On the job
College of Business & Public Administration
UND students benefit from spirit of collaboration between City and University with internships that provide real-world experience and expert mentorship
For City of Grand Forks Finance Director Maureen Storstad and Budget Officer Mike Vatnsdal, formulating the Mayor’s annual city budget is a time-consuming process.
This year, the City’s Finance Department decided to partner with the University of North Dakota for the second consecutive year by taking on an extra hand in the budgeting process. Intern and fourth-year UND College of Business & Public Administration (CoBPA) Accounting student Chris Sigurdson was one of seven students to land himself an internship with the City of Grand Forks this summer for this very purpose.
“Chris just helped me put everything together,” said Vatnsdal, “He was here for about four months and things went really well.”
Since the collaboration between the City and the University started in 2015, the City of Grand Forks has hired a total of 20 UND interns. This year's interns, who were either CoBPA or UND College of Engineering & Mines students, worked within a variety of departments, from the Criminal Investigations Bureau to Public Works.
“It’s a win-win for the City because we get youth, ideas and enthusiasm,” said Mayor Michael Brown. “It’s a win-win for the interns because they get experience in what they may want to do in the future.”
Vatnsdal says Sigurdson was well prepared coming into the internship.
“There’s no way you could have done this internship without having a good education foundation behind you,” he said.
While Sigurdson feels his UND education contributed greatly to his success, he says the real-life, hands-on experience he received through his internship was incredibly valuable.
“I have background knowledge of accounting and some bond stuff from my finance classes,” Sigurdson said. “That knowledge helped a lot but the internship really expanded on what I have learned so far in even more detail. Everything I did, my mentor would explain; He would say, this is why it is or this is how it is, or this is why this works.”
Sigurdson’s internship entailed gathering current revenue expense forecasts from all of the City’s departments. In addition to forecasting, he had to take city politics into consideration. Sigurdson listened to debates on the radio, read articles in the paper and attended City Council meetings.
“It’s not only what the numbers show, it’s what people think and want,” said Vatnsdal.
Sigurdson says he would recommend the internship program to another student because it was such a great learning experience.
“It’s not just crunching numbers in an Xcel spread sheet, there’s a lot more to it than that,” he said. “There’s the political aspect of it where they argue or support the numbers we came up with. You also learn a lot about every department in the City from engineering, to sanitation, to health services. It wasn’t just finance, it wasn’t just numbers. I got to learn how every department worked, how they collaborated, how connected they all were and how they really all have to work together to meet the budget.”
The collaboration between the University and the city it calls home is not only valuable for those involved, it makes the community a better place.
While the UND students’ summer internships have recently come to an end, Brown said the students should be proud of all they have accomplished.
“They can look back with pride on what they’ve done—for themselves and the community, Brown said.
On top of feeling proud, Sigurdson says he feels more prepared than ever before as he returns to UND this fall.
“I know there are probably classes I will take where I have already learned some of the material at my internship. It’s great!”
Haugesag, Averi, "On the job" (2016). UND News Archive. 1338.