Company Internships Help Academic Bridge Students Close the Transition Gap

Academic Bridge Program at UT Dallas

Terry Conner (left), managing partner for the law firm Haynes and Boone LLP, mentored Academic Bridge Program senior Fredi Garcia during his summer internship.  

Since its establishment in 2000, the Academic Bridge Program at UT Dallas has helped students make the transition to college life. The program relies on relationships with area partners to provide opportunities that will prepare the students to succeed after graduation. 

While some students pursue internships through the Career Center and their individual schools, others are offered internships by area employers that reach out to the Academic Bridge Program (ABP), said Soli Ghirmai, director of the program. 

Soli Ghirmai

Soli Ghirmai

“I believe that experiencing various internship opportunities helps our ABP students grow into the next phase of their journey and transition from college into the corporate world,” she said. “I’ve always encouraged students to do at least a couple of internships while they are in college because it helps strengthen their skills, and it’s the best place for them to establish a great network of mentors and role models who most times offer them employment upon graduation.” 

Academic Bridge, housed in the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, recruits and supports underrepresented, first-generation college students who have high rankings in Dallas-area urban high schools. The students receive ongoing support during college, including tutoring, mentoring and peer advising. 

The ABP staff helps students acquire paid internships related to their studies and career plans. Ghirmai said staff members assist the students in preparing their résumés, conducting mock interviews and addressing workplace etiquette. 

Recent Internships

  • Nancy Dominguez and Damario Amie: AT&T
  • Fredi Garcia: Curtis/Castillo PC and Haynes and Boone LLP
  • Antonio Rodriguez and Alejandro Lopez: Ernst & Young
  • Cintia Guerrero-Castanon: Lennox International
  • Jose Serrano: Alcatel-Lucent 
  • Dafne Ayala: Crisis Hotline
  • Humberto Lopez: Argo Data Resource Corp.
  • Colin Phillips: Law Office of Stephen Jones, MAS Law Firm

Dr. Krish Prabhu, president and CEO of AT&T Labs and chief technology officer for AT&T, has hired ABP students as interns since 2009 and encourages other companies to do the same. Not only do the internships open doors to corporate America for the students, but they also benefit the employers, he said.

“This is a new talent pool that can help a company improve,” he said. “They stand to make a big impact on the corporate structure. When given the opportunity to shine, these kids do not disappoint.”  

Nancy Dominguez, a senior mechanical engineering major, interned last summer at AT&T Plano Foundry. One of her projects was to create a Web app for AT&T. 

“I worked with people of differing personalities, which was difficult at first, but throughout the project I realized all our viewpoints were contributing something unique and valuable to our project,” said Dominguez, who wants to pursue a master’s degree in environmental engineering after graduation. “The most successful projects are produced when you know how to work with people with different work personalities.” 

Antonio Rodriguez obtained an internship with Ernst & Young through the Professional Program in Accounting last spring. In his internship, he performed analytical procedures on financial statements and tested internal controls. 

After receiving his bachelor’s degree in May, Rodriguez accepted a full-time job in auditing with Ernst & Young. He is pursuing his master’s degree in accounting. 

Rodriguez said he believes Academic Bridge students benefit their employers because of their drive to overcome hardship and succeed. 

“My internship taught me not to be afraid to ask questions and always work hard,” Rodriguez said. 

Fredi Garcia, a global business senior, has interned at two downtown Dallas law offices: Curtis/Castillo PC and Haynes and Boone LLP.  

At his internship at Haynes and Boone, Garcia worked with paralegals and legal secretaries to help maintain case files and databases. He said the experience is invaluable. 

“I learned how to write professional emails and was able to develop intellectual, interpersonal and communication skills,” said Garcia, who is interested in a career in the business or legal field. “I also was able to develop my critical thinking skills and observed how the legal and judicial systems work together.” 

Mark A. Castillo BA ‘97, a practice management shareholder with Curtis/Castillo PC and UT Dallas alumnus from the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, gives back to the University by offering internships to Academic Bridge students who hope to pursue careers in law.  

“UTD played a huge role in what I have been able to achieve, and I appreciate the opportunity to give back,” he said.  “We are able to give Academic Bridge students the opportunity to have significant hands-on experience and see what is possible for their future.”

Bridge Program Offers Summer Job Opportunities for Students

The Academic Bridge Program provides summer employment opportunities for select students, working in leadership roles during various on-campus programming that caters to the same population from which the ABP draws.

College Readiness Initiative: Sponsored by a grant from Energized for STEM Academy of Houston, high school sophomores and juniors live in UT Dallas residence halls, complete SAT preparation, and visit and learn about various aspects of the University. The Academic Bridge Program hosted 23 new students last summer. The Academic Bridge/Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science Camp: Sponsored by a grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, high school juniors and seniors from Dallas ISD and surrounding school districts spend five days on the UT Dallas campus learning about college and participating in science, computer science, robotics and engineering activities. Last summer, 28 students participated. Mayor’s Intern Fellows Program: UT Dallas is one of many participants in this eight-week program, which gives sophomores and juniors at Dallas public and charter high schools the opportunity to spend a summer working at Dallas’ top corporations, nonprofits and professional firms. Last year, the Academic Bridge Program hosted three students. Academic Bridge ProgramBy the Numbers

90 percent:Retention rate for freshmen70 percent:Graduation rate65 percent:Students from Dallas ISD57 percent:Female students

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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