Published: Sept. 3, 2017
WEATHERFORD — Hands-on experience outside the classroom is guaranteeing many Southwestern Oklahoma State University students job offers upon graduation.
Internships through the SWOSU Business Enterprise Center allow students to work directly with clients on business planning, forecasting, marketing, return-on-investment calculations and other projects.
The center provides businesses in western Oklahoma with assistance in areas like market analysis, product development and business startup, while allowing students to experience firsthand the complexities of the business world.
"It's great for them to get real-life experience," said Max Pyron, a research analyst at the Business Enterprise Center. "They get a little bit of everything."
One company requested 13 interns to help with software development, providing jobs for 10 computer science students and three marketing students, Pyron said.
Many interns have worked at Bar-S Foods, which has a distribution and service center in Elk City and production plants in Clinton, Altus and Lawton.
One of those was business major Clayton Kincannon, who was trained in transportation and product management during his internship in Elk City.
Kincannon said it was an opportunity to see how business works and if it was something he really wanted to do. "It give you time to grow," he said.
After he graduated in December 2015, he went to work for the company.
"I schedule Clinton's production two to four weeks out and secure the raw materials for production," Kincannon said. There are 139 products.
As a student, Kincannon was in a product management class at the same time he learning product management at Bar-S.
"I learned more as an intern than in the class because it's hand-on," he said.
Interns almost always are offered a job in western Oklahoma, said Doug Misak, director of Business Enterprise Center.
"They get a great education here at Southwestern, but it's the kind of experiences these young folks get out in the field," Misak said.
School of Nursing
More than 90 percent of SWOSU nursing school graduates are working as nurses one year after graduating, said Marcy Tanner, associate dean, who credits hand-on training for much of that success.
"Our graduates are solid. They know what they're doing. They're prepared for practice," Tanner said.
SWOSU nursing students complete 1,000 hours of clinical practice, 200 hours more than the typical requirement, she said. The clinical sites are in both rural western Oklahoma and Oklahoma City. They include acute adult care, intensive care, pediatrics, obstetrics and mental health.
"That's what makes the difference," Tanner said.
Students first practice on mannequin patients in the simulation lab, including one high-fidelity simulator that can depict uncommon critical situations students aren't likely to encounter in the clinical practice setting, she said.
"It replicates the stress of a real-life situation," Tanner said.
She would like four more high-fidelity simulators, but the funding isn't available. Each costs $100,000.
"It's almost a real person," said junior William Tanner, who came to SWOSU from Connecticut. He isn't related to the dean. "It was nice to practice before going out to a person in a clinical setting."
Students don't know what to expect when they step into the simulation lab. The "patient" might be suffering an drug overdose, an allergic reaction, respiratory failure or anything else that has been covered in the classroom.
"I learn a lot more in the lab than in the class. I'm real hands-on," William Tanner said.
Marcy Tanner said students do not leave the simulation lab until she is convinced they know what they're doing.
"Knowledge is great, but application is key," she said. "These are the kinds of things that save lives, that build quality graduates."
Oklahoma needs more nursing graduates. State workforce officials report a shortage of more than 10,000 nurses.
Tanner says SWOSU accepts up to 60 new pre-nursing students each fall, but no more. Expanding capacity requires more faculty, and "for that you need more funding," she said.
"Not just us, but all nursing programs," Tanner said. "We have so many quality applicants being turned away on a state basis, and yet we have a nursing shortage."
Overall enrollment at SWOSU is growing. Fall 2017 enrollment is about 5,500, which is up 2 percent from last fall, spokesman Brian Adler said.
It is the seventh consecutive semester increase from fall to fall and spring to spring, he said.