KENNESAW, Ga. | Jul 17, 2023
Kennesaw area high school students are gaining real-world experience managing complex computer systems for Kennesaw State University thanks to an internship program launched by the University’s Department of Information Systems and Security.
Wheeler High School seniors Natalie Ajemian and Alex Murray spent the spring semester working alongside faculty and undergraduate students in the department’s award-winning 3D printing lab.
Dominic Thomas, an associate professor in the Michael J. Coles College of Business, established the internship program two years ago to give young people professional development opportunities before even leaving high school. The initiative began after a teacher from Wheeler High School reached out to Thomas looking for ways to give her students relevant experience. Today, the internship program is the only one of its kind for high school students within the Coles College of Business.
Students participating in the program come from STEM magnet programs offered by their respective schools, which often include internship components. Typically, these students secure internships at large technology companies. While there is immense value in these opportunities, the size of the companies means students learn a lot but receive limited hands-on training. Thomas’s Kennesaw State internship program, however, integrates participants into a small team of student workers.
As Spring 2023 interns, Ajemin and Murray were tasked with improving the interface and overall usability of the OctoPrint server that manages access to the department’s 3D printers for students, faculty, and staff. Kennesaw State’s 3D printing lab has earned a Digital Transformation award from the Technology Association of Georgia.
Prior to this opportunity, neither Ajemian nor Murray had engaged in a project of similar magnitude and complexity. Throughout the internship, Thomas was constantly present, offering troubleshooting assistance and motivating them to conquer any obstacles they encountered.
“Development involves many roadblocks,” said Ajemian. “It was reassuring to have someone with so much experience there anytime we needed help.”
One unique aspect of this internship was the inclusion of college students who also assisted the interns in their projects. This allowed the high school students to gain insights into the college experience and provided them with valuable mentorship opportunities. The Kennesaw State students were approachable and available for guidance, answering any questions the interns had.
“Having the college students there gave me more freedom to learn,” said Murray. “It gave me a taste of college before I get there.”
By offering this hands-on experience, Thomas said is equipping high school students with the skills and confidence necessary to succeed in their future careers.
“Progress is the little steps,” said Thomas. “My job is to show them they made progress even if they feel like they didn’t.”
Both Ajemian and Murray have now graduated from high school after completing their internship with Thomas. Ajemian has committed to Georgia Tech, where she plans to pursue a degree in computer science. Murray will be attending Clemson University, focusing on information systems.
Thomas remains committed the internship program and has already secured interns for the upcoming fall semester. His next objective is to acquire funding for the program and transform it into a paid internship. By continuing to invest in the education and career development of young individuals, Thomas is making a profound impact on their lives and helping to shape the workforce of the future.
“This internship gives students the opportunity to create and build something at a level they have never experienced before,” said Thomas.