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Internships Set PHC Grads Apart

January 12th, 2009

By Sarah Pride

CONTACT:  David Halbrook
Patrick Henry College
(540) 338-8727
OfficeOfCommunications@phc.edu

Carmen Magaña ('08) at work

The Patrick Henry College experience is unique among Christian institutions of higher education. With its integration of rigorous, classical Christian learning and world-class internships, a PHC degree represents for graduates both an excellent education and marketable work skills. It reflects one of the nation’s most comprehensive core curriculums balanced against a hands-on program of internships, practicum, or research & writing projects during students’ junior and senior years. The result: a potent, biblically-grounded portfolio.

Jeff Thornhill, PHC’s Dean of Men and Apprenticeship Coordinator, explains the College’s view of the three types of hands-on application. “An internship is a job overseen by an external agency,” he says. “A practicum is similar, only overseen internally, such as the model teaching some of the Classical Liberal Arts majors undertake. And research & writing is an extensive scholastic work, such as the History majors’ senior thesis.”

Kevin Radman ('05) teaches at a Christian school

In its few years of operation, PHC boasts numerous success stories. Abigail Pilgrim’s (class of ’06) internship with National Geographic turned into a full-time job as associate producer by her senior year in college. Her success opened up an opportunity for another Patrick Henry College student, Carmen Magaña (class of ’08), to intern at National Geographic under Pilgrim a few years later.

Other connections in the alumni network landed Chris Ridley (class of ’07) a paying internship at the Veterans Employment and Training Services (VETS) in his final semester, resulting in a full-time job at the Department of Labor.

In the College’s early years, PHC students did much of the legwork needed to locate and secure their internships, but today Dean Thornhill assumes a much larger role, working as a liaison between students and their prospective supervisors.

“The more internships we have, the more experience we build in areas in which we are just developing relationships,” he says. “People are starting to request PHC interns. The College’s reputation is doing well on that front. Also, the more exposure we get, the better the experience becomes for our students. For example, an employer might ask for a PHC intern to oversee their pool of interns.”

Before coming to PHC, Thornhill served as Campus Leader for Prison Fellowship, and, before that, with Campus Crusade for Christ for 23 years. At Prison Fellowship, he helped lead a course that taught about the ages-old split between the secular and the sacred in the Christian world.

“I have always been fascinated with PHC’s vision and its focus on integrating all areas of life,” he says.

Dean of Men, Jeffrey Thornhill

Thornhill, who also serves as the College’s Dean of Men, enjoys working with all the students, and particularly with PHC’s young men on issues of life and vocation. He sees Psalm 139 as a description of a Christian’s life from God’s point of view.

“If God knew all my parts before I was made, and if He knows all my ways, that would seem to indicate that He has a path all lined out for my life -- a vocation, a calling,” he says.

That organic, integrated view has, in his year-and-a-half at PHC, afforded Thornhill the ability to see academic life at PHC from a different angle.

“Because I am working across all the internships, I get to observe a wide range of activities,” he notes. Of senior Brittainy Paist’s highly successful, recent internship in Copenhagen for the U.S. Foreign Office, Thornhill relates how Paist’s supervisor remarked that a Foreign Service Officer is very much like a reporter. “My thought was, perhaps our international government students might want to cross-train in journalism,” he suggests.

After a year of streamlining internships and their corresponding paperwork, Thornhill will use this next semester to build on the foundation he has laid. As he says, it is time to “let changes iron themselves out.” His job is to help PHC students become marketable, no matter the economic situation, and, so far, the prospects look bright.