Leadership position helps student land NFL internship

Nathan Harris did not anticipate that his on-campus leadership role would open doors in the real world. The rising senior credits his time as a peer instructor with the University of South Carolina’s Student Success Center with helping him land a coveted summer internship with the Seattle Seahawks.

Harris, an athletic training major, says his involvement as a supplemental instruction leader set him apart from the 600 applicants that each NFL team receives for internship opportunities.

“It was a bright spot on my resume. Once I explained it, the hiring trainer seemed to be impressed by the program as a whole,” he says.

The Supplemental Instruction Program in the Student Success Center provides peer-led study sessions for more than 20 of the most difficult courses on campus. These student leaders prepare lesson plans based on the course’s content with help from the faculty member. Leaders help students merge what to learn with how to learn it, and this integration creates an active learning environment outside of the classroom.

“If you asked me four years ago, ‘Do you see yourself being a chemistry mentor?’ I would have said no way, but things change, just like my career goals,” he says.

When Harris first came to Carolina, he wanted to be an athletic trainer. His experience as a supplemental instruction (SI) leader helped direct Harris toward physical therapy instead. Harris says he really enjoys the one-on-one, personal relationships he can build as a physical therapist, similar to those he has built with the 250 students he’s helping to support on campus.

“I feel like I am helping more people than with athletic training. With athletic training, you are basically standing around waiting for someone to get hurt at practice, but with physical therapy you are actively helping someone get better through rehabilitation,” he says. “Being an SI has helped me confirm my decision, because of the satisfaction I get from helping struggling students. I know that I eventually want to have a career based around helping others.”

Harris has served as a supplemental instruction leader for three semesters in Chemistry 111, an introductory chemistry course that is required for most science degrees. More than 70 percent of the 206 student in that class in fall 2014 signed up for the supplemental course. The average GPA of participants was 0.3 points higher than that of nonparticipants, the Student Success Center says.

“I knew I needed a job in college, and I needed a flexible one to accommodate the 250 hours of clinical work that I have to do each semester for athletic training,” Harris says. “Before I took this job, I couldn't have pictured myself being an SI, but I love my job and couldn't picture myself in any other on campus role.” 

This year, Harris aimed high, submitting applications to all 32 NFL teams.   

“I wouldn’t say I was confident going in because each team gets about 600 applicants. It’s a lot of competition,” he says. In the end, though, Harris had interviews with three teams but accepted with the Seattle Seahawks first.

Since landing his dream internship, Harris has been sharing his experience with fellow supplemental instruction leaders. He has hosted staff presentations to show other students how they can put their instructor skills to work to advance outside the classroom.

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