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Architecture student finds new career options with internship

Release Date: July 8, 2013
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LTU intern Torri Smith works on building layouts for Yazaki North America in Canton.

An internship working on building layouts for automotive supplier Yazaki North America in Canton has opened up new career possibilities for Torri Smith, an architecture major at Lawrence Technological University.

“I haven’t changed my career goals, but I would say that my options have doubled,” Smith said. “I didn’t realize that I can do so much more with an architecture degree than just work for an architectural firm.”

Filling the paid internship with an architecture student also has had unexpected benefits for John Miller, a senior manager in Human Resources at Yazaki. Normally he would have hired an industrial engineering student for the task of cataloguing the many changes to the floor plans since the 420,000-square-foot office building opened in 1999, but he appreciates the other skills that Smith brings to the internship.

Her knowledge of Microsoft Visio software – acquired as part of architectural education at LTU – enables her to create documentation that the HR staff will be able to update later on. “I can’t imagine someone doing this job without having worked in Visio,” Smith said.

Miller found that having Smith on staff has also changed the scope of the internship.  “Once senior management heard that we have an architecture student for the summer, several requests came in to change things around in their offices,” Miller said.

Exploring something new with an internship is a good way for college students to explore their career options, according to Peg Pierce, director of LTU’s Office of Career Services.

“An architecture student working for an auto supplier is a great example of finding opportunities by not limiting yourself to predictable and traditional options,” Pierce said.

As the architecture sector continues to recover, many architecture firms are reactivating their internship programs, an important step on the road to recovery that Pierce previously saw in the engineering sector. But she continues to counsel college students to keep their options open by seeking internships in other areas.

“The worst thing that can happen is that they will say ‘no,’ and that’s something that you will hear a lot over the course of a long career. Taking a chance will empower you to find the ‘yes’ out there,” Pierce said.

When Smith was a senior at Birmingham Groves High School, she wanted to be a news anchor. She went to Purdue University to major in communications, but transferred to LTU’s architecture program to do something more creative. She moved to the College for Creative Studies in Detroit to study fine arts for a year and then returned to LTU in the 2012 fall semester to complete her architecture degree. She wants to find a full-time job after graduation, although she also plans to return to school at some point to earn a master’s degree in architecture.

Now Smith knows she would enjoy working at a large company, especially if there are opportunities to travel to company facilities in other countries. She has appreciated the friendly atmosphere at Yazaki.

“Everyone is laid back and friendly,” Smith said.  “My managers assume that I know what I’m doing. I love the freedom.”

The summer internship program brings 30 college students to Yazaki North America’s Canton campus. Half are engineering students, and the others are studying supply chain management, computer science, accounting, and communication, as well as, architecture.

“Internships are a great way to ‘try and buy.’ This applies to employers as well as students,” said Tanisha Thibodaux, who manages the summer internship program. “Students learn what they like to do and what they do not like to do. … Managers are reminded of what it is like to learn something new for the first time.”

Thibodaux has found that interns often bring a new level of excitement and engagement to Yazaki. “I appreciate the natural curiosity and ‘can do’ attitude of interns,” she said.