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On Internships and Learning

By Trish Olson, Assistant to the Associate Dean — Center for Family Development

As I was reflecting on FD's new internship initiative, I looked up Webster's definition of "intern" and found three definitions:
  1. Internal (archaic)
  2. To confine
  3. A student or recent graduate who works for a period of time at a job in order to get experience.
These three definitions are an excellent foundation to share with you our reasons for and commitment to expanding our reach through partnering with interns.

Contrary to the archaic meaning of the word, the first reason is to be "less internal." One great way for Family Development to grow and learn is through expanding our partnership with interns. Interns will come to us with new ideas, new ways of doing things, and new knowledge to challenge us and stretch us. I use the word "partnership" boldly — while interns learn from us through work opportunities, we also learn from them. Otherwise, the internship program would not be successful.

The second definition of intern — to confine — is what I hope we do not do to these young, eager, and energetic colleagues. We need to give them opportunities to stretch their wings, try new things, succeed, and, yes, fail in a safe environment. If we "confine" their opportunities, neither of us will gain the true benefit of the internship experience.

Finally, I hope we succeed in giving our interns experience in line with the third definition, but I hope that we, too, as an organization, get experience from them in new ways of doing things and looking at the world.

Now I'd like to hear from you. What was your most memorable experience or learning from an internship or first job? I remember supervising a 4-H dance in a cave in southern Missouri. I learned acoustics are amazing in a cave, and you must really watch carefully in the dark corners of caves for all sorts of opportunities and dangers!

Also, thank you to all who were so supportive to me as Interim Associate Dean. I am thrilled that Karen Shirer is back. Filling in for her gave me the opportunity, like interns, to learn new skills and challenge myself.
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  1. I was an intern (not titled that at the time) during my undergrad at the University of Arkansas on-site preschool. I remember meeting with Christine, who was the head teacher. Her job was as both head teacher and professor, teaching students who were in the lab preschool with her. I thought to myself, that is the job I want after I get my Masters. Five years later I moved from AR to MN and got that exact position at NDSU and was there for 9 years. Intern experiences can really shape someones future!

  2. When I was a dietetic intern at The Emily Program, a question that many practitioners asked struggling clients was, "How can I or the group support you?" I have used this question with my friends and family, and even myself — it shifts my mind from perseverating on the problem to thinking of a solution.

  3. When was completing my undergraduate degree in Home Economics education, there was a choice for practice teaching of a regular - 3 mo. experience or a 4.5 mo. internship teaching. I took the internship teaching and did it at White Bear Lake HS (back when they only had one high school). Oh, I learned so much; I just hope my students learned something, too! The next year I got my first job teaching in a high school in south eastern WI and I always remember the superintendent say, "you always learn so much the first year"! How true a statement!!!!!!!


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