This exploratory qualitative inquiry examined the role of experiential learning in undergraduate business curricula. Business organizations seek graduates with abilities and skills that add immediate value to organizations. However, many organizations feel that graduates are not well prepared by current management education curricula and do not possess adequate skill sets to transition efficiently from students to employees. This research examined the influence of internship programs by comparing and contrasting the experiences of graduates that had participated in internship programs as part of their degree requirements with the experiences of graduates that had not participated in internship programs. The research also sought feedback from human resource managers responsible for hiring decisions in order to obtain the perspective of business organizations as stakeholders. An analysis of the study’s data resulted in four primary findings. Data suggested that traditional coursework plays an important role in helping students develop soft skills (i.e., verbal and written communication, collaboration, and team-building skills) whereas experiential learning in the form of internships was instrumental in helping students develop hard skills (i.e., specific job-related skills such as accounting processes unique to an organization). The data also suggested that internships help facilitate a smoother and successful transition from student to employee. According to the data, both formal and informal mentors play a significant role when transitioning to employment, and many organizations utilized mentors when training interns and new employees. Finally, the data demonstrated that there is a broad range of benefits to incorporating internships into baccalaureate business curricula. These included benefits to the students, institutions, and employers. The study’s findings support the importance of integrating internship opportunities within the business school undergraduate curriculum. The benefits of experiential learning opportunities through internship experiences offer advantages for those lucky enough to participate. However, there are currently too few internship opportunities available to adequately prepare all graduates for the transition from students to employees.
|Adviser||Mary E. Kasala|
|Subjects||Management; Business education|
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