October 20, 2014

An Unexpected Internship

Alyssa poses with fiance J.T. Burnett.

Alyssa Graves, senior business major at Southwestern, has a ten-year plan and intends to stick to it, but sometimes things work out unexpectedly. “God has a plan,” says Graves. “And my plan was definitely not what he had in mind.”

Graves’ strategy was to get an internship at a local business, graduate from college, attend higher education, and work in the business field. Graves applied for an internship at a business in Cleburne. Several of her family works at that business, so she felt she had a fairly good chance.

On campus, Graves is involved with Student Association and is on the Lady Knights volleyball team. When she’s not busy with homework or school, she spends time planning her wedding with fiancé J. T. Burnett.

Everything was going according to schedule, from her personal life to her scholastic life. She was just waiting for a call saying she’d been accepted into the internship position. She waited eagerly by the phone, but they never got back with her. Eventually Graves resigned to the fact that she didn’t get the job.

“I was so upset for an entire month,” said Graves. “I never even got a call back, but God had a plan all along.”

Graves was devastated, but continued to work towards graduation. She had just finished an entrepreneurship class taught by Eric Anderson, president of Southwestern. Tom Hazlewood, former mayor of Cleburne and successful businessman, was a guest speaker for that class.

“I know that there were some students that struggled in that class,” said Anderson. “But with Alyssa it seemed that we couldn’t throw anything at her that she couldn’t handle.”

Hazlewood found himself looking for a secretary, when he remembered Anderson’s class. A quick phone call to the president’s office was all it took for a recommendation.

“Hazlewood asked me who my best students are,” said Anderson. “And I said, that the top of this class is Alyssa. She went over there and he was really impressed with her. Within a matter of a few days he got back in touch with me and said, ‘She’s really good.’”

It turned out that Graves got the phone call she waited for, just not the phone call she was expecting.

“I felt really honored that Dr. Anderson recommended me,” said Graves. “I participated in his class. I thought that was kind of cool and I felt honored to be recognized and recommended for something like that.”

On the job, Graves does bookkeeping and learns the ins and outs of business. Hazlewood refers to her as his “student.” He is a mentor for Graves and an example of what she can see herself become.

“This internship is making entrepreneurship more of a realistic thing for me,” said Graves. “It’s pushing me to go more in that direction than I ever would have without it. Beforehand it was a cool idea, but this is actually empowering me to go out and do it.”

“I think the possibility of learning in the field from somebody with experience, is a wonderful complement to education,” said Anderson. “It worked out great in this case. I think Hazlewood is kind of disappointed to lose her in a few months when she graduates!”

Because of the internship, Graves is now in the process of starting her own business of renting duplexes. She plans to do this as an extra income in addition to any job she finds after graduation.

“This whole thing completely changed the way I think,” says Graves. “It’s a really great experience, and now I have a mentor that can help me. If I had gotten the other internship, I would have missed this great opportunity.”

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