PNW students gain competitive edge with summer internships

September 15, 2023
Jessica Flores

Many Purdue University Northwest (PNW) students spent the summer gaining valuable career experience and a competitive edge in the job market while participating in an internship.

“One of the top things an employer looks for in recent graduates is an internship or prior experience in the industry,” says Joelynn Stephen, director of Career Services at PNW. “Internships allow students to build a special set of industry specific skills and show employers they are able to do the job.”

According to Stephen, internships are integral to the college experience. Through internships, PNW students are able to put academic theories and concepts into practice; gain exposure to workplace cultures, trends and likes and dislikes about a particular job; develop a network of professional contacts; acquire experience in their industry and build confidence. “Internships help students make informed decisions about their career paths and most importantly their future,” she added.

Alejandra Martinez

Fourth-year Management major and Human Resources minor in the College of Business

Portage, Ind.

Alejandra MartinezAlejandra Martinez spent her summer internship at Beachwalk Vacation Rentals in Michigan City, Indiana. As an intern in the front office, Martinez created reservations, checked guests in and out, processed payments, helped vacationers arrange family vacations and interacted with guests.

“It’s been a busy summer but I’ve learned a lot,” says Martinez. “Being able to work in such a beautiful place and interact with guests every day has been my real joy.”

Martinez found out about the internship at Beachwalk in an event management class taught by Matthew Bauman, assistant professor of Hospitality and Tourism Management. “Dr. Bauman brought in companies to talk about the hospitality industry in the area,” says Martinez. “It was really helpful to learn about the different businesses and be able to meet the representatives.” Intrigued by the prospect of a vacation rental company, Martinez was able to meet with the general manager after class and eventually was awarded the internship.

Martinez plans to go into the hospitality field after graduation and says this internship has provided her with invaluable experience in the field. “This is what I want to do,” says Martinez. “This internship is giving me experience and knowledge in the industry I’m passionate about. I’ve been able to network, learn about different business opportunities in the field and get practical experience. My focus is to use my studies and internship experience to set myself up for a management career in the hospitality field.”

Martinez will get that opportunity this fall as a front desk supervisor at Beachwalk. “To go from working as an intern to becoming a full-time employee is very motivating,” she says.

Alexander Stinnett

Fourth-year Computer Engineering major and Computer Science minor in the College of Engineering and Sciences

Cedar Lake, Ind.

Alex StinnettAlexander Stinnett’s summer internship was spent at the E TECH Group in Portage, Indiana as an engineering intern working on a project that included Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) programming for an industrial setting.

“My favorite part of the internship was solving problems,” says Stinnett. “It’s what I like to do and I have fun doing it. If I get hit with something I don’t understand, I enjoy the process of figuring it out and solving it.”

Stinnett admits that the PLC programming he worked on this summer was not exactly what he learned in school, but the experience he gained from solving problems in class helped him out on the internship.  “It was really different, but it’s still programming,” says Stinnett. “The ability to critically think and problem solve is what I do in class and what I was able to directly apply to this project.”

That wasn’t the only lesson Stinnett was able to transfer from the classroom to the internship. “For computer engineering you learn a lot about software and hardware for computers,” says Stinnett. “This internship is specifically designed for a computer engineer because you have to interact with the hardware for the machines, but you also have to program the PLCs with software.”

“This internship has given me a look into the working world,” says Stinnett. “I feel I’ve learned a lot about the process of working in an office, like interacting with coworkers and the boss, reporting and asking for information. It’s made me comfortable in and accustomed to an office environment.”

After graduation, Stinnett would like to continue working at the E TECH Group as a computer engineer. Eventually he would like to concentrate specifically on software engineering. “I really like understanding hardware,” he says. “But I enjoy working with software the most.”

Jessica Flores

Fourth-year Management major in the College of Business

Chicago, Ill.

Jessica FloresJessica Flores had a magical 2023 summer as a participant in the Disney College Program at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. As a college program cast member, Flores worked in merchandising on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom. When she wasn’t making sweet treats at the Main Street Confectionery, she was making sure the merchandise at the Emporium on Main Street was displayed properly.

“My favorite part of the experience was interacting with guests,” says Flores. “My favorite memory was being able to make a magical moment for a guest.” While working in the confectionery, Flores noticed a small girl with a birthday button waiting patiently for a cake pop. The girl and her family spoke Spanish and Flores was able to carry on a conversation with them while the cake pops were being made. Once the treat was ready, Flores gave the her the cake pop. “The girl and her parents were so happy they wanted to take a photo with me,” she added.

As a Management major, Flores was able to gain valuable insight into the behind-the-scenes retail operations at the park. Quality, attention to detail and safety were the top priority. “Everything must be show-ready,” says Flores. “Before anything can be put on display, it is reviewed to make sure it meets Disney standards, all fixtures have to be full and themes and color schemes have to be together – no crossing of themes!”

Disney name tags reading "Jessica Purdue Univ Northwest"

Flores knew before she left for Florida she wanted to extend her experience at Disney, so she arranged with her advisor to schedule her fall semester classes online. She expects to graduate fall 2023 and plans to apply to Disney’s Aspire program to earn a master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) while continuing to work at the park.

Aside from gaining real-world experience, Flores acknowledges that getting her foot in the door at “the happiest place on earth” was very important. “I want to continue working at Disney,” she says. “In the future, I’d like to become a leader and work my way up into management.”

To find out how The Career Center at PNW can help you in your career journey, visit