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It's True: Southwest Internship Takes Students on the Flight of Their Lives

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“Get ready for the flight of your life.”

This is what I was told on my first day of my Internship at Southwest Airlines - and I know I won’t be the first one to say, they were right.

Being an Intern (from THE Ohio State University) at Southwest, let alone a SWA Employee, is highly regarded, so in the months leading up to my first day, there was a lot of hype. My new roommate, a fellow Intern, had found the NoLimits Internship program by typing “top internships” into Google. As my Internship comes to a close, I can truly see why this program came up.

“The NoLimits Internship Program allows students to come to Southwest to experience the SWA Culture and apply what they have learned in their degree programs, while providing the company with fresh ideas and perspectives,” Lindsey Lang, Team Leader OnBoarding & Retention said.

The Internship program has been in place at Southwest since 1996. This summer’s class consists of 55 Interns from 33 different universities and 21 different states. The unique diversity of this class brings students from several different backgrounds together.

“I am amazed at the meaningful work and real contributions this class will be leaving behind,” Lang said. “Having Interns at Southwest really is an asset to the company. This program plants seeds for the next generation of SWA Employees.”

The Employees working with the Interns appreciate their input, ideas and efforts. From their first day at Southwest, Interns are accepted as part of the team.  Mary Nunley (Lehigh University), Corporate Facilities Intern, said, “Even though I am only an Intern, they treat me like an Employee. My department asks my opinions and values my suggestions.”  At Southwest, Interns are constantly being challenged to improve their skills. They are pushed to grow professionally and personally through their work as well as activities, such as Career Day and Days in the Field.

“Anytime I had a question about my work projects, my managers were always more than happy to teach me. Basically, they encouraged humility,” said Eric Walters (Purdue University), Financial Planning Intern.
Interns at Southwest are given tasks that will have an impact not only on their departments, but on the company as a whole. Interns work on important projects and are trusted with responsibilities that can directly affect Southwest’s bottom line.

This summer, Andre Nguyen (Purdue University), Flight Operations Intern, created an animation program to educate Pilots and improve Safety. Lauren Schick (Southern Methodist University), Technology Intern, prepared the Inflight recurrent training optimizer for automated processing to make the process more efficient. Lauren McGinty (Texas A&M University), University for People Intern, and Dawn Siemiet (Central Michigan University), People Employment Intern, spent countless hours designing an innovative, new Intern Online Orientation for all future SWA Interns.

The summer semester is coming to a close for the Southwest Airlines NoLimits Internship program. Last week, the Interns celebrated with a graduation ceremony.  The class lined up, adorned in airplane caps and fun-LUVing smiles, to share their summer experiences and receive their diplomas.  In September, the program will be welcoming 35 fall Interns to the Southwest Family! The NoLimits Internship Program is excited to announce that they have been approved for all three semesters in 2011. Lindsey Lang says the Team hopes to continue to build the program.

From one Intern  to another, here is some advice from our class to future SWA Interns:

• “From day one, JUMP IN! Although the program lasts a summer, it seems like it goes by in a week! Take advantage of the benefits and enjoy the friendships that you will make along the way.” - Cassandra Settles (Illinois State University), Corporate Sales Intern
• “Bring a Warrior Spirit to work every day, you never know how it will be rewarded.” - Phil Schaben (University of Southern California), Communications Intern
• “This internship is all it’s cracked up to be! Be ready to work hard and play hard!” - Bintou Diarra (University of North Texas), Internal Audit Intern

Three months ago, I packed up my things and moved from Columbus, Ohio, to Dallas, Texas, for the summer. I was a little nervous, but even more excited about the adventure I was about to begin 1,053 miles away from home. Being an Intern for Southwest Airlines has truly been the experience of a lifetime.

On behalf of the rest of the 2010 NoLimits summer Intern class, THANK YOU Southwest Airlines for making this summer the flight of our lives!