There's no substitute for the ability to think on one's feet.
Arkansas Tech University student Trey Starks is developing that talent during his summer internship in the conferences and visitor services office at the University of Maryland.
"One of the most important things I have learned from this internship is adaptability," said Starks. "Working in this department, things are constantly changing and things will not always be perfect. Most of the time, you don’t really know when it happens until after the fact. Learning to be adaptable and to roll with the flow has been a challenge, but it’s something that I know will help me in the future. I am constantly on my toes and ready for whatever I am given."
Starks is working as hospitality supervisor of communications this summer. He is managing hospitality functions for the housing portion of on-site conferences, a responsibility that includes key and desk management, site check-outs and check-ins, filing audit reports and ensuring guest satisfaction.
A native of Bigelow, Starks is also gaining management experience leading a team of more than 10 employees and providing oversight for a weekly newsletter.
There have been multiple occasions when Starks has found himself applying his classroom lessons from Arkansas Tech, where he is majoring in journalism with a public relations emphasis and communication while also pursuing minors in social media and film studies.
"A lot of the skills I use on a daily basis come from my lessons as a public relations and communications student," said Starks. "A big part of this job is customer service and communication. Professors like Megan Toland have taught me how no matter how angry and dumbfounded a client or guest may make you, it’s always necessary to keep a good face and remain calm and professional. I also oversee the creation and distribution of a newsletter with this position. I have found myself using some of the basic design concepts that I learned from my Graphic Communication class with Dr. Hanna Norton. You definitely start to realize how important the things you learn in class are whenever you are actually using them in real-life scenarios."
As Starks looks forward to his senior year at ATU, he values the experience he has gained during his internship and believes similar opportunities are beneficial to students regardless of academic discipline.
"One great thing has been getting to know people who are all so vastly different," said Starks. "There are people here that are from all over that all have very different interests, so it’s fun to get to know them. Conference and visitor services brings in programs from everywhere, so in a span of 3 hours I might meet someone from Australia, South Korea, and Guam. Also, living 20 minutes outside of Washington D.C. has been nice.
"I think it’s important for college students to be challenged while we are still in school," continued Starks. "By doing internships, we get real world experience in our fields and get an idea of which career paths we might enjoy, and which ones we wouldn’t. Internships allow us to get a glimpse into what our future could be like, but also gives us the opportunity to change it if we don’t like what we see."