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July 31, 2013

SUCO strengthens ties with employers

By Denise Richardson Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — SUNY Oneonta will expand partnerships with local and regional employers to enhance internship opportunities, which will benefit students and participating companies and organizations, officials said.

The State University College at Oneonta is among 18 SUNY institutions selected for Phase II of SUNY Works, a cooperative education and internship initiative, according to a media release issued Monday.

Anneleise Gilchrest, founder of Athelas Therapeutic Riding Inc. in Otego, said a benefit of the internship program is working with motivated college students who help with operations and clients. She said the connection also helps spread the word about the program and its mission to offer equine-assisted activities to individuals with physical, mental and emotional challenges in a caring, relaxed atmosphere.

Cheryl Parisian, a 21-year-old senior at SUNY Oneonta, said she hopes her internship with Athelas Therapeutic Riding will help her create a career involving horses and psychology, her major at college.

Parisian completed an internship in the spring and is volunteering this summer at the equine business. In the fall semester, she will continue in the internship program with greater responsibilities and challenges, she said.

While her duties include cleaning stalls and feeding and turning out horses, she also assists with and gives riding lessons. Parisian, who is working toward certification as a therapeutic riding instructor, said her psychology courses have provided knowledge that helps clients meet challenges.

“It’s really fascinating to see how these students change when they get around horses,” Parisian said. “It’s amazing.”

Parisian, who describes herself as a “ quiet person,” said her non-office internship is atypical and challenges her to at times “to be loud.”

“It’s allowed me to grow as an individual — it’s given me an opportunity I wouldn’t have had anywhere else,” Parisian of Otego said. “It’s outside, it’s hands-on, it’s hard work — it’s me.”

At SUNY Oneonta during the 2012-13 academic year, 234 students completed credit-bearing internships with businesses and nonprofit organizations in the region. Megan Ackley, the college’s internship coordinator, said she hopes the number of opportunities and participants will increase through SUNY Works. Though numbers are a consideration, she said, quality is the emphasis.

“We really want rich, quality experiences,” Ackley said Tuesday.

In November, SUNY Oneonta will host a networking reception on campus for local and regional organizations interested in learning more about the college’s internship programs and the benefits of becoming an internship partner.

SUNY Oneonta already works with Otsego County government offices, the Otsego County Conservation Association, Opportunities for Otsego and Bright Hill Press in Treadwell are among other organizations to offer internships, Ackley said.

“The SUNY Works program will enable SUNY Oneonta to build on these successful partnerships and develop new ones,” Ackley said.

Ackley said she also is reaching out to students to inform them about internships and their value. Internships can provide students with experiences that help assess if their chosen field fits or if they should consider other career options, she said.

As part of SUNY Works, campus faculty work with local employers to jointly develop college courses that integrate classroom instruction and on-the-job work experience, the release said. The programs provide students with career-building opportunities, expand faculty portfolios, generate job-ready college graduates for local employers and meet state workforce needs.

Internships also provide networking opportunities and also may lead to full-time employment, Ackley said, and some students have completed several internships by graduation.

SUNY has a dialogue with employers statewide to be sure students have a competitive edge in today’s job market and that campuses are valuable economic resources for the business community, SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher said in announcing the Phase II launch earlier this month.

“SUNY Works is about opportunity — for students to graduate truly job-ready, for faculty to extend their lessons outside the classroom and for employers to directly influence the workforce of the future,” Zimpher said in the release.

Barbara Ann Heegan, executive director of The Otsego County Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the SUNY Works program, which she said creates a “win-win for the employer and the college student” by producing a positive end result — a work-savvy graduate ready to enter the work force.  

“This is an exciting opportunity for our businesses in Otsego County to incentivize our college graduates to live and work in Otsego County after graduation.” Heegan said in the release.

Anneleise Gilchrest, founder of Athelas Therapeutic Riding Inc. in Otego, said a benefit of the internship program is working with motivated college students who help with operations and clients. She said the connection also helps spread the word about the program and its mission to offer equine-assisted activities to individuals with physical, mental and emotional challenges in a caring, relaxed atmosphere.

Phase I of SUNY Works was launched in 2012 and included Stony Brook University and eight community colleges. Together, these nine campuses offer more than 300 co-op programs and more than 3,600 internships. Campuses launching SUNY Works as part of Phase II are SUNY Albany, SUNY Buffalo State, SUNY Oneonta, SUNY Oswego and five community colleges.