At Lipscomb University’s College of Business, students take the lessons of our classrooms and go to work in the world. The newly launched Aspire Fellows program provides Lipscomb’s College of Business students an opportunity to integrate, experience and establish a smooth transition from student to professional.
Aspire Fellows is a selective and competitive cohort program for sophomore and junior business majors which occurs over a 12-month period, typically in the second semester of the junior year and first semester of the senior year. During this calendar year, students complete an 800-hour paid internship after securing their position through a rigorous matching process. In addition to 10 internship credit hours, Aspire Fellows take nine required courses in a condensed and integrated format. Students also engage in a Maymester global experience and receive focused mentorship from faculty, staff and employers. The program also facilitates opportunities for students to network with alumni and the Nashville business community.
“This is a mutually beneficial situation for employers, students, and Lipscomb,” said Lindsay Dillingham, assistant professor of marketing in the College of Business at Lipscomb University.
“For employers, they get these students for a year. With a traditional internship, the student is there for three to four months. It takes about three months for someone to learn their job so, in some cases, the value for the company can be diminished,” said Dillingham.
“With Aspire, they have these students for a year. For what they are paying the interns, it really is a bargain because we’re doing so much of the recruitment and vetting that the companies don’t have to do.”
Andy Borchers, associate dean of undergraduate studies in the College of Business, elaborated, “The employers have a chance to try out new talent for a year. For a lot of our students the academic work is important, but so is the work experience of getting up and out at 8:00 in the morning and learning to be a professional.”
Aspire Fellows allows students a rare opportunity to hit the ground running upon graduation. “They’re coming out of school with something real on their resume. It’s ended up that a lot of students get full-time placement at the company they intern for because it’s a year. By the time they are up and running, it’s a natural bridge to a job for a lot students,” said Dillingham.
Borchers emphasized this advantage. “The notion of career integration and a career bridge for students from academia to employment is attractive. This could be comparable to co-op education. I came from an institution that had a mandatory co-op. I think that what it does is matures students rapidly,” said Borchers.
“There is a very strong maturing and it eases that transition from academic life to professional life. For the employer, when the student has graduated and available to work full-time permanently, they are ready for their second job, not their first job.”
In addition to this expedited maturation from student to professional, students enjoy other perks from Aspire Fellows. “It takes a lot of stress off the students,” said Dillingham.
“It’s paid and they get the ability to network and receive focused mentorship. We have a four-person faculty team to coach the students as well as a dedicated staff member who goes out and finds all of these jobs and manages the relationship with the employers. We also have a feedback loop where we receive surveys to provide students the ability to continuously improve their performance,” said Dillingham.
But perhaps the most enticing component of this opportunity is the Maymester international experience. “In a 12-month program, four of those weeks are spent abroad. This year we are taking the students to Germany. At the end of a year, they come out with 37 credit hours, global experience, work experience, and pay,” said Dillingham.
The reason Lipscomb University and the College of Business are able to accomplish this program lies in the quality of the students, Dillingham explains.
“We are launching our own business honors program because we have demand from local employers and, within our college, we have enough qualified students. We have the opportunity to create something special. It’s giving an academic tract to our highly-qualified students,” said Dillingham.