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September 29, 2011

ULM and CenturyLink join in "win-win" partnership

University of Louisiana at Monroe student interns Toya Daughtrey and Jade Parks spent weeks immersed in the operations of CenturyLink, the third largest telecommunications company in the nation, but neither felt she was just another number in the corporate supply chain.

"You really become part of the team," said Daughtrey, 22, of Shreveport. "Our supervisors wanted us to experience something useful. We weren't there just to get coffee."

In fact, the interns engaged in a "super apprentice challenge" in which they were tasked with generating ideas on what they thought would make a great internship experience.

"At the end of the internship we met with the vice president," said Daughtrey. "He asked our opinions. It seemed like he really cared and was committed to the idea that the internship impact us."

Parks and her winning team also developed a video about a typical day in the life of an intern, which the company posted on their Facebook site.

"It's not an experience you can get just anywhere," said Parks. "A lot of people don't realize CenturyLink has the largest corporate headquarters in Louisiana."

Daughtrey is a graduate student in ULM's Speech Language Pathology program interning for CenturyLink's human resources department this fall on the heels of a 10-week summer internship she completed before the start of the semester.

She joined Parks, 22, of West Monroe, a senior communication studies major, and 17 other students from ULM who spent their summer interning at the communications giant.

In fact, ULM supplied the most interns of any of the other eight universities represented at the company this summer.

But the internships reflect just one aspect of the long-standing partnership between CenturyLink and ULM through the years.

Whether providing CenturyLink a pipeline of employees or celebrating the university's "town and gown" relationship with the community during the annual CenturyLink Accent on Excellence Breakfast, the two entities are intrinsically linked.

"We've had a relationship with ULM for a number of years," acknowledged Martha Amman, manager of community transition at CenturyLink.

"In areas of IT, accounting, engineering, finance, HR, and marketing, there are a number of places for interns ... This year we have expanded to include corporate communications and risk management. Also, we have interns in our corporate offices as well as in our chief executive offices and chief operating officer offices."

The corporate-university partnership is also reflected in the workshops presented by ULM Career Connections Associate Director Alberta Green for the interns at the request of CenturyLink executives.

Green presented "Communicating with Confidence" and "Backpack to Briefcase" to help the students from all the colleges build on the field experience they acquired while working for the company.

"The students were very engaged and seemed to really appreciate the information," said Green. "Several from different schools even expressed an interest in contacting our office for additional help."

"These workshops provide the type of soft skills that are most beneficial for someone, even if they have a year or two left in college," said Amman.

The internships not only give the students the distinct advantage of having earned real-world experience, it provides CenturyLink someone who is ready to work for the company from day one.

CenturyLink has close to 50,000 employees and operates in 37 states. The advantage of working for corporate headquarters in Monroe is that there is never a shortage of internships to fill a variety of functions.

"We have students that come from a multitude of degree backgrounds, but they have skills that are transferrable outside their area of expertise," said Tina Williams, director of talent acquisition at CenturyLink.

"I think it is a win-win from the student perspective in that they are able to glean so much practical experience by working with a company of this magnitude. It is a meaningful experience that will impact the rest of their lives," she said.

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