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Students speak out about WAICU Internship Program

After a competitive selection process, twenty-three students (out of 125 applicants) from WAICU members have been selected to intern with Wisconsin nonprofit organizations this summer. These students will soon be immersed in a variety of experiences, where they will gain real-world skills that build upon their college education. Over the course of the summer, interns will complete 400 hours of work and in return receive a stipend and scholarship, as well as professional experience. The program is made possible through the generous support of two Wisconsin-based foundations.

WAICU president, Dr. Rolf Wegenke, called the internship a “win-win-win:” a win for the students who learn both of the importance of the nonprofit sector and the world of work, a win for the hosting nonprofit from an extra pair of hands – and a heart – for their cause, and a win for member colleges and universities who are constantly on the look out for additional ways for students to engage in experiential learning.

Siobhan Heiss, a student at Wisconsin Lutheran College, shared some insights as a returning WAICU intern, placed at the Hedberg Public Library, in 2016 and 2017.

WAICU: What was one of the big projects you worked on last summer?

Siobhan: I helped with their capital campaign, Transform Your Library. It was fascinating to see how to set up a board and how to motivate people to start the campaign. This showed me how nonprofits are funded.

WAICU:  How did your internship help you in your studies/provide a different perspective?

Siobhan: I am an accounting and finance student, and [the library’s participation in city budget] meetings showed me the real-world application of budgeting. The city was facing a 2 percent deficit. At the meeting, all the departments gave suggestions on how to combat the deficit. I loved seeing the city come together and try to solve the issue collaboratively. After attending those meetings, I realized I could see myself as a city’s general manager. I would not have known this without the opportunity WAICU has provided me.

It is common for the internship experience dramatically to change students’ professional paths. Former intern Katelyn Burton pursued a permanent position at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum after graduation in 2010 from Lakeland University and now serves as a mentor for the museum in the WAICU Internship Program.

WAICU: How did your internship help prepare you to begin your career after college? 

Katelyn: This internship showed me what it was like to work 40 hours a week in an office setting. Working with a small team to complete tasks gave me a good look into the local nonprofit culture, and a general idea of what working at a nonprofit was like.

WAICU: How has the experience of being a WAICU intern helped in your role now as a mentor?

Katelyn: I always strive to make sure that we are giving the intern jobs that not only help with our capacity issue, but also jobs that they find fun and interesting. I feel they will enjoy their work and work harder if they feel accepted and appreciated.

This program would not be possible without generous private philanthropy.