Iowa State students' summer internships come in all shapes and sizes

AMES, Iowa -- For their summer vacations, Iowa State University students are fanning out across the globe doing everything from mosquito netting distribution in Uganda to tropical landscape maintenance at SeaWorld. They're participating in summer internships, those valuable resume builders that signify practical experience.

The importance of internships is multifaceted, says Kathy Wieland, director of business career services at Iowa State.

"Of primary importance is the opportunity for the student to apply what has been learned in the classroom in a workplace setting. This can confirm the career choice or allow for a change in direction," Wieland said. "Conversely, the employer has the opportunity to 'test drive' the candidate for future opportunities."

And, Wieland says, data indicate that students who intern get better jobs, quicker and at higher salaries.

Sustainable fashion in Ghana

For Hillary Van Ham, Batavia, Ill., this summer's internship working on product development with Global Mamas in Cape Coast, Ghana, is worlds away from her last summer experience doing merchandising in a Chicago dress boutique. Van Ham is one of three Iowa State apparel merchandising, design and production majors interning with the non-profit, fair trade clothing organization that assists women in Africa to become economically independent.

To land the internships, seniors Van Ham and classmate Jessica Galasso, Des Moines, networked directly with Global Mamas, following a lead from Ann Thye, their academic adviser. Both students had expressed interest in fair trade and sustainable fashion. Although the experience will boost their resumes, it won't augment their incomes. The eight-week volunteer stint is unpaid.

Still, says Thye, it's a win-win for the students. They can put their class work to good use in the global fashion industry while learning from an organization that is a model of good business practice and artisan collaboration in support of sustainable development. The students also earn class credit for completing projects like designing garments, hand dying textiles and improving the supply chain.

On two continents

Nicholas Hodne, an international business and management major from Ankeny, is splitting his 13-week Tyson Foods internship between China and Arkansas. Hodne scored the unpaid job by networking with contacts made at a career fair. In Shanghai, he'll spend time in each area of business operations; in Arkansas, he'll work with the international legal and marketing teams, his two primary career interests.

"The experience I will gain is priceless," said Hodne, who plans to pursue a combined law/MBA graduate program. "Putting an experience like this on my resume will really help me stand out from other grad school and job applications."

Designed his own

Darrin Vanderplas created his own internship opportunity in Kamuli, Uganda, where he will intern with the non-governmental organization Volunteer Efforts for Development (VEDCO). The agronomy and kinesiology senior from Preston, Minn., collaborated with VEDCO during ISU's school garden service-learning course in Uganda two summers ago.

"This experience was so influential in the development of my goals, that I proposed this internship to VEDCO and the kinesiology department," said Vanderplas, who plans on serving in the Peace Corps with his wife after graduating in May 2011.

During his 10-week unpaid internship, Vanderplas will assist a community nutrition and health worker in providing education and training in agriculture and health. They'll work on anything from "promoting nutrient-dense crops to distributing mosquito netting."

Building on experience

Past experience at Meredith helped Dixon land a plum internship

"I'll be working on the design of promotional pieces for Kitchen of the Year," Dixon said. "House Beautiful builds a full kitchen in Rockefeller Center that is featured on NBC's 'Today' and open for tours."Past work experience and portfolio samples from Meredith Corp. in Des Moines launched graphic design major Gail Dixon into a plum internship with House Beautiful magazine in New York City. The senior from Grimes will work for the promotional art director. Although the internship is unpaid, she'll earn class credit. And she'll come away with "many pieces for my portfolio."

Orlando bound

Class work samples helped Bickford get a creative internship.

Another graphic design student, Ryan Bickford, Ottumwa, also tracked down his unpaid 10-week internship online. He'll be at Nickelodeon Recreation Creative Studio in Orlando, working on print promotional materials for Nickelodeon's theme park, resort and traveling live shows. The only graphic design student in the nation selected for the internship, Bickford says the internship is "costing me money," but worth it because "working in a place that is creative and fun and uses radical design" will be a big resume builder.

Horticulture student Laura Klavitter, LeClaire, will be nearby at one of SeaWorld's three Orlando parks. In her paid internship, she will maintain high-end, colorful tropical landscapes. She'll help install new plantings, care for hundreds of hanging baskets and plants, maintain topiary presentations, and "learn how to handle high-guest capacity challenges in the landscaping industry." It's a perfect job for Klavitter, who graduates in December.

"SeaWorld would be my ideal career choice, but I'm keeping my options open," Klavitter said. "It ties into my passion to work with tropical plants and provides the experience of creating themed displays in a well-known, high-capacity park."