UND students across the country gain experience and get their foot in the door with internship opportunities


Amy Halvorson

Document Type


Publication Date



UND students across the country gain experience and get their foot in the door with internship opportunities

University of North Dakota senior Chance Faul, a commercial aviation major from McClusky, N.D., is spending his summer in the wilderness of Alaska.

He is interning at Papa Bear Adventures, which is an adventure in itself.

Papa Bear Adventures, located in Bethel, Alaska, arranges hunting and fishing trips in the 20-million acre Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, the largest wildlife refuge in the nation.

"I love hunting and the outdoors, so I figured working in Alaska for a company that flys hunters and anglers out would be the perfect place for me to get some experience in the aviation industry," Faul said. "I've always wanted to go to Alaska, so this seemed like the opportunity of a lifetime."

Faul learned about this opportunity through one of the many e-mails that aviation students receive regarding internship and job opportunities. Once this particular internship caught his eye, Faul filled out an application and sent the company his resume. He then received a call, had a short phone interview, and voilà ? the opportunity of lifetime.

Faul is excited to learn more about sea-plane operations and to see what it's like flying in Alaska. A typical day for Faul will entail getting gear ready for customers, loading it and other supplies onto a plane, fueling the planes and washing them if necessary.

Even with all of the excitement of this "heaven-sent" internship Faul reminds himself that with new places come new challenges. One of the challenges Faul is talking about is keeping track of time and dealing with the ever-present daylight in the land of the midnight sun.

Faul is one of many UND students this summer who are out working hard in the field by fulfilling internships and cooperative educations (co-ops) across the country. With majors ranging from communication to space studies, they are out on the job and gaining the ultimate education of learning by doing.

Jordan Cespedes, Champlin, Minn., a UND senior double majoring in communication and English, also is taking a walk on the wild side this summer. However, instead of the remote grandeur of Alaska, Cespedes has traded the UND classroom for an internship with the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley, Minn. She works there, alongside more than 4,300 animals, writing news releases, social media posts, and working at promotional events, as part of the zoo's public relations team.

Cespedes is gaining priceless experience by interacting with media outlets such as news stations, radio stations and newspapers.

"I like the interactions with the guests and getting to hand things out to them," Cespedes said. "It's a lot of fun interacting and getting them excited for what we are promoting."

Like many summer interns, Cespedes isn't getting paid for the work she does. The skills and experience gained are the only form of paycheck they receive. This can be challenging for students to make ends meet.

Kathleen Jones, a management instructor at UND in the College of Business & Public Administration, said internships and cooperative education opportunities can be valuable to students even if they are unpaid.

"It gives the students an opportunity to get real experience in their chosen major while earning academic credit for the work experience," she said. "Most often their internship supervisor becomes a mentor to them as they launch their career. Also, some students complete this experience at a location where they think they may want to live but feel more comfortable having the opportunity to 'check it out' for a summer or semester first. And often if the student is close to graduation, it results in a job offer from the employer upon graduation."

Jones added that many employers say that they use it as a kind of extended job interview to see if they would be a good fit.

"We are seeing a very tight labor market locally and employers are seeing internships/co-ops as a way to build a pipeline of new hires," Jones said.

Cespedes, who will be completing another unpaid experiential opportunity with the UND Division of University & Public Affairs next fall, understands the value of internships on her future.

"It gives people a chance to experience a job that they might want to do without a long-term commitment," Cespedes said. "I think it also looks good on a resume to show that you have experience and especially with my degree, jobs will be looking if I have on-the-job experience rather than what classes I've taken and what my GPA is or was."

Thankfully, according to Ilene Odegard, director of UND Career Services, a program dedicated to helping UND students land the right job, there is a national push toward paid internships.

"Things have changed from what they were years ago." She said. "Paid internships ? that's the name of the game now."

The North Dakota Department of Commerce has recognized the importance by funding "Operation Intern," which helps businesses develop their own internship opportunities.

Odegard has noticed that a student's internship experience is enhanced when the internship supervisor is a UND alumnus, as UND alumni are often eager to give back to UND, and they are more invested in the internship.

Ashley Marquis, from Goodridge Minn., can attest to that. A senior at UND double majoring in communications and recreation and tourism studies, she is interning this summer at the City of Thief River Falls Parks and Recreation Department. She works for UND alumnus, Joe Amundson, who graduated from UND in 2005 with a degree in recreation and leisure services (now called recreation and tourism studies) with an emphasis in administration and sports programming.

"It has been really beneficial that Joe graduated with the same degree as me because we are able to relate with each other better," Marquis said. "He understands what I have been taught in school and wants me to be able to take what I have learned in the classroom and apply it to the job.

"It is also nice to be able to relate to someone who had a similar college experience as you. He understands what the classes are like and what is expected me out of the internship because he has experienced it firsthand."

Marquis plans and hosts small concerts and a movie-in-the-park event; runs day camps for area children; and takes children to local attractions such as state parks, waterparks, the Red River Zoo in Fargo and a Fargo-Moorhead Red Hawks baseball game.

Speaking of the Red Hawks, that's the employer of another summer intern from UND: Cade Helmers, Kenmare, N.D., a UND senior majoring in business management and minoring in sports business.

Helmers does everything from managing tickets to assisting with promotions, social media and keeping the crowd involved. On game days Helmers will help the other interns set up the different props and promotions that will be used during the game, as well as set up for picnics and birthdays. He will also go over the schedule and prepare handouts for when the gates open.

Keeping with the baseball theme, UND senior Shane Lally, Saint Michael, Minn., a double major in business management and marketing and pursuing a minor in sports business, is interning with Inside Edge, a Major League Baseball scouting/data analysis firm based in Bloomington, Minn.

"I absolutely feel that it is important for students to have an internship experience," he said. "There is so much valuable experience and knowledge to be gained while on the job that just can't be taught in a classroom."

Here's a rundown of other UND students and what they're doing around the country:

  • Jordan Senff, Grand Forks, N.D., a senior at UND, majoring in mechanical engineering, is interning at NASA in Huntsville, Ala. at the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) until Aug. 8. He's at the Robotics Academy working on a team with three other students. The team is developing a system to beam solar energy to installations on other planets.
  • Kendell LaRoche, Denver, a UND graduate student in atmospheric science, also is completing a summer internship at NASA's MSFC in Huntsville. He's investigating the meteorology of "unusual lighting" and the internal structure of pyrocumulus clouds that can form over wildfires and become electrified. LaRoche says there is a clear link between the weather in the Earth's troposphere and the electrodynamic behavior of the mesosphere and ionosphere (upper atmosphere). Understanding these meteorological conditions is important because of their implications for human exploration in space environments, he says.
  • Megan Milbrand, Glencoe, Minn., a senior double majoring in human resource management and communication, is interning with Valley Dairy (VALDAK Corp.) in Grand Forks. Her internship deals with corporate human recourses responsibilities, including reviewing applications, interviewing, recruiting, hiring, and doing paperwork for new employees at a growing company with 12 locations and more than 200 employees.
  • Emily O'Brien, Lakeville, Minn., who graduated this spring with a double major in entrepreneurship and business management; and Kevin Lunke, from Thief River Falls, who also graduated this spring with a degree in entrepreneurship, serve as entrepreneur consultants for the UND Center for Innovation as part of their summer internships. O'Brien and Lunke work with entrepreneurs and small businesses as InnovateND coaches. InnovateND assists entrepreneurs in the development of their business ideas through access to business development resources, including coaches from entrepreneurial centers across North Dakota . So far, O'Brien and Lunke have been able to aid five businesses with this program.
  • Sheevika Senanayke, Kandy, Sri Lanka, a senior majoring in commercial aviation, is interning with the North Dakota Cloud Modification Project (NDCMP) as a part of the Pilot Internship Program. The NDCMP is an operational program that seeds (adds chemicals) clouds for hail damage reduction and rain enhancement in western North Dakota. Through his internship Senanayke receives on the job experience by working as a regular crew member, both on the ground and in the air, record keeping, maintaining seeding equipment, aircraft and materials, conducting seeding missions, surveying weather, and representing the project to the public.
  • Charlie Schmitz, Perham, Minn., graduated this spring with a double major in commercial aviation and flight education. He is interning this summer with Compass Airlines in Minneapolis, Minn. Schmitz does a variety of odds and ends for his internship, such as responding to emails regarding safety, helping set up emergency response plans, doing updates, and going through safety reports. He enjoys working for Compass Airlines and hopes to turn his internship into a career there.

Amy Halvorson University & Public Affairs student writer

This document is currently not available here.