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July 16, 2010
MARYVILLE, Mo. - Northwest senior Erica Rockley has long had an interest in public affairs, but her participation in an intensive summer internship program has her focused more than ever on a career in public leadership.
Rockley, of Independence, Mo., is one of 12 college students from across the country participating in the Coro Kansas City Summer Internship in Public Affairs , a 10-week program that exposes the students to community issues, leadership development, civic leaders and organizations.
She will graduate in December and plans to attend graduate school. Rockley is a political science major and public relations minor.
"It's confirmed that I really want to go into public leadership," Rockley said. "I'm on the right track with what I want to do. I really feel like I've found my calling is government. I've also learned that you don't necessarily have to be a government official to make a big impact on your community."
Coro interns spend five weeks in classroom instruction, gaining an understanding of civic leadership, leadership development and an awareness of their personal leadership styles. During the remaining five weeks, students are placed within each of five Coro sectors: business, government, labor, media and nonprofit.
Rockley applied for the program last fall and was selected in January after a daylong interview process that included group activities testing the candidates on non-verbal communication, city planning, organizing a press conference and balancing budget. More than 100 students applied for the internship.
"It's amazing; it's different then what I thought it would be," Rockley said, adding the internship has opened her eyes to how public and private sectors must work together. "You have to let democracy work."
During her government placement, Rockley spent a week alongside city of Lee's Summit officials, sitting in on meetings with City Manager Steve Arbo and city councilmen. She spent time riding with the police chief and operated one of the city's trash compactors.
"You don't think about it every day," she said of the public works department. "But they address all of these major issues to the city. For instance, the trash just can't be everywhere."
In addition to their individual placements, interns experience a range of leadership and professional development opportunities in the Greater Kansas City Region. Coro's community leadership training emphasizes experiential learning and helps the interns build skills in communication, team building, conflict resolution, critical thinking, consensus, decision making and facilitation.
In June, the interns attended the All-America City Awards in Kansas City, where they spent a week hearing city presentations and interviewing city officials about their successes and obstacles. Throughout the summer program, Coro estimates, the interns interact with more than 1,000 people, including elected officials, neighborhood activists and business leaders.
"You learn about implementing things and how a constituency works with others in the city," she said. "It's the whole spectrum … Kansas City is a great place to learn and work, and we are making amazing contacts. It's opened a lot of doors that I didn't know about."
At Northwest, Rockley is president of the Political Science Club, a peer advisor and a career ambassador for Career Services . Director of Career Services Joan Schneider said Rockley's work in Career Services has helped her learn the networking and communication skills that helped her land the internship and be successful.
"She's bright and she sees possibilities," Schneider said. "Things for Erica don't have to be lined up; she'll find her path. Coro showed up at a Career Day, Erica says what's this all about, makes an impression and she was encouraged to apply."
Schneider added, "You have to keep your mind open, your options open and you have to explore what would be a good fit for you."
The program, which returned to Kansas City this summer after a two-year hiatus, is offered through a partnership with Park University's Hauptmann School for Public Affairs. Kay Barnes, former mayor of Kansas City, Mo., and Distinguished Professor of Public Leadership at Park University co-directs the program with Don Wise, a respected non-profit consultant, former executive director of the Civic Leadership Training Council and Hauptmann School Fellow for Nonprofit Leadership at Park University. Coro participants earn three elective credits, in addition to a stipend.
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468