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Illinois State alumni and interns are Discovered

Jeff Wood poses with interns

College of Applied Science and Technology Dean Jeff Wood and the Discover interns.

For the second year in a row, University Advancement worked with Matt Johanson ’89, vice president of operations for Discover Network, to gather Illinois State alumni at a reception at Discover’s headquarters in Riverwoods.

The event on July 9 was also an opportunity for interns to meet Redbirds who are full-time employees in many different departments at Discover. This year’s alumni came from the College of Applied Science and Technology (CAST), College of Business (COB), College of Arts and Sciences, and College of Fine Arts.

CAST Dean Jeff Wood and Interim COB Dean Gerry McKean were in attendance, along with Pam Cooper, acting director, Career Center; Mary Elaine Califf, director, School of Information Technology (IT); Heather Hartman and Toni Burningham, University Advancement; and faculty and staff from the School of IT.

Before the reception the Illinois State contingent met with key staff at Discover to discuss ways to enhance the internship experience and ideas for strengthening ties between the University and the workplace.

An increasing number of interns are hired by Discover each year, and a majority of those are offered full-time jobs at graduation. Illinois State graduates have knowledge and skills that are highly valued at Discover and make our students a good fit for the company.

Meetings with the interns revealed that the people at Discover work hard to make the students feel at home and part of the corporate family. Interns are assigned to project teams on their first day. Many are gratified to see the results of their summer projects implemented by the time they leave. In group meetings they are listened to and have their ideas picked apart like their team members.

Discover also provides lots of activities for the interns—some educational and many just for fun. Program Manager Olga Zhornitsky focuses on teaching them employment skills that will last a lifetime, no matter where they work. One message she wants interns to come away with is the importance of trust between employer and employee. It is important to be upfront and honest; once the bond of trust is broken, it is hard to repair.

After the meetings Redbirds gathered in a sunny atrium for a delightful couple of hours of socializing. Many were surprised to learn longtime co-workers were fellow alumni. Lots of Redbird souvenirs were handed out and promises extracted for attendance at Homecoming and other events.