Internship Savings: SUNY Potsdam’s Center for Applied Learning generates $550,880

Toby White, Director of Experiential Education,provides students looking for internships acquire more information and resources.

By: Nicole Caldwell

     In the last year, SUNY Potsdam’s Center for Applied Learning has generated $550,880 in labor savings through its internship program.

    But the true value of the new center, started in 2016 in the Frederick W. Crumb Memorial Library, is in what it provides to students who are in the process of figuring out what they want to do with their lives. At that most integral juncture—the time in every person’s life when the stresses of what their future holds can be the most heightened—the Center for Applied Learning is there to help.

    SUNY’s Center for Applied Learning offers students a ‘fully realized life.’

    The Center For Applied Learning opened in 2016 to offer a “coordinated experiential learning strategy that broadens and integrates students’ knowledge and skills to prepare them for a fully realized life.”

    That strategy is broken down into four pieces: exploration, experience, reflection and the act of becoming.

     “A student can come in as a freshman saying ‘I don’t know what I want to do,’” says Toby J. White, interim director of career services at the center. “We’re there with three career coaches to do career assessments, help to figure out how to make career goals happen, and form a plan with high-impact programming. We are cross-trained and can figure out what steps are necessary to make every individual student’s career goals a reality. We can now work with students from freshman year to graduation.”

    Sometimes, the path a student sets out on is not the same one he or she ends up wanting to pursue. And that’s totally fine, White says.

    “Students can learn about themselves [at the Center for Applied Learning],” he said. “Through this process, they become more focused, or decide ‘You know what? I went out and did this shadowing, and it’s not for me. And that’s OK.’”

     The center brings together the offices of experiential education, international education and student research in what has been described as a “one-stop shop” at the center of campus. One-on-one coaching allows every SUNY-Potsdam student to create an applied program for any area of study, from law enforcement to entrepreneurship.

    The SUNY Potsdam campus is the first SUNY school to be adopting a program like this. Career coaching that spans from matriculation to graduation offers an experiential approach that focuses on the individual and allows every SUNY student to hone in on his or her greatest passions, questions and life goals. Since the center’s inception, more than 239 students have pursued internships to gain real-world training.

    Applied learning benefits students and communities alike.

     “I believe in applied learning so much,” White says. “The piece that was so missing was career services was in student affairs—but now, it’s in academic affairs. That just makes sense. It fits toward the mission.”

    The program is intended to reach all 4,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at SUNY Potsdam, now in its third century of existence. The center is well on its way: Already, students have been placed abroad in places like Dublin, Ireland, Barcelona, Spain, and in Australia. “They’re actually getting a study abroad experience and working in a company while there,” White says. “The best part is that students can come into one area and be served on what they want to do.”

    Back home, meanwhile, students like Anneliese Bishop are acquiring work experience while helping businesses succeed and boosting the local economy.

    Bishop is finishing up a social media internship at Brasher Falls Central School through the Center for Applied Learning. “With her [Bishop’s] assistance, we are able to distribute more information to our community than ever before,” says Robert A. Stewart, superintendent for Brasher Falls Central School. “She is creating a successful framework for this position and the future partnership between Brasher Falls Central and SUNY Potsdam.”

   That kind of help can only grow the economy.

   “We generated $500,000 in labor savings for our local community, assuming that each intern’s work is best valued at minimum wage,” says Jenica Rogers, director of libraries and college archives at SUNY Potsdam. “However, many of our interns are bringing advanced job skills to their work sites, and providing services which would be priced well above minimum wage in a competitive job market.”

     For more information about the Center for Applied Learning or if you’re interested in hosting a SUNY Potsdam student at your business, visit: