|The magazine of University of Houston-Clear Lake
spring 2012 | volume 18 | number 2
A Curve in Life's Path
To look back at a career and pinpoint the experience that launched it isn't always an easy feat. For Shari Sweeney though, recalling exactly how her career went from an accidental internship to the "real world" is a pretty simple task—filled with lots of stories, style and more than a few local connections.
In 1992, Sweeney was facing her fi nal undergraduate semester in media studies at UHCL. She was also confronted by a complete lack of career experience. Her part-time knowledge of waiting tables wasn't going to take her very far in the communications field, so she began looking for internship opportunities.
"I had to be certain that my internship would give me the 'real world' communications tools I was lacking," says Sweeney. She accepted an internship at a local radio station, but before she had a chance to start, a classmate told her about his work at the Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce. The revelation was a showstopper. After meeting with the chamber's president, she knew her plans were about to go in a new direction. "It sounded perfect; the opportunity to sharpen all of my skills in one place."
She walked away from radio promotions and followed her educational path to an organization located in UHCL's backyard.
Sweeney admits from childhood through her early college career she never knew what she wanted to do with her life. Even as an adult when she thought she'd decided on a career path, she changed her mind and major a few times. Finally she picked a major at UHCL and stuck with it. But even then, her choice was a very broad one. Once at the chamber though, her internship served as a great "self-test," helping her fi gure out what exactly she wanted to do in the communications fi eld.
"The staff at the chamber told me that this kind of non-profit work is either in your blood or not," says Sweeney. "They were right."
Being a Clear Lake native, Sweeney's work allowed her to support the community she loved and, develop relationships with the businesses and organizations she had known her whole life. Sweeney attained her degree in 1992 and, for a brief time, worked at Space Center Houston bringing inspiration to those who visited the distinctive facility. When an opportunity arose to return to the chamber as the director of program development she was eager for the challenge and excited to do work that would enhance the quality of life in "her" community.
Sweeney's connection to the chamber has helped continue her connection to UHCL as well, especially the university's Office of Alumni and Community Relations.
Part of the chamber's anniversary year campaign is to recognize 50 phenomenal individuals in the Clear Lake area. "50 Years, 50 Faces, 50 Stories," includes a portrait and story of each of the individuals, whose essence was captured by Dion McInnis, associate vice president for university advancement at UHCL and a published writer and photographer who has been cited internationally.
As the chamber celebrates its 50th anniversary, Sweeney marvels at how much has changed and how much has stayed the same. Visiting the chamber's offi ce on NASA Parkway is much like being given a tour of someone's childhood home. Sweeney reminisces about how exciting it was to get the new sign in front of the building, the different office spaces she's occupied through the years, and how the chamber's reach and events calendar have grown over time.
Now, as vice president of the chamber, her responsibilities have grown. But one thing has stayed the same: her appreciation for how signifi cant internship opportunities are. Each semester she now has the chance to work with those interning at the chamber, such as UHCL senior Samantha Samuel.
Like Sweeney, the chamber wasn't the first internship Samuel was slated to do in her fi nal semester as an undergraduate communication student. When an internship with a local United Way branch fell through, Samuel was crushed, and a bit panicked too. Then someone put her in touch with the chamber and things began to look up.
"Internships are essential in today's troubling economy," says Samuel, who believes college graduates gain a competitive advantage with internship experience. As an intern, students have chances to network within their career fi elds before beginning their job searches.
When Sweeney began her internship at the chamber years ago, it was just a great opportunity to fi ne-tune her skills. She went from promotions to non-profit and discovered that the opportunity to step into your future may only be a conversation away.
|Home | About Egret | Subcribe to Egret | Archives | Staff | Contact Us | UHCL Home|
Maintained By: Office of Communications
© 2012 University of Houston-Clear Lake, 2700 Bay Area Blvd., Houston, TX 77058