By Becca Carlson
This article originally appeared in print and online in The Corsair in March 2018.
College offers students the skills they will need to get a job, but they don’t necessarily teach how to work with clients once hired. Internships can teach students how to work in real world settings, but they are hard to come by.
Pensacola State College (PSC) Visual Arts Instructor Mark Hopkins worked with his department and local area business to place students in the highly desired, ever elusive paid internship positions.
“This is all about the students,” Hopkins said. “My job is to make sure I promote them in any way I can so that they can develop into really good graphic designers and get the exposure they need to be the next generation.”
Two internships at Lamar Advertising were created in 2008 when Bobby Switzer, one of the principal owners of the company, approached PSC about the opportunity.
Lamar Art Director Namrata Advani, a former Pensacola Junior College graphic design student, then designed internship parameters, including the training students will receive. She also conducts the interviews with each intern, giving them a taste of what that process is like. “It was very nerve-racking.
It was my first interview for a graphic design job,” said Hannah Peltier, a current Lamar intern who is pursuing a B.A.S. in Graphic Design. “It’s a good experience even if you don’t get the job.”
Peltier is the secretary of the PSC art club, Art Box. She started a Lamar internship in fall of 2017 and has continued for the spring semester.
Once hired, interns are given a tour of the facility and assigned a mentor to help introduce them to the Lamar standard of creating digital billboards.
Students shadow mentors for the first week or two and then the mentors shadow the interns for the same amount of time as they complete their first orders.
“We get to show them what we’ve learned and basically do an order on our own. Just simple orders like changing the date or changing the color,” said Darrian Montgomery, one of the recent Lamar interns also pursuing a B.A.S. in Graphic Design.
“When they see you improving, they throw a little bit harder ones at you gradually.”
Montgomery just finished her internship in December and was able to work the summer and fall of 2017 for a total of seven months of professional training.
“It’s very overwhelming, but at the same time you’re creating something that somebody on the highway is going to see. It’s really surreal when you first start there,” Peltier said.
“I’ve done a human trafficking board. It might make a difference,” Peltier said. “I want to do something meaningful with art.”
Sometimes interns get the opportunity to work on special projects like holiday cards that salespersons send to clients all over the country. Unlike the billboards, holiday cards are more tangible.
“I do billboards and they might be in Arkansas, so you can’t really see them,” Peltier said. “That was really impactful to get your work and hold it in your hands. Something that somebody else is going to hold that you’ve never met. It’s a cool feeling—I made that.”
Along with working with her mentor Dana on day-to-day projects, Montgomery worked with Advani on a logo for an American Advertising Federation (AAF) event called Hops for Horses Beer Crawl 2017.
“They made tee shirts─which I freaked out about. It was very surreal. I was so happy [Advani] allowed me to do that,” Montgomery said.
Mentors and Advani perform evaluations and provide feedback on the work done by the interns.
“It was kind of stressful at times,” Montgomery said. “I wish I had asked more questions.”
“Namrata is really great. I really learned a lot from her,” she said. “I would recommend this internship to anybody.”
“They push you along and say, ‘This is what’s not working and why it’s not working.’ I think that’s very important to learn why,” said Peltier, whose mentor Dillon Wyatt is a PSC alumnus.
“You learn a lot about hierarchy. That’s something I struggled with,” she said. “When you get an order in with notes, you feel like everything is going to be important. They really taught me a lot about what needs to pop and what needs to be calmed down.”
“The teachers here have the same high standards,” Hopkins said. “Because [students] stick to those standards [they] have opportunities to go to work. It will all show up in the work that [they] produce.”
Montgomery was initially hesitant to apply for the internship.
“I think what really prepared me was being able to take the same instructor for the first two years, which was Linh,” said Montgomery of Graphic Design Instructor Linh O’Briant. “I think that consistency really helped me.”
“When I first started I didn’t even know Photoshop. Linh taught me a lot about knowing your work and being confident in what you say and being passionate,” Peltier said. “That’s also Mark’s thing— having a good attitude and being passionate about what you do. That’s really going to drive you to further your success.”
“With design, I was really shy and wasn’t confident in myself,” Montgomery said. “The internship really boosted my confidence because you’re having to work in a fast-paced environment designing different things every day.”
Montgomery is now starting a yearlong internship with the PSC marketing department, working with former students turned PSC employees Zach Blessing and Kelly Bestgen.
Peltier has a bit of advice for future intern applicants; “If you don’t get it, keep trying. Don’t be cocky. You don’t know everything. You are constantly learning something new. Keep trying. Don’t give up on it.”
Lamar has two paid internships per semester with 20 hours a week or more. Pen Air is currently working on one paid internship. Details of the position are yet to come.
To be eligible for an internship, students must have completed Graphic Design 1, Typography 1 and Graphic Design 2. Students interested in working with Lamar are encouraged to attend any of the speaking events that Advani holds at PSC throughout the year.