Student interns with EPA

Landing the perfect internship is important for college students these days as real world experience becomes more important to future employers.
One Butler student was able to earn an internship so exclusive only two other students in the country were able to land it.
Senior economics and criminology double major Mark Giacomantonio applied for an internship with the Criminal Investigative Division of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in San Francisco.
Federal internships are some of the most competitive programs but also some of the best experiences, Giacomantonio said.
“I’ve always kind of had an interest in federal law enforcement so I figured it was a good way to just kind of get my feet wet and see if I actually liked it,” he said.
He applied through an extensive six-month process which required Giacomantonio to send in a résumé, a writing sample, a cover letter, a letter of recommendation and an unofficial transcript. He then received a pre-interview questionnaire to fill out.
Three months went by before he had his first phone interview, after which Giacomantonio had four more phone interviews between March and May.
The interviews were with people from human resources, other agents at the branch and his boss, Giacomantonio said.
After Giacomantonio was chosen for the internship, he had to go through on-the-job training.
He worked along side federal law enforcement agents or “special agents.”
Giacomantonio said he worked with a balance of male and female agents who had a background in environmental issues.
“All the work I did was under the watchful eye of one of the special agents,” Giacomantonio said. “Everything I did was under their supervision and they would train me about issues and procedures as they came up.
“I did not have to go to any additional training that they could not provide to me on-site.”
While on the West Coast, Giacomantonio worked 40 hour weeks: from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., five days a week.
He said his workday length would also vary depending on the task he was doing or what the agent he was working with had for him to do that day.
Giacomantonio said it was an experience he would recommend to anyone interested in federal law enforcement.
“The best part was the hands-on experience that I gained,” Giacomantonio said. “I got to see how a Federal law enforcement agency works from the inside out.
“I got a good picture of what it is like to be a special agent.”
Like any job, Giacomantonio’s position wasn’t all action all the time.
“Also [I got to see] what its pros and cons of the job are,” he said.
“My least favorite part was when it got really slow and everyone’s cases were at trial because then there was nothing new for me to do.”
In general, internships give students not only on-the-job experience for their résumé, but they also illuminate career choices and prepare students for the professional world, according to the Butler University Office of Internship and Career Services.
“Because internships are thought of as real life experience, employers feel [students who have completed internships] have significantly more experience than someone who does not,” Gary Beaulieu, director of career planning and development, said.
“Studies have shown that students who do internships often have a higher salary offer than those that don’t have career related experience,” Beaulieu said.
Internships, he said, are a great launching-point into the real world job market. They allow students to take the abstract concepts learned in class and actually apply them.
For many students, note cards and handouts don’t provide enough insight to truly learn the material.
Internships often teach students what professors cannot.
“It’s a time to practice a career on for size and decide if this career is for them or not,” Beaulieu said.
Now, more internship programs allow students like Giacomantonio to truly engage in work alongside professionals, instead of running mundane errands like getting coffee.
“I loved every second of it,” Giacomantonio said.
“The people I worked with were great. They gave me a lot of freedom to do actually what the agents do. I didn’t just copy papers or anything like that.”
Many employers help interns to network and get the most out of their internship experience.
“I got great experience and I had great bosses that would allow me to work on other things while I was out there,” Giacomantonio said. “They encouraged me to go out and meet people and work with different agencies on cases.”
No matter what the area of study, the Butler University Office of Internship and Career Services makes it clear that every student should do at least one internship before graduating.
“To set themselves up for success, students should do at least one experience,” Beaulieu said. ”If one is required to graduate, then I would recommend doing two experiences. The economy is really tough and the more experience a student has, the better off they will be.”
Giacomantonio said he will return to San Francisco next summer to finish his internship with the EPA. He said he also hopes to continue working there after he graduates.

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