Internships are a major part of the learning experience at WVU Tech. As real-world working experiences, they provide a level of professional development and workplace readiness employers value in college graduates.
WVU Tech student Haley Pauley knows that value firsthand.
Originally from Milton, West Virginia, Pauley will graduate this month, finishing her degree a semester early. She came to WVU Tech to chase a career in nursing, but changed her major to Health Services Administration after she quickly found herself drawn to the business side of healthcare.
“I want to help people, and I’m fascinated with the way hospitals and healthcare policy works,” she said.
Pauley has led an active campus life, playing volleyball, working as a Resident Assistant, and serving as treasurer of the WVU Tech Student Healthcare Association. Off-campus, she coaches two volleyball club teams in Charleston while working a part-time job.
As with all students in the WVU Tech College of Business, Humanities and Social Sciences, Pauley had to balance that busy life with an internship as part of her degree path. In 2013, she applied to the prestigious West Virginia Governor’s Internship Program, where she was selected to work in the Health Policy Unit of the West Virginia Offices of the Insurance Commissioner in Charleston.
She enjoyed the internship experience so much that she successfully reapplied for the position in 2014 and spent another summer working for the Health Policy Unit as part of her senior capstone project.
During her 2014 internship, Pauley took on a variety of duties and responsibilities where she regularly attended meetings, conducted research on health insurance and the Affordable Care Act, produced newsletters and worked with other departments on malpractice and workers compensation paperwork.
She also helped to enter survey information that showed trends in healthcare throughout the state, participated in weekly calls with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners to share and compare initiatives with states like Hawaii and New York, and attended meetings with practicing physicians to discuss how they were rolling out new programs in their hospitals.
“The health policy unit kept me very involved and I got to be part of some pretty exciting things,” she said. “If there was a meeting, I went. If there was something that needed to be worked on, I got to see how it was handled. I learned a lot about how health insurance works and why it’s so important, and that’s something that’s going to play a big part in my career.”
Dr. Janis Rezek, Professor of Sociology and Chair of the WVU Tech Department of Social Sciences & Public Administration, said that Pauley’s internship is a prime example of why the practice is so important.
“To me, an internship solidifies everything that students have learned and it shows them where their strengths and weaknesses are. It’s such an essential, hands-on part of the experience here and many of these experiences lead to full-time employment,” she said.
As a requirement for the senior capstone course, Pauley submitted an in-depth portfolio detailing her experience in the internship, which included everything from meeting and research notes, photos and newsletters to an activity log and detailed descriptions of the events she attended.
“They really put her to work in a lot of different areas and she earned a great deal of experience,” said Rezek. “That’s the kind of thing we like to see in our internships. We put interns in hospitals, non-profits, government agencies and prisons all over the state because it exposes them to so many different experiences.”
With her capstone finished and graduation just days away, Pauley has already started the process of applying to jobs with the state government. She wants to stay in the Charleston area and eventually complete a master’s degree.
She said her training at WVU Tech and in the Governor’s Internship Program have given her confidence as she prepares to take on life after college.
“The jobs I’m applying for want people with experience,” she said. “If I hadn’t done these internships, I wouldn’t have any kind of experience and that’s really something jobs are pushing for. If you don’t have experience, an internship is a great way to get some before you go out into your career.”
“I feel ready for this,” she said.