in the real world. Each student is assigned a coordinator that can assist them with questions or any problems that occur.

Penny: How do you prepare students for their internships?

Maureen: All students are required to participate in an orientation prior to starting their internship. An experiential coordinator is assigned to each student along with a faculty sponsor. Students usually begin the process at least 2 semesters prior to doing the internship. Students can now register online for their internship which gives us plenty of time to be proactive with them and provides increased infrastructure which benefits the College, the employer and the intern.

Penny: What do you look for in employer partners?

Maureen: Johnson & Wales consistently uses the same employers which we feel have been a good fit for our students. New employers are also added as we seek new and different experiences for our students. Sometimes students come up with their own employers where they would like to intern and then we will place a call to that employer to see if they meet our requirements.

Johnson & Wales works with approximately 1500 employers each year and we keep track of how many students have interned with each employer and how many of those students have been actually hired for full-time employment with the company. We also have multiple students that intern at some of our most popular sites; which includes companies such as Nordstrom's, Hilton Worldwide, and Marriott.

Penny: What does an internship mean at Johnson & Wales?

Maureen: At Johnson & Wales, internships are considered to be true learning experiences, an extension of the classroom experience which extends theory into the real world. Our internship program defines clear expectations that need to be met along with the learning objectives that are set forth for the student.

A tremendous amount of coordination goes into our internship program in order to ensure that our students get real educational value from their internship. The university must work to understand the learning objectives of the students along with communicating with employers to set the expectations that will meet both the student’s and the employer’s needs. The experiential coordinator is the liaison between the student, the employer and the university and serves as a student advocate throughout the entire internship experience.

The coordinator is responsible for making sure the proper learning is occurring and checking back with employers to see how the process is going.

Johnson & Wales ensures that a vast amount of resources are put into their Internship Program. Two staff members are dedicated to each student and a $1500 stipend is provided to help support students so they can focus on the learning. Students are eligible to do 2 internships with a total payout of $3,000 over the course of their education at Johnson & Wales which ends up being a 4 million dollar investment made ​from the university. Most of the money comes from campaign donors who select funding an internship from a list of possible contributions.

Maureen Offers Some Helpful Tips for Students:

  1. Plan and start the internship process early.
  2. Don’t come into the office for the first time a semester before you want to do an internship.
  3. Engage with the Career Development Office at your College early.
  4. Take the time to really know your faculty.
  5. Make use of all of the resources available to you.

By planning early you will have ample time to find and apply to an internship that most suits your interests. Faculty members are experts in your industry and may have contacts that you can connect with when seeking opportunities. Be sure to use all of your resources and contacts. Don’t forget about your parents, friends, acquaintances, faculty, previous employers who may be able to offer some leads when looking for an internship in your field of interest. Alumni at your college can also be a great way to engage in the networking process as well as uncover unadvertised internships.