VCSU internships offer career experience

In the working world, there is the age-old argument of the value of experience versus education, but Valley City State University is providing its students an opportunity to gain both through its internship program.

Marcia Foss, VCSU’s Director of Career Services and Internships said the college tries to identify employers who might be able to provide a work experience similar to what the student is studying.

“It needs to be meaningful work, so they’re not just standing at a copier.”

Foss said there are currently twelve VCSU students interning in a variety of career paths, including the Barnes County Museum, the State’s Attorney’s office, the Highway Patrol, the State Hospital, the Chamber of Commerce and the Abused Persons Outreach Center, to name a few. In the past, students have also logged intern hours at Walt Disney World and at legislative offices in Washington, D.C. The internships can be paid or unpaid, and the student works for a minimum of three course credits.

“It’s an opportunity to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to a work setting,” Foss said. “The practical experience helps in their job search, and a good recommendation can be really critical in helping them find a job.”

VCSU student Anna Fuka, a sophomore from Lidgerwood, N.D., is majoring in Exercise Science with minors in Psychology and Coaching. She is also a distance running standout on the VCSU cross country and track teams, and was recently named to the all-DAC Team in both sports.

Fuka began an internship at The Legacy Place in January, and essentially began building an aerobic regimen for the residents from scratch.

“We implemented lower and upper-body exercises, and three days a week we are in the cardio room,” Fuka said.

Developing water wellness exercises, an employee wellness program and On the Move activities like “aqua-cise” in the facility’s saltwater pool have been part of Fuka’s practical experience at Legacy.

“We chose a variety of exercises and assess each person individually to see how much they can handle, from low, medium to high intensity,” she said. “A lot of my classes are targeted toward things that I use here, like different muscle groups, and the importance of mental and physical wellness.”

On a physical level, working on flexibility and range of motion can help reduce the risk of falls and injuries. Especially for seniors, exercise provides endorphins for fighting depression and boosts self esteem, which is important at this stage in their lives.

“It gives them a little more energy,” Fuka said.”I know for some of them it’s opening their options up to learn that wellness can still be an option for them.”

Tamie Gerntholz, RN and Administrator at Legacy, said without Fuka, the idea for an exercise program would’ve gone undeveloped.

“I have seen strides in (residents’) confidence, and I know we’ve kept several people from having to go to long-term care just by bringing them in here to exercise a few times a week,” she said.

“Tamie called and told me her idea, and it really fit in with our exercise science major, so it was kind of a no-brainer,” Foss said. “It’s been a great experience for Legacy Place. (Anna) wanted to have the experience and it will certainly build on her resume. She’s basically volunteering her time.”

For Fuka, her work at Legacy has really been an eye-opener in terms of choosing a career path.

“With my strength and conditioning major at VCSU, I thought I would want to work with young athletes when I got older, but now I think I want to work more with the elderly population. They’re a lot of fun and they really put me in a good mood.”