While not required, we strongly encourage students to incorporate internships into their academic program. Internships are highly personalized and should be chosen to fit each student’s specific needs. Western Oregon University students have interned in over two hundred workplaces and groups in the past fifteen years.
Past internships have included the Oregon state legislature, Representative Peter DeFazio’s office in Washington, D.C., the Bureau of Land Management, the Polk County District Attorney’s Office, the Marion County District Attorney’s Office, the Oregon Senior Health Insurance Benefits Assistance program (SHIBA), various private law firms, Oregon Department of Natural Resources, and the Thuriah Medical Center of Saudi Arabia.
Wolflink (https://wou.edu/slcd/wolflink/) is an additional free service offered to WOU students for the purpose of networking and connecting students to jobs and internships. This website holds listings from all over the state and is a great resource for students looking for internships.
What Students THink:
Check out these student testimonials about their internships and the career skills that they developed!
Political Science Major | Communications Minor
“I worked as an intern for the Senate Republican Office for the 2016 Short Session. I was tasked with the responsibilities of helping with issue research, writing bill summaries, drafting memos, talking points and press releases, and preparing amendments. In addition, I was needed to attend events and committee hearings, track bill progress, and communicate updates with Republican legislators, state agencies, lobbyists, advocates and the public. In general, my internship consisted of learning how a legislative office supports all aspects of the legislature. My main objective was to help legislature staff move legislation forward.
I learned so much from this internship. When I signed up for it, I was trying to decide if I wanted to become a lawyer or a policy maker/legislative-aide. Through this internship, I found my calling — policy/legislative aide work. It was a lot of fun to see the ‘behind-the-scenes’ work that our elected officials do for the people they represent. This internship helped me learn how to take a bill, view it without bias, and then work on it. It taught me how to think outside of the box on my assigned tasks. My ability to be self-driven and learn quickly was a huge asset, and it really made my work stand out.
Overall, this internship was the best job I could have had because with the experience and knowledge I got from it, I was able to get another internship with the House Republican Office for the 2017 Session.”
Political Science Major | Communication Studies Minor
In winter term of 2016, I was your average college student. I was taking 4 or 5 classes while working part-time, just trying to get through school and get my degree in Political Science. About halfway through the term, one of my professors, Dr. Mary Pettenger, told me about an internship opportunity in the Community Internships Program (CIP) at WOU. The WOU CIP program coordinates paid, on-campus internships. This opportunity was as an “Outreach Intern” with the Politics, Policy and Administration Department, and it included a variety of different jobs. To my surprise, I made it through two rounds of interviews and was selected as the intern.
The internship started out with challenges. The original supervisor had to go on medical leave, so I was transferred to work with a different supervisor, Dr. Mark Henkels. My tasks within the internship varied, and part of my job was to figure out what needed to be done. I received some general guidelines on how to improve the departmental website, and I was asked to start work on a promotional flyer. Through this process, I had multiple meetings with Dr. Henkels, and he encouraged me to come up with my own creative ideas to present. I also had the opportunity to practice professional communication, both in person and by email.
At the end of the 10-week internship, we had improved the website greatly and developed a flyer, but some of our goals were still unaccomplished. Dr. Henkels was so pleased with my work, he offered to continue the internship into the fall of 2016 for credit and since then has extended the project into the winter of 2017. In short, I have now been working closely with the Politics, Policy and Administration Department for about a year on developing their website and communications.
What have I learned? I’ve added a line to my resume and learned some specific technical skills in website design. However, I have gained so much more than items to list on paper. As a direct result of this internship, I have decided to go into the field of Public Relations, hopefully within a government organization. My confidence in my ability to work in a professional environment has skyrocketed, and I have accumulated experience in WordPress web editing, written communication, and many other important career skills. Most of all, I have found what I love doing, and on top of all of this, I was paid and received college credit to discover this passion.
My accomplishments in this area are in no small part thanks to the incredible faculty and staff at WOU’s Politics, Policy and Administration Department. Over the course of this past year, I developed chronic sinus infections and became very ill, often missing several days of school or not accomplishing internship assignments in a timely manner. Through all of these trials, Dr. Henkels, Dr. Pettenger, and the other faculty and staff have been extremely patient and have done all they can to help me succeed. If it weren’t for their help, I would not have been able to maintain my grades and learning to the level that I desired. They truly are the best support team one could ask for.
If you are considering an internship, but you’re just not sure if it’s worth it, IT IS. The confidence you will gain in your abilities, the experience, the connections, and the skills you will develop are invaluable tools for a successful career. Do yourself a favor and seek an internship today. Talk to your advisor or Dr. Henkels for information and advice on what internship is right for you.
Public Policy and Administration Major with HR Concentration | Special Education/Vocational Rehabilitation Minor
“I began my internship experience in April 2016 for MV Advancements in Amity, Oregon, in their HR department. It is a small department, consisting of an HR manager and two HR specialists. When I came to work as an intern in April, one of the specialists was out on leave and did not return while I was engaged there. MV Advancements itself works with individuals experiencing developmental and intellectual disabilities. The umbrella of departments is varied and numbers about twelve to fifteen different entities or locations.
I began working in the department learning how the hiring process works from start to finish, doing reference calls, posting job openings, reviewing and sending resumes to hiring managers, putting hiring packets together, filing, and observing their company’s processes. I was able to participate in interviews of a temporary HR assistant position and assist in training as well. I also coordinated and participated in three job fairs within the surrounding community.
There were many things I learned in the course of my practicum. First, I learned ways to look for good jobs out there. There are many venues that I had to post job openings to and some of them are better than others. Second, I learned what employers are really looking for in an employee. Some skills are learned on the job but what really counts is what is called “soft skills”, meaning what you bring to the job. Some examples are work ethic, integrity, a team-player attitude, positivity, compassion, time management skills and flexibility to change priorities as needed. Third, I learned different ways of creating a resume so that employers are attracted to you immediately. Resumes are literally the first impression you give potential employers. It should reflect your best effort. Last but not least, I learned that there must be continual learning and education in any position you are hired for in order to make yourself a valued employee.
After completing my practicum hours, I was asked if I would like to be hired as a temporary HR Assistant until the Fall term began in September 2016. Once the term started, I reduced my hours but continued to be employed part-time. They did hire a new HR Specialist and my hours are now “on-call” but I am still an employee. I have truly enjoyed the experience and it has been immensely helpful in giving me a vision of types of HR work.”