Over the 2022 summer semester, eight student veterans at Syracuse University were able to take part in a time-honored college experience that typically eludes non-traditional students–they became interns. They were able to experience the firsthand benefit of an internship thanks in large part to the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs’ (OVMA) Undergraduate Internship Award. The OVMA established the award to eliminate barriers that often prevent student veterans from participating in summer internships and deprive them of one of the most lucrative opportunities for job placement after graduation.
The internship award is given on a needs-based determination and is intended to cover the cost of one internship credit hour, or cover the cost of travel and living expenses, or both, with an award cap of $5,000 per student. It is yet another initiative in the ongoing efforts to support student veterans at Syracuse University and successfully land them in the job market after graduation. The award is funded through the generosity of donors who have previously donated to the University’s Military-Veteran Legacy Fund.
“Student veterans have historically had to choose between enrolling full time over the summer or scramble to find a seasonal job that will cover their financial needs during the summer months,” says Jennifer Pluta, director of Veterans Career Services with the OVMA. “It’s hard to think about an internship if you’re worried about making ends meet. We knew we had to do something to give our student veterans a leg up in the job market so they could get their foot in the door. That’s why the OVMA launched the Undergraduate Internship Award in 2020.”
According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), the focus on hiring interns in the 2022-23 academic year will increase by 22.6%, meaning companies are reaching out to their current and former interns to fill the open positions within their organization. NACE’s 2022 Internship & Co-Op Survey Report also shows that 51% of students who participate in an internship will receive a job offer from the company they intern with, making it one of the most lucrative opportunities for a student to minimize the time between graduation and a job offer.
All students at Syracuse University can receive help to find and apply for internships in their chosen industry. Some of the schools make internships optional but offer course credit for completed internships. Other schools, like the Martin J. Whitman School of Management, require all undergraduate students to complete an internship. When schools make internships a degree requirement, it can be difficult for student veterans to fit the added responsibility into their schedule. Making matters worse, if the internship is one of the 40% of internships across the nation that are unpaid, the student veteran will pay out of pocket for all their expenses.
“The internship award program started in the midst of the COIVD-19 pandemic, so it sputtered the first year and took off in year two,” says Ron Novack, executive director of the OVMA. “We’re hoping this program grows and we can provide this opportunity to more of our student veterans, as well as continue to build partnerships with those companies that realize the incredible impact veterans bring to the workforce after their service to our country.”
This year, Syracuse University’s military-connected students accepted internships in a wide variety of industries and represent student veterans across the University’s colleges and schools. They assisted servicemembers and veterans aspiring to earn a degree through higher education, worked for government agencies supporting policy and legislative initiatives, and interned with an entertainment company broadcasting children’s programming. They also represent the largest cohort of student veterans to take advantage of the program since its inception.