Wednesday, April 22, 2009
THROUGH ENTREPRENEURSHIP CLASS, K-STATE GRADUATING SENIOR FROM SHAWNEE CREATES WEB SITE THAT HELPS OTHER DIETETICS STUDENTS FIND NECESSARY INTERNSHIPS
MANHATTAN -- When Kansas State University student Katie Hamm searched online for internships in dietetics, the process was anything but smooth.
"Nothing was consistent from one Web site to another, and you had to look all over to find anything," said Hamm, a senior in dietetics from Shawnee who will graduate from K-State in May.
That's how All Access Internships was born.
Hamm, a 2005 graduate of Shawnee Mission Northwest High School, joined Jenny Westerkamp, now a dietetics graduate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, to create the Web site, http://www.allaccessinternships.com
Hamm began working on the site in fall 2007 as part of K-State's Venture Creation Circles, an interdisciplinary entrepreneurship class. As of March, the site had more than 1,700 users.
"I don't think I would have done this Web site if I hadn't taken the class," Hamm said. "I definitely know that as a dietitian I want to be an entrepreneur. This has been an awesome experience, knowing what it takes to put together a business plan. I feel so confident in my ability to do a project like this again."
Hamm decided that if she were going to go through with the plan for a Web site, she wanted some help. Hamm and Westerkamp started communicating online after she read an article Hamm had written about internships for a dietetics newsletter.
"I couldn't have asked for a better person to work with," Hamm said. "Entrepreneurship can be kind of lonely."
Finding an internship is particularly important to dietetics majors, Hamm said, because a yearlong accredited internship must be completed before taking the exam to become a registered dietitian. When putting together the business plan, Hamm found that each year about 4,000 dietetics students are searching for accredited internships, but about 250 internships are offered.
She said it was important for All Access Internships to allow students to search for internships that fit their needs, which might include part-time or distance options.
"You want a match that's good for the student and the program," Hamm said.
The co-founders worked with a Web designer to create what they wanted on their site.
"We wanted our Web site to have the same look and feel on all of the pages," Hamm said. "We also wanted to have testimonials from former interns because that is the best way to find out what you want to know about a program."
The site allows members to search profiles of internship programs, read testimonials from previous interns and manage the application process. By selecting favorites, members get a personalized application checklist. They also can see which programs rank highly on testimonials and get a feel for how competitive a program might be.
The site also includes an e-mail list where members can meet and ask questions, Hamm said.
"When applications were due in February, it was exceptionally active," she said. "People were asking each other questions like whether to single-space or double-space an application."
In addition to developing a business plan, the co-founders filed to become a limited liability company and procured advertising for the site. Hamm said that so far the advertising on All Access Internships has been done in exchange for offering links to the Web site or other perks, such as inviting Hamm to participate in a Webinar to talk about the site.
In this way, she said, the creators have been able to use appropriate advertisements. With programs that feed ads to Web sites based on key words, Hamm said they could have ended up with ads promising drastic weight loss and fad diets, giving users the wrong impression.
"Even as students, we've tried to be as professional as we can," Hamm said. "I've learned a lot about maintaining professional relationships with people."
She said it was hard to get internship programs to join the Web site before it took shape. Now, she's hearing that students show up to interviews with information about the program that they've printed from the Web site. One director said that since the program was on All Access Internships it had received twice as many applications as before.
"We've also brought more attention to smaller programs through testimonials -- it's what people want to see," Hamm said. "I've noticed a lot more of the program directors are really excited about the site."