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Friday, October 13, 2006

Internships benefit engineering students, local businesses

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Senior engineering major Jake Bessler has made himself indispensable to ARC Construction Company, an Evansville-based general contractor, over the past two years. The recipient of a Lilly internship in the summers of 2005 and 2006, he now works part-time for the firm and is responsible for ARC’s United States Postal Service contract in southern Indiana and western Kentucky, which involves developing proposals for a variety of work - from new construction to renovations and repairs to existing facilities.

Bessler also served as the project estimator for site work for the Knight Township Fire Department and was awarded the project. Danny Batemen, ARC president, has praised Bessler for “his hard work, ability to work with clients, and flexibility to adapt to what needs to be done.”

Bessler was born in Louisville and attended high school in Sellersburg, Indiana. He will graduate in May 2007 with a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering with am emphasis on civil engineering, and a minor in math. He is president of the USI chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineering and participates in intramural sports.

The Lilly internship is available to an engineering student after the second semester of his or her sophomore year. It provides a $1,000 scholarship and half of the student’s pay up to $15 per hour for 600 hours. With the scholarship and pay, the internship is worth a minimum of $10,000.

Recipients are required to file interim and final reports with Career Services in order to ensure the quality of the program. “The students set goals and they are evaluated as to whether the goals are met,” said Eric Sprouls, chair of the Department of Engineering. “Also, the companies are required to send us information about what the internship will entail.”

The students also receive one credit hour in ENGR 299: Co-op Experience.

“Not only does it help the student out, it also helps the University out,” Bessler said. “We’re a new program and it gets us out in the workforce and noticed. If the firm gets good quality of work from our services, they’ll want to hire our graduates.”

USI’s first student placement in the Lilly program was in 2003 and about 50 students have taken advantage of it since. Other internships or co-op opportunities (such as those at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana) are not tied to the Lilly program.

“Right now, we’re looking at three out of every four graduating seniors will have completed an internship,” Sprouls said. “It is built into our goals and objectives that students have this experience. It’s not required, but we recommend it.”

USI’s engineering program began in 2002 and is eligible for evaluation by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) this semester. Under ABET rules, new engineering degree programs cannot be evaluated for accreditation until one class has fulfilled all of its degree requirements. A site visit is planned for this month, and the program could be accredited as early as the fall 2007 semester.

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