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BHSU students spend summer taking advantage of experiential learning opportunities

 

Kjersten Tofte, Black Hills State University corporate communications major from Casper, Wyo., is spending her summer as a marketing intern for Norwegian Outlet in Vestby, Norway. Tofte is one of many BHSU students taking advantage of experiential learning opportunities locally and around the world. 

In her short time as an intern for the Norwegian Outlet in Vestby, Norway, Black Hills State University student Kjersten Tofte has learned a great deal about the details of international marketing.

Tofte, corporate communications major from Casper, Wyo., has conducted marketing surveys, designed flyers, and worked to organize a day for all Embassies in Oslo to visit Norwegian Outlet, the only outlet village in Norway.

Tofte is one of many BHSU students taking advantage of experiential learning opportunities locally and around the world.  Her global experience is just one example of how BHSU provides opportunities for students through internships, faculty mentored research, service learning, on-campus employment and leadership activities.

Experiential learning is one of the best ways for college students and recent grades to secure their full-time dream job. According to a survey conducted by Internships.com, 69 percent of companies with 100 or more employees offered full-time jobs to their interns in 2012.

And whether or not the students get hired at the company they interned for, the hands-on experience will get them ahead of the thousands of other college students scouring the job postings after graduation.

BHSU’s emphasis on experiential learning opportunities for students helps them stay competitive in today’s job market. This year more than 140 students will participate in formal internships and more than 420 students will gain experience through on-campus employment.

Aside from her day-to-day learning opportunities, Tofte’s overseas internship has brought her something even more important – a boost in her self-confidence.

“I have become more confident in myself with the graphics I have designed as well as my communication skills,” she said.  “I have learned to be patient with people, especially when trying to explain something over the phone. I have learned new approaches to marketing businesses and figured out catchy ways to get people’s attention. Overall this internship has totally made me a more confident person.”

 

Chase Vogel, Black Hills State University business administration – economics and finance major from Cheyenne, Wyo., has a summer internship in Washington, D.C., with the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS), the nation’s leading advocate for the state banking system.

Chase Vogel who is spending his summer in Washington, D.C., interning for the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS), the nation’s leading advocate for the state banking system, says the experience has helped him narrow down what type of work he is interested in pursuing after graduation.

“Undoubtedly this will help me find a job after graduation,” said the business administration – economics and finance major from Cheyenne, Wyo. “I not only have learned a lot about the professional working world and the banking industry, but I have also been able to make great connections along the way with coworkers, senators and peers.”

Working with CSBS’s Professional Development division, Vogel’s internship includes assisting with the development and execution of a wide range of onsite and online professional training programs targeted for new and experienced financial institution examiners and financial industry professionals.

“I think personally I have learned throughout the whole process of applying for the internship, and now actually being able to sit in the office and work at it, is that one must be persistent and radical enough to go after what he wants,” Vogel said. “One can’t be hesitant or passive, because there is competition everywhere and someone else probably wants the same thing just as much as you do.”

Isaac Hanson, mass communications major from Valley Springs, has enjoyed the ability to work with real clients during his internship at the 724 Factory, a graphic design company in Sioux Falls.

“It is interesting working with real clients,” he said. “It has been fun because it’s experience and knowledge that I will need to know once I graduate and get a job. Working with real clients can also be a challenge because you may like designing a certain way, but you can’t always design the way you necessarily like if it’s not what the client wants.”

During his time at 724 Factory, Hanson has had a hand in nearly every aspect of the business from designing logos and posters to working with social media for clients and research. With a plan of having his own business one day, Hanson said his internship has been especially beneficial because he is able to see all aspects of running a small business.

“It is a great opportunity to learn a ton and be submerged in what the real world work is like,” Hanson said.

Many of the BHSU student interns noted a main benefit of their internships was the opportunity to network with professionals in the field.

Ashley Wingert, chemistry major from Custer, is one of six BHSU students interning at the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF). Wingert is working on the Majorana Demonstrator experiment – a project studying whether neutrinos are their own antiparticle. She is responsible for taking radon data above and below ground, labeling, tracking and cleaning copper parts that are machined down to the Davis Campus. Wingert said she has had the opportunity to work with people from around the world. 

“It’s been interesting to learn from all these people and to have new ways of thinking about things,” she said. “I’m hoping that my work (at SURF) will leave me better prepared for working in this environment in the future, as well as give me a better handle on working with different types of scientific technology.”

Jordan Dolph, mass communications major from Parker, Colo., said the contacts he has made during his time at JKD and Company in Lakewood, Colo., is one of the most important things he will take away from his summer internship. “A big part of any job especially in business and communications is networking,” Dolph said. “That is the single most important thing I will take away – all the people I have met and all the contacts I now have once I graduate. Hopefully this internship can help me land a great job after college.”

Though BHSU student Peter Soverns, psychology major from Spearfish, has worked with individuals with intellectual disabilities previously, his internship at the Northern Hills Training Center helped him gain a deeper understanding of what these individuals have to deal with on a daily basis, and the responsibility that goes a long with making sure the individuals are safe and healthy.

“The most valuable thing I have learned, and this is reinforced constantly, is that someone with an intellectual disability is an individual first,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who it is, they are a person and they may have a disability, but they want to be treated as a person first …”

All the BHSU interns said their classes helped in preparing them for their summer internship experience and plan to bring that knowledge back to the classroom this fall and to their future jobs after graduation.

 Tofte, who is the Norwegian Outlet’s sole intern, is already lining up an interview for Helly Hansen, a sporting clothes store headquartered in Oslo which has stores all over the world.

“Through this internship, I have already been in contact with the VP of Helly Hansen in the States, and have been working toward an interview,” Tofte said noting that her internship abroad has created so many opportunities for her.

“I’m very fortunate to be in the position I am in, and I will embrace everything I have learned from this experience,” she said.

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