Sept. 11, 2012
Northwest students explore the wild with summer internships
By Philip Gruenwald, media relations assistant
Enter the Career Services Internship Photo Contest
Students with an internship in fall 2012, spring 2013 or summer 2013 are invited to enter the 2012-2013 contest by submitting one photo and a description of up to 300 words. To submit a photo, or view photos of internships from the last four years, click here.
After taking courses, working on group projects, talking with professors, taking notes and reading textbooks, Northwest Missouri State University students put down their pencils and applied the skills they learned to hands-on internships.
Thirty-six students entered photos of their exploits to the annual Career Services Internship Photo Contest, along with brief descriptions about their experiences. The contest was open to all students participating in internships, practicums, field experiences or directed teaching experiences in fall 2011, spring 2012 and summer 2012. Courtney Hopkins, a senior broadcast major from St. Joseph, was chosen as the contest’s winner with a photo of her and a lion during a safari in Africa.
Throughout these experiences, students put their Northwest education into action and have richer résumés because of it, said Rosalie Weathermon, internships coordinator in Career Services.
“The first factor is that students want to gain hands-on experience,” Weathermon said. “Additionally, they want to add value to their resumes to make them a better candidate for future positions. And thirdly, it allows them to verify their career path.”
What follows are the stories of seven Northwest students who had those types of experiences this summer.
Courtney Hopkins, Volunteers Direct
Hopkins spent seven weeks in Africa filming a documentary featuring impoverished children in post-apartheid townships. She spent two weeks on a safari with elephants and lions. And it all began through a conversation with her academic advisor.
“I wanted to get more experience with traveling abroad and doing video work abroad, and I haven’t had much experience in that realm,” Hopkins said.
Dr. Brian Hesse, an associate professor of political science, assisted Hopkins and remembered a young man who visited Northwest to share his experience with Volunteers Direct a few years ago. Using that connection, Hopkins headed to Africa, where she filmed for KNWT, Northwest’s student-led television station. Her coverage will air as 15-minute segments during evenings this fall.
“I’ll give the history of South Africa for an episode or two, and all the work in Cape Town, and then some episodes on my two-week safari to Zimbabwe,” she said.
Programming schedules were not on Hopkins’ mind when she set foot in Cape Town, South Africa. Instead, the city of families living in corrugated-tin houses and children trying to learn English in under-funded schools captivated her attention.
“Volunteers Direct runs this program with the goal to get kids of the townships into donor-funded, fee-paying schools and find more sponsors for the schools,” Hopkins said. “The student to teacher ratio is 60:1, and English is usually a second or third language for them, so volunteers come to tutor them after class.”
Hopkins’ footage captured the wealth disparity in post-apartheid Africa as well as the poor state of their education system. She said it made her look at life in America differently.
“Their homes were just corrugated tin wedged together with a thin door,” Hopkins said. “It’s always kind of damp, always kind of musty and dirty. These kids are supposed to do homework in those conditions, and we have people in America who complain about our schools and libraries.”
Besides opening her eyes to an urgent philanthropic need, Hopkins said her internship verified her goals for a future career.
“On a personal level, I learned that I am definitely on track with what I want to do,” Hopkins said. “I have always wanted to get paid to travel and shoot video.”
While KNWT viewers enjoy episodes of her internship in Africa, Hopkins will take her footage to film competitions around the country. Her motivation for these competitions, like her motivation to try the internship, is equal parts career-driven and philanthropic.
“In the big picture, with both the TV show and the documentary, I hope to show them to people and get a job,” Hopkins said, adding that she hopes to donate a portion of any award money to Volunteers Direct. “If I win enough, it will send a kid to a fee-paying school.”
Nick Norman, National Tiger Sanctuary
Nick Norman, a junior biology major with a business minor, landed an internship with the St. Louis Zoo in the spring. During May, Norman worked at the National Tiger Sanctuary (NTS) in Branson where he took care of 14 tigers, one mountain lion, one African lion and one black leopard.
“I did everything from cleaning to feeding them, building enclosures for them and educating people about them,” Norman said.
The NTS cares for big cats donated or confiscated from private owners. In addition to caring for these animals for life, the NTS offers educational tours for the public to learn about tigers in captivity.
His journey to the NTS began at a young age when a trip to Costa Rica ignited a passion for wildlife conservation. After completing his degree in biology from Northwest, Norman hopes to work in wildlife conservation and hopes to open his own animal sanctuary in his hometown of St. Clair.
April Logeman, Murphy-Brown LLC
April Logemann has learned a lot from Northwest. As a chemistry major, she has spent time studying chemical behaviors and reactions through lab work. However, Logemann had no idea how complex manufacturing pig feed could be until her internship this summer with Murphy-Brown LLC, the largest producer of pork products in the world.
“I tested all the different ingredients that went into the pig feed pellet," she said. "We tested for moisture, fat and protein, and then we tested the particle size of corn and wheat to see which size worked best in making the feed. I didn’t know it was such an intricate thing that went into making pig feed.”
As Logemann begins her junior year with the internship under her belt, she thinks she will value coursework differently than she did last year.
“Internships really help you focus on what you need to put more effort into and what you need to get out of a classroom,” Logemann said.
Jay Taylor, National Science Foundation: Research Experience for Undergraduate
Students in science programs at Northwest are trained to excel in fields ranging from pork feed to nanotechnology, which is exactly what senior Jay Taylor worked with during his internship with the National Science Foundation this summer.
Under the direction of his advisor, Dr. Michael Hull, assistant professor of chemistry, Taylor applied to 11 National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduate programs. He was accepted at the University of New Mexico to work with nanoscale patterns.
“I was constructing these nano materials to be used in a wide variety of applications,” Taylor said. “It was purely nano science and how light interacts with the nano materials. One of the projects was to create the scaffolding for the solar cell so when light is incident on this it will create a potential difference and create a charge.”
Seven other students who participated in the NSF program with Taylor came from larger, well-known universities, but Taylor said the individualized attention he has received during his years at Northwest made him a valuable asset in the lab.
“I really felt like I had a great foundation from Northwest and I did really well (at the NSF),” Taylor said. “People said I have a great future in this field.”
Erin Funk, New Nodaway Humane Society
Senior Erin Funk considered internships in Kansas City and Des Moines before finding the ideal position right here in Maryville. Funk, an interactive digital media-new media major applied her social media and web design skills while working in the field she wants to enter after graduating: animals. Funk’s work as a marketing intern with the New Nodaway Humane Society helped place dogs and cats in homes, which she called “the best feeling in the world.”
“My big project was to re-do their website,” Funk said. “I tried to set up a website that they could maintain by themselves. It’s super easy – they can now put up a new picture of an animal in five minutes.”
Funk accepted her internship with a foundation of real-world experience in Northwest’s student publications and student organizations.
“I had a social media internship with University Relations my sophomore year and I’m the online promotions chair for Ad Ink, the advertising club,” Funk said. “Both Tower Yearbook and The Northwest Missourian have given me experience with web, social media, and writing.”
Looking back, Funk enjoyed the flexibility of an internship in Maryville as well as the responsibility of being in charge of her own project.
“I think a lot of people overlook internships on campus or in Maryville, but I think this has been more beneficial to me because I would love to work with animals in the future,” Funk said. “I didn’t have to do busy work. This was something I could own.”
Clint Coffey, Kansas Herpetological Society
Clint Coffey’s research project for his master’s degree in biology found him chasing rattlesnakes around the Midwest.
“The Massasauga rattlesnake is indigenous to North America, and in some states it’s classified as endangered and Missouri is one of those states,” Coffey said. “I’m doing genetic and morphological assessments of the snake to clear up the controversy over the differences between the eastern and western subspecies.”
As an undergraduate student at Northwest, Coffey worked with a Northwest graduate student on a research project involving rattlesnakes. When it was time for Coffey to choose a research project of his own, he remembered his previous experience with Massasuaga rattlesnakes and decided to further explore their genetics.
He has since tracked the snakes over five states in their natural environment as well as museums and institutions.
“Because the snake itself exists in many different areas, I had to do quite a bit of traveling to get the samples I needed,” Coffey said. “I got to participate in the Kansas Herpetological Society. Sometimes they would take you to an ideal spot where they track logical locations of the snake, so I made a lot of contacts and networking doing that.”
Graduate students like Coffey need undergraduate assistants while working on research projects. He recommends the experience he gained as an undergraduate student to other students looking for hands-on scientific experience.
James Love, Veterans Fire Corps
Through his experience with the Veterans Fire Corps – a partnership between the Student Conservation Association and the U. S. Forest Service – senior James Love learned he was on the right track to a career in wildlife ecology.
Love, a Marine veteran, trained and worked with the VFC alongside other military veterans for three months.
“The corps is strictly for recent-era military veterans and is designed to give them the experience, training and credentials to pursue something in wildlife or forestry, specifically fire,” Love said.
The internship began with three solid weeks of training including a mock fire, severe weather training and even chainsaw school.
“We sat and learned about chainsaws for two days and then went and cut with them for two days,” Love said. “And I now have a certificate in chainsaw operation.”
Love spent the rest of his summer in Arizona, preventing forest fires by clearing brush, felling trees and thinning tree ranges. It was work that Love could see in his future.
For more information, please contact:
Mark Hornickel, Media Relations Specialist
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