Internship Stories

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Kaitlyn Conway

Kaitlyn Conway: Helping to Increase the Resilience of Communities

Kaitlyn Conway’s internship opened the door to her next step after graduation, and allowed her to grow in her understanding of how measurable changes are made toward creating sustainable communities. Working for Earth Economics, one of the things Kaitlyn learned is that behind the scenes work is just as important as public view work in effecting measureable changes. She didn’t see it before. Earth Economics is a science based economics nonprofit that works with clients to identify and place a dollar value on what nature provides. The goal is to support healthy ecosystems and resilient communities. Kaitlyn worked on case studies to see how rural communities benefit from better management practices on agricultural land. She mostly focused on small towns in Texas, but she sees the larger connection; the local economy helps the state economy, which in turn helps the national economy. Kaitlyn learned that water quality, soil quality, even the smaller things, all add up to a large impact. She also gained new insights on how small decisions in policy adjustments effect equity, and how we can offer help to less represented people. She said finding out what she has in common with them helped her to deepen her empathy for them, and again, she sees the larger connection. By helping individuals you help the community, which helps the state, the nation, and the world. For her, it was putting the catch phrase “Think locally, act globally” into action. Kaitlyn’s site supervisor, Angela Fletcher, said it was fun to come into work every day and learn a new fact from Kaitlyn about the communities she was researching. Angela was greatly impressed with Kaitlyn’s thoroughness and the high quality of work she did. Kaitlyn said she approached her internship with the attitude not of “I’m only here for three months”, but with the attitude “Hey, I have three months here!” She made an effort to put herself out there and make herself known to staff and they responded by mentoring her well. During her time at Earth Economics she formed a strong network and made friends. The people she met there introduced her to the idea of doing a year of AmeriCorp service in Alaska. Kaitlyn is considering going into environmental policy law, but hasn’t decided for certain yet. For now, she’s excited that the door opened for her to go to Alaska, and during her time there she’s confident that the next step will come to her through her work and through the support of the people around her. Whatever she ends up doing, she is certain it will be a way to be engaged in the community to create sustainability.



Lisa Henderson

Lisa Henderson: The Value of Genetic Counseling

Lisa Herndon’s summer internship confirmed for her that genetic counseling is exactly what she wants to be doing and in exactly the kind of setting her internship provided for her. Lisa worked with genetic counselors at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital. Lisa’s site supervisor, Cheyenne Dewey, commented that Lisa entered a challenging environment where within the small group roles are very dynamic, and things can get crazy, but Lisa fit in well and soaked up as much as she could in spite of it. Lisa savored every day of her time with them, because to her, genetics is endlessly fascinating. Everything you see is going to be unique so it’s always going to be engaging. Her faculty supervisor, Dr. Jack Vincent, was impressed that Lisa identified a research project on her own in collaboration with Cheyenne Dewey. The project was analyzing data related to the appropriateness and success of genetic tests ordered by primary care physicians. She helped create database support for an education campaign for providers to improve process efficiency. Lisa also sat in on patient consultations. She said it was very eye opening for her; especially with adoptive or foster parents trying to figure out what’s going on with a child. The value of genetic counseling for Lisa is that it gives people a place to go to ask very difficult specific questions of people who are trained to give understandable answers to non-medically trained people. It fills a void that exists between providers and patients. Lisa observed that each of the three genetic counselors she worked with had a really fine-tuned ability to pick-up on nonverbal cues from patients, which demonstrated to her how critical it is for sensitive communications. Cheyenne commented that Lisa’s receptiveness stood out as stellar. She asked perceptive and intelligent questions, and she is very driven to become the best genetic counselor she can be. Lisa said the most impactful part of her internship was that she came away feeling as though she contributed something positive to the community because genetic counseling helps people to make informed decisions and allows them to better cope with a disease.

Nathan Patrick: Celebrating a Community Through Local History

History major Nathan Patrick loves a great story, and his autumn internship offered him the opportunity to explore a legendary local history story at a deeper level. Nathan's task was to take the last light pole left from the infamous Galloping Gertie that collapsed into the Tacoma Narrows during a storm in 1940 and restore it. He cleaned it, primed it, painted it, and then he wrote the history of it.

Nathan was drawn to an internship with the Harbor History Museum because of its nautical appeal. His internship led him to also research the history of the Skansie family shipyard for his senior thesis. According to his faculty supervisor for both his internship and senior thesis, Dr. Elizabeth Sundermann, he was breaking new ground with his research. She believes his paper has the potential to be published, and the museum told Nathan they plan to keep it on file as the key secondary source on the topic. As a retired Naval Chief Petty Officer, his military skills helped him to organize and analyze his project. The museum's executive director, Stephanie Lile, says, "Nathan has been a great gift to the Harbor History Museum. The range of talent and experience he brings to the museum is a wonderful combination of life, genuine interest, and academic ability. Nathan has embraced all that we do at the museum and put his abilities and interests to work for the greater community."

When asked how the experiential aspect of his internship benefited him, Nathan replied that it's easy just to tell a story, "but in the museum, you have to be able to give people the story without talking to them." He explains that being out of the classroom, and not confined to a set curriculum, allowed him to follow the flow of the project and expand it as needed without the time limitations of the classroom. He was able to create layers of depth you can't get with just a computer; it's not the same thing as meeting people, putting on the white gloves, and touching the actual photos and objects. He says, "An internship forces you to get out of your bubble and communicate with people. It's an extremely beneficial growing experience." Dr. Sundermann commented that, "Nathan's internship experience has been a win-win for all involved and is really a testament to the benefits for a student, an institution, and the internship program."

The Rotary Club of Gig Harbor will rewire the light pole and install it in front of the Harbor History Museum between two flag poles. Join us at the February installation ceremony, where the history written by Nathan will finally be shared.

Nick Garcia

Nick Garcia: The Rewards of Engaging with Community Children

To engage students as much as possible, instructors often give students feedback and frequent opportunities to practice in class. But another important engagement tool is modeling desired actions and behaviors. When Nick Garcia took a Childhood Development course from Dr. Lauren Montgomery, he found a mentor who modeled compassionate community engagement with children. Dr. Montgomery utilizes an engaged learning project in both her Psych 101 course and her Childhood Development course. Her hope for the students is that “they discover how rich it is to connect with a child, to get to know them individually, their struggles and their irrepressible joie de vivre, and to learn how hugely diverse children are.” The Boys & Girls Club Al Davies Branch in Tacoma is where she takes her students to engage with children. She said that Nick dove right into the engaged learning project. He didn’t hesitate to immediately start working with the children, and he clearly understood both what he needed to do and also what he could learn and enjoy about them. She wasn’t surprise when he requested to continue working there another quarter through a TPSYCH internship. For Nick, it was watching Dr. Montgomery that inspired him to want to become more involved in community engagement with children. He wanted to learn more about childhood development, because of what he had learned from her in the classroom, but also because of the “real world” experience she modeled for the students through the engaged learning project. Nick’s internship site supervisor, Makenzie Lane, was impressed with how willing Nick was to step right in starting on his first day by helping staff to oversee the behavior of the Boys & Girls Club members. He picked up on staff’s expectations quickly and what they use to hold members accountable. Over the next few weeks, she saw Nick’s growth, and was delighted to see children run up to him, excited to see him, and get to spend time with him. During the homework hour, the children loved to get help from him. Both Dr. Montgomery and Makenzie were greatly pleased to have Nick intern because there are never enough young men who want to work with children, and as Dr. Montgomery explained, “boys in particular need attention and engagement with adult men just as much, or even more than with adult women.” Nick’s experience proved that to be true. He said that he was working with kids who constantly wanted his attention, primarily through conversation, but also through activities like games and homework. He learned about bullying behavior; how to see it and how to handle it. He observed a staff member named Ben, and liked how he handled the situations. He would straighten things out, but did it without being overbearing. He was non-threatening and friendly. Nick also learned from the children themselves; he said they are like one big family, and they know who is in the wrong, get in-between things to stop it, and will report it to staff because they want justice. Through watching staff, and communication with Dr. Montgomery, Nick learned how to interact with the children in a supportive and positive way. Nick built a strong relationship with the staff as well as with the children, and on his last day the kids made him a banner and signed it. She said, “They were all fighting to spend some last moments with him on his last day.” Nick came away feeling enriched and excited about working with children in the future. He may even continue on at the Boys & Girls Club as a volunteer.