Exploring the real value of a college internship

The summer of 2013 was an exciting time for Macy Kludt.

As a student at Crown College, the Communications Major had heard about an opening as an intern for the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters Baseball based in Wisconsin Rapids, WI. After being accepted into the internship program, she started working 60-70 hours per week, using her digital media production and design skills over the course of 72 games in a 75-day period.

“I knew I liked video and wanted an experience working in sports production,” says Kludt. “In this position I was solely responsible for a nightly four-camera webcast, broadcasting all home Rafters games. I was also responsible for producing videos for various promotional needs. And, I able to further develop my graphic design skills, creating various flyers and graphics.”

The experience paid off.

After Kludt graduated from Crown in 2014, she landed a position as the Digital Media and Design Manager for Big Top Baseball, which owns four minor-league baseball teams including the Rafters and has recently expanded, adding two additional teams.

“Big Top Baseball’s core philosophy is providing opportunities for young professionals to develop in the sports industry,” she says. “Within our organization, 22 out of the 28 full-time employees started as an intern or seasonal employee with one of our four teams.”

For many students, an internship is often a stepping stone to a rewarding career, as Darren Noble, the Director of the Office of Career Services at Crown explained.

“An internship benefits the student because it provides a valuable opportunity to learn in a real work environment with professionals in their industry,” he says. “A student is able to develop key competencies, skills, and work characteristics that employers seek.”

Noble outlined some of the benefits.

He says an internship helps students increase their understanding about an industry, gain self-confidence, and how to complete tasks outside of the classroom. Often, there are misconceptions about internships — that unpaid positions do not provide value, or that the best way to find one is through a web search. (He says 40% of all internships are not listed publically, and that the best way to find one is often through a referral or word-of-mouth.)

In some cases, he says an employer might even create an internship for a qualified student. A student might even suggest a role to an employer that matches up with their given skill set.

“We live in a world in which employers expect employees to make immediate impact in the company,” says Dr. Bill Kuhn, the Vice-President of Student Development and Campus Chaplain at Crown College. “Our students need to have as much job-related experience as possible to enter meaningfully into their desired profession. Such opportunities prepare students to not only find careers, but also thrive in those settings. Students also need to have soft skills like interpersonal relationship skills, communication skills, self-management skills.”

For Kludt, the opportunities with Big Top Baseball unfolded for her over the summer, which she now recalls as one of the most exciting and rewarding times of her life.

“My internship allowed me to gain experience in the field and discover that it is something I truly love being a part of,” says Kludt. “Being able to immerse yourself in the industry every day is something that you cannot replicate in the classroom.”