SLU Internship Resources Bring Students to the Moon


Illustration Courtesy of Ashlee Kothenbeutel.

“Initially, it felt very validating to know that all the hard work and opportunities provided by others to build me up was worth it,” said Connor Morris, a fifth-year senior studying aerospace engineering with a minor in engineering mathematics. “Even as an intern, I felt that I was a part of a larger goal than myself, and it drives me to continue my work for the betterment of all,” he said, of his internship with NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, during the fall semester of 2017.

        Although Morris’ internship was an opportunity of a lifetime, he is one of many students that have been able to get internships in their field because of SLU’s faculty and resources. SLU offers services like Handshake, appointments with specialists for career counseling and career fairs for students on campus.

        According to SLU, they are ranked as one of the highest universities in Missouri for employment rates post-graduation, with 96 percent of recent graduates reporting that they are satisfied with their career path.

        Career Services, located in Suite 331 of the BSC for walk-in appointments, is one resource that is vital to upholding SLU’s admirable employment rate. They advertise they are available to help students begin a process of self-exploration that can help them better make decisions about majors and careers. Even if a student comes into their office with no decided major and no clear interests for a future career, they believe that they can help to figure out a path that will be interesting to them through personality tests and their career counselors.

        However, for Morris, who knew what he was passionate about, SLU’s faculty was the greatest help in finding his internship.

        “The faculty, staff and resources at Parks College were vital in equipping me with the skills and experience required to get into the NASA Pathways Program,” he said. Specifically, Dr. Michael Swartwout, the principal investigator for the Space Systems Research Laboratory at SLU, organized a research group made up of students that included Morris.

        “I joined the group during my first semester freshman year and its members took the time to help me develop my skills in spacecraft systems engineering and leadership that directly led to my qualifications for the program” he said. “I have had the privilege of leading the research group with my fellow peers prior to accepting the position at NASA,” said Morris, as he continues his work with his team post-internship.

        As part of Morris’ NASA experience, one of his responsibilities was to “learn what it takes to become a NASA Flight Controller,” which he said was like “the movie Apollo 13 with the guys with the headsets talking to Gene Kranz.”

        Morris also got to learn “the history of manned spaceflight, its success and disasters, how to communicate as a flight controller and of course, got to meet a lot of amazing men and women in the astronaut corps.” In getting this internship, Morris exemplified what a student can achieve through internship opportunities provided at SLU to students.

However, SLU resources are not always to thank for the esteemed internship opportunities on campus–a large portion of the credit goes to the students themselves. Esther Chinwuko, a second-semester senior studying electrical engineering, is just one example. She had the opportunity of working as a network engineer for Verizon in New York during the summer of her junior year.

Students starting from scratch, like Chinwuko, are also not limited in their internship search. For Chinwuko, there never was a clear ‘dream internship’ that seemed to fit her desired career choices.

“Before I started this internship, I wanted to become a professor but then I decided to do internship opportunities,” to figure out whether she wanted to go into academia or the engineering field. “Having this type of opportunity gave me an idea of what it would look like after I graduate from school.”

Chinwuko got the opportunity to help Verizon as they prepared to launch their 5G network. In this, she helped with research and even got to meet with a board member of Verizon.

Students who make their own way, like Chinwuko, understand the challenges involved in pursuing opportunities on their own. However, Chinwuko gives hope to students that are in the position she was, saying “do not let your field down,” even though “your GPA might be low, because my GPA is honestly not really high, but I already got an offer from Verizon as a full-time job,” she said.

           Morris’ internship is also opening up doors for his future. “This opportunity absolutely helped me in my future, as the program has a greater than 99 percent conversion rate to full-time after graduation,” he said.

“I definitely know that I want to work at NASA Johnson Space Center,” Morris said about his future. “I was very humbled to learn NASA’s mission to explore and endeavor to explore space and our Earth.”

Both Chinwuko and Morris provide a roadmap for students as they navigate toward their career goals. Whether self-guided or through the University, SLU provides an environment where students are able to have opportunities to live out their passions.