Students Gain Real World Experience With Mason’s Small Business Development Center

Is your student looking for innovative, hands-on experience that will prepare them for the real world? Mason’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) not only offers consulting resources for small business entrepreneurs, but also offers Mason students the opportunity to gain valuable internship experience.

Every semester, a group of high school, college and graduate students who are interested in nonprofit management have the opportunity to be part of the Mason SBDC Operations Internship Program. These students become vital members of the staff, working on their own business goals while assisting staff members in completing strategic projects. The program has worked with more than 765 entrepreneurs and assisted more than 60 new start-up businesses.

Tailoring a Learning Experience
“We are focused on bridging a gap between the academic and the practical – looking at the skills and interests of the students in the program,” says Mona Anita K. Olsen, Mason SBDC Assistant Director and Ph.D. candidate in Mason’s Graduate School of Education. “There is no ‘cookie-cutter’ approach to the program plans for the students; instead we align projects based on strategic goals and the background of each student.”

The staff works closely with each intern, helping to tailor an experience that will be beneficial to each student as well as the organization. For the first four to six weeks of the internship, students are given small, short-term projects to complete to familiarize them with Mason SBDC’s processes.
After that, the interns are asked to identify their professional interests and skill sets before managing longer-term projects and more challenging work.

“We’ll work with them to build a project around their interests and skill set that will directly impact their resumes,” explains Olsen.

Testing Project Management and Business Skills
According to Olsen, Mason SBDC takes the time to mentor their interns, not just in their roles in the organization or in their ability to work in nonprofit management, but in every aspect of their professional lives. Staff members review interns’ resumes every month to see how their business skills and written communication skills are changing and evolving.

“We really want the students to gain a self-efficacy and build their resumes while impacting the regional entrepreneurship community. We also want them to walk away with an awareness of what they want to do and tangible skills that they can utilize in future positions. I want the program to make a difference,” says Olsen.

“The internship is a great opportunity for students to learn more about real-world business operations,” adds Yuta Kato, a services coordinator for Mason SBDC.

Interns typically commit to work eight to 16 hours a week. Mason SBDC is currently recruiting interns for summer 2012. Interested students can find more information and the online application here.

To read more, visit the newsdesk at GMU.

Erin Cushing
University Relations