UAPB’s International Students Gain Employment, Job Experience at Internships

Will Hehemann School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences

International Students Group

From left: Clement Nana Agyemang, Shamara Lawrence, Marcel Nwaukwa, Sireta Roach and Sadiq Haruna.

Each semester, around 50 students from other countries study at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), Dr. Pamela Moore, associate dean for global engagement, Office of International Programs and Studies (OIPS) at UAPB, said. Thanks to a collaborative initiative between OIPS and the UAPB Office of Career Services, international students studying at UAPB are able to earn money and gain practical work experience at internships throughout the U.S.

Dr. Moore said the ongoing collaboration aims to help international students find meaningful paid internships to both offset the costs of tuition and to allow the students gain work experience related to their field of study.

“Because the vast majority of international students are not eligible for Federal Financial Aid, those interested in studying at UAPB typically focus on mobilizing financial resources through scholarships, fellowships, graduate assistantships and personal or family savings to meet the initial costs of enrollment,” she said. “In the past, after enrolling at UAPB, international students had limited opportunities to learn about employment opportunities they could legally pursue once in the U.S.”

In the past year, 11 international students at UAPB have interviewed for and gained internships at private companies and educational institutions across the U.S. in fields including medicine, informational technology and computer science.

Tracy Knowlton, assistant director for Cooperative Education and Internships at UAPB, said it is important for all UAPB students to have an internship experience because it increases their marketability for future employment.

“An internship allows a student to put what they have learned in the classroom into practice,” she said. “If a student starts an internship early enough during their college career, they have the chance to gain experience in a variety of areas within their degree field to see what lines up best with their career goals. The student not only stands to gain on-hand experience in their chosen career field, but also might receive a permanent job offer upon graduation.”

While the financial benefits of summer internships are a big incentive for UAPB’s international students, these experiences also help them to learn more about U.S. society in general, sharpen their short-term and long-term career goals and build confidence in their ability to exercise leadership and demonstrate effective teamwork in professional settings, Dr. Moore said.

During international student recruitment and outreach sessions in the countries of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, Dr. Muthusamy Manoharan, interim dean/director of the UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences, highlighted the school’s new apprenticeship program, which is available to both U.S. and international students as campus-based employment. He explained that employment opportunities allowed by immigration regulations can help students substantially defray the costs of matriculation at a U.S. university. In some cases, the income a student earns in the U.S. can be equal to or more than a year’s salary in some developing countries.

“Five international students who interned at different locations during the summer 2018 semester recently shared details of their internship experiences,” Dr. Moore said. “It is my hope that their success stories will inspire other international students at UAPB to follow in their footsteps.”

Clement Nana Agyemang – University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

CA Photo 2Clement Nana Agyemang, a junior major of chemistry/biochemistry from Kumasi, Ghana, was a member of the Arkansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence Summer Student Mentored Research Program at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). His internship responsibilities included performing assays in the laboratory, reviewing scientific literature, attending weekly seminars and presenting research publicly.

During his internship, Agyemang learned to use SAS, a software suite commonly used to manage data. In addition to learning about data analysis and interpretation, he also learned about applying to graduate school, presenting research and skills related to writing scientific papers.

“I loved everything about my internship,” he said. “I had a great mentor who guided me throughout the program. I also loved the weekly seminars, which taught me much about graduate and medical school.”

Agyemang said the internship provided great opportunities to meet new colleagues in biochemistry and related fields. He attended a seminar at the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Research Institute, where he met specialists in the field of cancer, as well as medical school residents.

“The internship at UAMS allowed me to translate the things I have learned at UAPB into practice,” he said. “I had the chance to perform hands-on experiments and apply classroom knowledge to work in the field.”

Agyemang said his education at UAPB has given him the chance to experience the broader world. The university has a friendly atmosphere, conducive environment for studying and faculty willing to help individuals achieve their academic goals, he said.

Shamara Lawrence – State University of New York Upstate Medical University

For her internship, Shamara Lawrence, a junior biochemistry major from Portland, SL Photo 1Jamaica, conducted biomedical research for the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at the State University of New York (SUNY) Upstate Medical University. She assisted in a project related to the treatment of diet-induced obesity.

“Thanks to my internship, I learned a lot about the research environment,” she said. “I developed important transferable skills that will be useful in my career as a researcher, such as the western blot analytical technique, flow cytometry analysis and animal surgery. The program also organized seminars in which we learned how to prepare for graduate school.”

Lawrence appreciated having the chance to work with a patient mentor who had a lot of experience training students, as well as a principal investigator who took an interest in Lawrence’s summer project. The most challenging part of the experience was learning new protocols, as it takes time to master any new skill in the laboratory, she said.

After she graduates from UAPB, Lawrence plans to earn her doctorate degree in biomedicine. Since the field of study is competitive and requires research experience, she feels her internship at SUNY will help her get a head start as she starts to apply for degree programs.

“I want to encourage other international students to pursue their undergraduate studies at UAPB, and I would favorably try to gear them towards the Department of Chemistry and Physics,” Lawrence said. “The faculty and staff offer phenomenal support, and they are very invested in preparing competent, well-rounded individuals for the workforce.”

Marcel Nwaukwa – University of California, Los Angeles

MN Photo 1Marcel Nwaukwa, a junior major of computer science from Nigeria, participated in an internship on principles of bioinformatics at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The project focused on single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), variations that occur in individuals’ DNA sequences. Nwaukwa was responsible for calculating the weight of an SNP through frequency and pathway.

“I liked that I was able to learn new concepts related to bioinformatics,” he said. “Learning programming languages at UAPB really helped me in the programming portion of the research I conducted during the internship.”

Nwaukwa said other international students should consider enrolling at UAPB because the university equips students to achieve their academic aspirations.

Sireta Roach – International Business Machines Corporation

Sireta Roach, a graduate student of computer science from Kingston, Jamaica, worked in Sireta Roacha collaborative environment to understand technical requirements, design, code and test innovative applications at the International Business Machines (IBM) Corporation’s campus in Austin, Texas. During her internship as a software developer specializing in artificial intelligence and machine learning, she was a member of a team responsible for creating products with high performance, security, quality and stability.

Throughout her internship, Roach gained experience using a variety of relational databases, operating systems and user interface frameworks.

“At IBM, I was able to learn the company’s design thinking approach and adapt to the platforms that are used for software development,” she said. “In this area, I was able to explore the Watson Discovery Service, which is basically a search engine utilized to provide sentiment analysis on both pre-enriched and private collection data.”

Roach learned about model training, the machine learning technique used to create algorithms that are able to make predictions and decisions based on data. She said she was also able to enhance her organizational, time-management, presentation and public speaking skills.

Roach said she enjoyed the diversity of IBM’s workforce and her manager’s efforts to make her feel comfortable in a new work environment. She also appreciated the chance to work on an intern-driven project, in which team members shared innovative ideas to find solutions to complex problems.

“The internship has given me the practical experience directly related to what I learned in the classroom at UAPB,” she said. “I was able to utilize my knowledge gained in the classroom and apply it in a practical way. Skills I learned from UAPB courses on advanced database systems, programming concepts and software engineering were particularly useful throughout this internship.”

Sadiq Haruna – Universityof Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Sadiq HarunaFor his internship at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Sadiq Haruna, a junior major of computer science from Kumasi, Ghana, was responsible for writing codes and generating scientific models based on data within the National Readmission Database.

“I had the opportunity to learn to use the Python programming language, which allowed me to generate scripts for the data,” Haruna said. “Weekly team meetings were a great learning experience. I learned about teamwork and collaboration, and I was able to polish my communication skills.”

Throughout the internship, Haruna gave presentations to develop his public speaking skills. He also wrote a scientific paper that was published in a journal.

“I really enjoyed the relationship I developed with my mentors,” he said. “They were very helpful and resourceful. My biggest challenge was not asking for assistance from mentors in a timely manner. I learned that trying to find solutions on one’s own isn’t always helpful when working in a team.”

Haruna said the internship allowed him to apply knowledge learned in the classroom to real-world situations.

“I realized that in the field, everything we learn in the classroom is of use,” he said. Even concepts from courses that might initially seem irrelevant to your academic major prove to be relevant.”

Haruna said his education at UAPB has helped develop him into a well-rounded individual. Not only does he feel he is receiving a quality education, but he is also learning important lessons about personal development and leadership.

“Faculty and staff at UAPB are incredible,” he said. “Anytime I reach a roadblock, I simply knock on a door and someone is willing to offer help. I love being a part of the pride.”


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