By Michelle F. Solomon
Sara Gawish studied Shakespeare in London and Spanish in Spain the summer before she graduated from Nova Southeastern University with a double major in marketing and management. “When you travel, you realize how much there is to learn and how to relate to people from all backgrounds,” she said.
Now, in her job as a sales associate with Entertainment Cruises in Hoboken, New Jersey, Gawish said the experience continues to resonate. “It helped me to become more worldly and inquisitive. I want to talk to international visitors, find out more, and have conversations with them. It also gave me a level of understanding I didn’t have before.”
Pharmacy student Danielle Lerch had an eye-opening experience in Slovakia when she learned “a completely different side of pharmacy” that she said “broadened her view of the profession.”
Alixandra Tucci, a junior finance major at the H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship, not only received on-the-job training during an internship at an investment management firm in Fort Lauderdale, but she received a part-time salary. “Getting paid when you’re a college student is always helpful,” she said.
As a university that began by training people who already had real-life and work experience under their belt, it’s no surprise that NSU focuses on the future of its students’ careers by providing myriad opportunities. Study abroad programs, paid and unpaid internships, and clinical rotation programs for its health care professions “take students out of the classroom and outside of their comfort zones,” said Brad Williams, Ph.D., vice president of student affairs and dean of the College of Undergraduate Studies.
A study by the Council for International Education Exchange found that employers valued study abroad in hiring university graduates, but NSU’s personalized approach gives the university’s students a more well-rounded edge.
“One thing we do is help the students be able to translate their study-abroad experiences into terms employers can understand. This is where the benefit is,” said Alejandra Parra, Ph.D., associate director of the Office of International Affairs at NSU. “There is work to be done to prepare a student to go abroad; we work with them while they are there, but the follow-up from the trip is also of the utmost importance.”
Many of these international experiences are led by a faculty member, which was the case for Lerch’s pharmacy semester in Slovakia. “The faculty member will plan and coordinate and organize as part of the course,” said Parra. The International Studies Office gets involved in helping with logistics, support, and risk management.
Lerch says having the familiarity of her mentor, Ana Maria Castejon, Ph.D., who led the trip to Comenius University in Bratislava, added to the experience. Castejon, associate professor in the department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, previously had worked with Comenius University, the largest university in Slovakia.
“Understanding the practice of pharmacy from a global perspective is not a traditional curricular outcome in most U.S. pharmacy programs,” said Castejon, who is currently the principal investigator of an ongoing multidisciplinary research study involving a nutritional supplement and autism. “But a joint effort between NSU and Comenius University resulted in a course that covered different topics ranging from pharmacognosy to how pharmacy professionals practice outside of the United States. What we found was that the study abroad program not only fostered learning, but promoted global citizenship,” said Castejon.
“One day, we left the pharmacy class and went to the medical university and we heard a lecture about autism. To sit in on that and get that kind of information was incredible,” Lerch said. In addition to labs and classes, the students toured hospitals and community pharmacies in Slovakia. “We were paired with pharmacists from the community. It gave us the chance to see how their system worked and how it differed from ours,” said the second-year pharmacy student about the semester-long study abroad, where she spent 21 days with 30 other students and 2 faculty members.
Students from NSU regional campuses in Palm Beach and Ponce, Puerto Rico, joined the Davie campus students, allowing Lerch the opportunity to study with other NSU pharmacy students that she said she would otherwise have not met.
At the College of Osteopathic Medicine, international medical outreach programs provide health care to underserved international communities. In addition, the experiences offer students the chance to use their clinical skills in settings that may have medical and public health challenges different from their own.
Andrew Dec, a fourth-year medical student, spent five weeks in the Philippines doing a medical rotation at Mary Chiles General Hospital in the Anesthesia Department. “I had the opportunity to participate in my first Operation Smile, a mission organized to correct cleft lips and palates, while on location in Manila. Experiencing the difference in medical practice compared to the United States and assimilating into the rich culture that exists in South Asia were incredible, life-altering experiences,” said Dec, currently an anesthesiology resident at the University of Kentucky.
NSU medical students can take advantage of rotation opportunities in 28 countries on five continents. “The international rotations allow our medical students and faculty members to learn and share different health care delivery systems and also introduce the osteopathic profession around the world,” said James T. Howell, M.D., M.P.H., assistant dean for professional relations at NSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine and director of the International Medical Rotations Program.
Not only do the programs teach practical experience, but they make students better clinicians, according to Anthony DeNapoli, Ed.D., NSU’s executive director of the Office of International Affairs. “NSU students who are engaged in these international rotations return to the United States with a global medical mindset,” said DeNapoli. “Their experiences will undoubtedly change the way they think, view, understand, and care for a changing patient population in America.”
Internship programs also are an important draw for students making their decision to attend NSU. “Internship opportunities are very essential in recruiting students when they are making a decision about higher education,” said Shari Saperstein, executive director of NSU’s Office of Career Development.
Saperstein says the office provides a holistic approach to helping match a student with the right internship. “It’s a very personalized process. What we do at the core of our advisement services is help students really put their fingers on what will complement their interests, work well with what they are learning in the classroom, and ultimately, what will be the most valuable to them upon graduation.”
Tucci, a junior finance major and Razor’s Edge Leadership Program scholarship student, previously had an internship at a large financial firm. When she wanted another internship, she contacted Diane Klein, assistant director of employer relations and internships, at NSU’s College of Undergraduate Studies. Klein immediately thought of CRAE Investment Management Company, a small Fort Lauderdale investment firm, as a good fit for the budding entrepreneur—Tucci wants to have her own financial planning company someday.
“It was entirely different from my first experience. It was a small office, so I worked really closely with the staff, and it was more like a classroom setting. I received hands-on instruction. In a small environment, you can learn so much more than in a very large company,” Tucci said.
She also received a part-time salary and says she would have not known about the company and wouldn’t have been able to find it on her own if not for the opportunity provided by NSU. “CRAE was a great work experience and educational,” said Tucci.
Large or small, Saperstein says it’s all about helping students get the most one-on-one career counseling while they are at NSU to help them when they embark on the job market. “Our alumni really help with that, too. We have alumni who provide internships for students. It’s a way for them to give back. Additionally, many of our alumni serve as guest panelists at career seminars and workshops,” she said.
As a university with roots founded in helping people to succeed vocationally, NSU has not strayed very far—it has just extended its reach.
“I think we’re really on to something here,” said Williams, the dean of the College of Undergraduate Studies. “We have more than 500 viable internships, we have relationships with universities abroad that are regionally accredited so our students can transfer their credits here when they come back, and we have career services that help students learn from experts how to brand and market themselves to be competitive in the 21st century global workplace,’’ Williams added. “There are a lot of opportunities right now for students. NSU has the desire and, more importantly, the dedication to make sure our students have access to any and all of these opportunities.”
This story was originally published in the Spring 2014 issue of Horizons Magazine.