Internship Spotlight: Renville County Extension

By: Breannca Bussert, U of M Student

Last summer, I worked for Renville County Extension as their intern. I had the opportunity to learn a lot of new things, as well as improve my skills. When I accepted this internship, I wasn’t expecting to do a lot of summer enrichment programs; I thought that my role would involve getting ready for the summer, chaperoning the overnight camp, and maybe going to an ambassador meeting or two. As it turns out, I did most of those things… but I also did a lot more!

My main duties, and the area where I learned the most, involved planning and running the summer enrichment sessions that were held for youth grades K-5. Each week, I was in charge of planning a new activity that would teach a new skill or scientific concept. I would meet with the Extension Coordinator (my boss, Lisa), and together we would put on these sessions for the youth. We reached over 200 youth in four different locations. I also spent time preparing for the fair by working on flyers, programs, and back tags, labeling awards, and completing other tasks. Because I was in 4-H and had seen the results of that kind of work – but had never been involved in preparing all those things – I found this to be exciting.

Overall, I learned quite a bit about Extension. I learned the importance of planning things out ahead of time, and while working on the enrichment sessions, I also learned about making adjustments through trial and error. Sometimes you have to improvise! I was able to work on team, and also work independently. I really did enjoy my experience and I can see myself possibly working in Extension Services some day!


Internship Spotlight: Cardinal Homebuilders

By: Jacob Roerick, U of M Alumnus

Throughout my internship with Cardinal Homebuilders as a Supervising Assistant for new construction sites, I had many great learning experiences that helped me develop into an effective employee in a professional environment. My responsibilities grew exponentially as I learned more and more about the business and its inner workings. My primary responsibilities involved soil sampling potential building sites through proctor compaction tests, and learning the characteristics of soil that were best suited for laying home foundations. I also learned about establishing grades through land surveys, and how to map out the overall drainage system that would route irrigation and rain runoff to sewer systems and drain basins that we established in each development.

Every day on the job site presented a new learning opportunity that helped mold me into an asset for the company. The most difficult learning aspect was operating all of the different types of machinery on the job. From completing soil compaction tests using proctoring tools, to learning how to excavate using a front end loader or a backhoe, I obtained skills that will help me progress in this field. By the third month of the internship experience, I was able to coordinate schedules with subcontractors, meet with city inspectors and engineers to establish approved land surveys, manage the construction of a new housing site, and pass the final inspection that enabled the builders to start erecting homes. The communication skills that I developed through these professional encounters have proven to be extremely beneficial.

Over the course of this extensive internship, there were many highlights. We nearly completed our Oakdale housing development that we began in early spring. By mid-August, I had been given almost complete management control over the development of the remaining eight housing units. As we began our North St. Paul development, my job supervisor spent much of his time at that development preparing new surveys, therefore I was able to hone my management skills even more, while still being able to ask questions over the phone. We set the foundations for the final homes, and finished up any landscaping projects before the winter hit.

I am amazed at how far I came through this career-forming process, and I am excited to pursue a career in this line of work. Every day on the site was extremely entertaining and interesting, as I continued to learn more and more about the trade from contractors and city officials. It is extremely rewarding to look back at my contributions towards making each homeowner’s experience a positive one, and through that, I will continue to work to develop a great reputation for not only myself, but for the company as a whole.


Internship Spotlight: Round Lake Vineyards & Winery

By: Courtney Pietras, U of M Student

If I had to give a title to summarize my internship, it would be called, From the Ground Up: Literally and Figuratively.  Literally, as in I have planted grape vines into the ground. Figuratively, in the sense of reflecting upon how much I have grown as an individual, leader, and professionally throughout my internship at Round Lake Vineyards & Winery.  I began my internship as the “city girl.” I was clueless about small town culture, had never performed manual labor, and barely knew how a small family business operated.  With no friends or family within 100 miles, my journey of growth began alone. As I stepped in the door, only one thing was certain; I was making my first step in pursuit of my dream career in the wine industry.

My tasks ranged from selling and educating guests about wine, to writing an article for the winery’s newsletter, to spending an entire day lifting 8 foot logs for posts in the new vineyard. From bartending weddings, to harvesting grapes, to being smothered in newly pressed grape juice. From creating operation procedures and menu items for the newly installed food truck, to bottling wine, to barrel tasting.  I concluded my internship by hosting a tasting at a local liquor store, and as I reflect upon what I learned and accomplished these past six months, I am ecstatic for my future endeavors in the professional world.

Being the type-A perfectionist that I am, I quickly learned that humiliation and mortification was all a part of the learning process.  Within 30 minutes of my first day on the job, I shattered a wine bottle. Later that day, I was corrected for misusing a janitorial mop.  With the influx of information I was given early on, I was so focused on not messing up that I even began to memorize and create my own systematic method for how I should greet and sell wine to guests.  It wasn’t until Scott, the owner of the winery, caught me attempting to memorize my robotic method, that I realized I was missing the point.  “Why are you trying to memorize how to talk to people? I know you know how to be personable with others, so stop trying to be a robot. Relax and smile.  You are an intern, and making mistakes is all a part of the process.”  After Scott’s words of wisdom, my confidence was boosted, I was much more relaxed and began to thrive from the mental challenge of creating sales pitches that were unique to every individual’s wine taste preferences.  Working in the tasting room made me interested in applying for jobs in sales because although rejection can be frequent, the self-fulfillment I received from guests’ compliments, influx of purchases, and the overall sense of making the winery a destination was empowering.

Round Lake Vineyards & Winery had only been open for a year, so the owners were always seeking new opportunities and brainstorming ideas to grow their business. With the desire for constant improvement instilled in the work climate, trial and error methods and structural were applied frequently, and being a bystander was never an option because there is always room for progress. It was not until overseeing the newly installed food truck that I could grasp the ability to accept that plans will sporadically change.  I was the one reporting solutions and problems to the owners.

My intention as an intern was to gain a well-rounded experience for how the wine industry works, so with the variety of tasks I was assigned, I became the “go-to” person wherever help was needed around the property.  Overcoming my personal challenges of accepting mistakes and frequent change enabled me to step out of my comfort zone and create relationships with colleagues, which lead to Round Lake becoming my second home.

round-lake-vineyards-wineryPictured here: Courtney power washing the bin where the juice from pressed grapes is collected and transported by pump to a stainless steel tank. The press is in the background.

Internship Spotlight: Clark County 4-H and Agricultural Extension

By Megan Schulte, U of M Student

During my internship with Clark County 4-H and Agricultural Extension, I was able to work with the extension agents to mold my internship around my interests. With my background in 4-H, I wanted to do a wide variety of tasks within their county program. Growing up on a dairy farm, I have a huge interest in all things that have to do with cows. So when it came to Ag Extension, I was luckily able to focus on the dairy and crop side of things! For example, I had the opportunity to help coach the county’s 4-H dairy judging team after their coach retired. At the end of the summer, I was able to chaperone the dairy kids from the county on their trip to the state fair.

The first week of my internship, I started planning three different summer camps. The first camp was a 4-day, 3-night extended camp for older 4-H members.  It was held at a private lakefront campground, and we were able to go hiking, swimming, and canoeing every day! One of my favorite memories was when the campers performed the skits they had been preparing throughout their time at camp. After that camp, I planned and facilitated two other camps: an overnight for middle school 4-H’ers and a day camp for Cloverbuds and Explorers.

After camp season ended, I dove right into planning two events for the Clark County Fair. The first was an end-of-the-year party for 4-H’ers to celebrate the accomplishments of the year. This event was held at the dairy show arena. There were various activities and games for members to play, and we also recognized some of the major accomplishments of various members (including the results from the dairy judging contest and the awards members won at the Wisconsin State Fair). The second event I planned was a showcase of various theater projects. The theater aspect of 4-H is something that is often forgotten, as the performances don’t occur at the county fair. This event allowed the members involved in that project to showcase their talents to visitors at the county fair.

With a lot of my time over the summer spent on 4-H, I didn’t have a lot of time to work with the Agricultural Extension agent. However, I was able to help do a few tasks including counting bug traps around the county. Whenever I had spare time, I was able to travel around the county and tour dairy farms, including two different robotic milking set ups and the USDA farm in Marshfield, Wisconsin.

I was able to utilize other talents unrelated to agriculture throughout this internship as well. Because of my passion for photography and Clark County’s need for photos from various 4-H events, I was able to capture high-quality images that were used in their newsletter and on social media outlets. At the extended summer camp, I took pictures of the members participating in activities, designed a slideshow, and created a DVD each of the campers.



Internship Spotlight: Land O’ Lakes/WinField’s Integrated Marketing Communications Team

By: Heather Franke, U of M Alumna

Last summer, I spent my time interning for Land O’ Lakes on WinField’s Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) team. This team facilitates the strategic planning and execution of marketing communication for all WinField brands, to help drive business. As their intern, I supported the IMC team by helping manage day-to-day needs of several communication projects with internal teams, agency partners, and vendors. I also helped launch a new brand called HarvXtra®.

Being involved in various communication projects truly absorbed me into the team’s efforts and served as an incredibly valuable summer. This experience was made up of excellent opportunities to learn from some of the best subject matter experts and passionate marketing team members. My primary project involved organizing the asset collection for the newly launched HarvXtra® alfalfa with Roundup Ready® Technology. For this assignment, I connected with grower customers to plan a photo shoot of the alfalfa. From the photo shoot, the team collected assets for any future marketing communication efforts for HarvXtra®.

I’m incredibly grateful to have experienced the marketing communication process first-hand with a great company. I am most thankful to have learned from the team members who truly embraced me as their intern and held me responsible for a summer full of growth! My passion for the agricultural industry only expanded because of the great people I worked with and the wonderful talents they shared with me. Exposure to people like the WinField IMC team will only make my career in agriculture more rewarding, and I hope to offer the same support to others on their way, too. The summer of 2016 was one for the books, that’s for sure!

heather-frankePictured here: IMC team members (including photographers, drone operations and HarvXtra® experts) on the day of our photoshoot in beautiful Eastern Wisconsin. This picture was taken from a drone! So cool!

 From left to right: HarvXtra® marketing leader Alison Foxx, the professional photographer, an account executive from the agency, Heather Franke, a HarvXtra® employee, a creative director from the agency, and the drone operators.