Internships have increasingly become an important part of the college experience. They afford students the chance to apply what they’ve learned on campus, be exposed to the workplace and all that entails, and build meaningful connections that help them begin developing their professional networks as they pave the way to their first position out of college.

For companies, providing internships can be a way to cultivate a relationship with the university and meet and recruit talented graduates. There are many approaches to creating internship experiences, some more unique than others. Old National Bank decided to use their core values to re-imagine a summer internship. By working with U-M’s Services for Students with Disabilities office and the University Career Center, they have constructed a pilot program for a summer internship hiring students with disabilities to provide a meaningful introduction to a professional experience.

Jamie Guise, Senior Vice President for Community Engagement at Old National Bank, shares the birth of this program: “We made some great connections with local universities within our footprint to recruit people for our mentorship program. People with disabilities are the largest minority – and the most unemployed group – in the world. This is a large, talented pool of potential employees, and we wanted to find fresh, innovative ways to tap into that starting with the student population. By working with U-M’s Services for Students with Disabilities and the University Career Center, we were able to recruit from this group in new and creative ways.”

Vice President for Student Life E. Royster Harper helped gather a team to explore developing an internship program to support students with disabilities. Through a series of dialogues, the team honed the job description and structured the internship. The job posting yielded great candidates and the hiring committee at Old National Bank couldn’t choose between the finalists, so they committed to hiring all three.

For these students, an internship at Old National Bank represents an opportunity to be immersed in multiple facets of the financial services community. They rotate through different business lines to understand all the dimensions of banking with a community bank, from retail aspects to commercial lending to wealth management to community engagement.

Stuart Segal, Director of Services for Students with Disabilities at U-M comments, “From our perspective, the internship program with Old National Bank is truly a win-win situation. For the company, they receive the talent of extremely motivated, competent and responsible students. For the student, it gives them a transformative learning experience which hopefully sets them on a path of success and employment. I am very thankful for Old National Bank for making this commitment to students with disabilities and I am hoping that other companies take note of this program and will follow suit.”

“The ability for U-M students to gain exposure to the world of work, engage with professional mentors, and develop core competencies that are foundational to their professional development is critical for all students, but especially for students who may be facing additional challenges,” says Kerin Borland, Director of the Career Center. “Old National Bank’s willingness to create a pilot program that allowed students to explore, while they contributed to forwarding the organization’s mission was exemplary. We look forward to working with Old National Bank to continue to develop the diverse pipeline of quality candidates they are seeking.”

This pilot program is an extension of the disability awareness initiatives implemented at Old National Bank over the last few years. One of their signature programs, AchieveABILITY, is a mentoring program that connects executive business leaders and aspiring professionals with disabilities for an opportunity to grow and learn from each other’s life experiences.

Ben Trockman serves as the Employment & Outreach Specialist at the bank’s corporate headquarters and has established mentoring programs, community outreach, and resources for the company to become more inclusive and accessible. He shares, “We all want to have more people at the table with different backgrounds and perspectives. That leads to better ideas and conversations. For us, that meant starting with building awareness then developing a mentorship program. This next step provides a way to recruit people through a pipeline of students. I’m really excited about what we are doing.”

U-M hopes this internship becomes a model they can replicate as well. “At the end of the summer, we hope to have three U-M students with wonderful career experiences and the model of a successful internship program that provides a blue print for others to consider, to allow more students with disabilities to grow and learn,” Vice President Harper shared.