Dordt College News

Summer experiences

August 20, 2011

Student summer internships are sometimes adventures, often explorations, frequently motivating, and rarely simply a way to make money—although earning money for tuition is certainly a welcome benefit.

Faculty members notice a change in students when they come back to class after a summer internship in their field.

They might all change in different ways, says Dr. Duane Bajema, an agriculture professor, “but they all grow in professionalism and maturity.” Bajema says students have told him they’ve learned a lot about themselves through internships, too. They learn that they’ll work with people who see the world differently than they do; they learn to be more flexible; and they often begin to better understand who they are, how they’ve been shaped, and who they want to be.

History Professor Dr. Paul Fessler finds that students who come back to school after summer internships are more focused and confident. Dr. Robb De Haan, professor of environmental studies agrees. “I can certainly see a greater sense of purpose. They also mature.”

“Students come back knowing whether or not this is an area they might want to pursue for a career,” says Business Professor Art Attema. “Most see that their college coursework is directly relevant to the work they were asked to do in the internship.”

“I see changes in their professional development, both in job skills and general communication skills,” says Psychology Professor Dr. Natalie Sandbulte. “For many, these experiences not only help shape their future career path, but also their decision about whether or not to attend graduate school.”

“I think they begin to realize that their learning is part of the ‘real world,’” says Dr. Tony Jelsma, professor of biology.

“My primary motivation for doing this internship was the education and experience that comes from seeing what I’ve learned in class used in the workplace. I have always been interested in the banking industry, and the generous pay did not hurt,” says senior business major Michael Gorter about his internship this summer with the FDIC.

Engineering senior Luke Reznecheck pursued an internship to gain professional experience and help pay his tuition.

“I did not expect to get paid as much as I did, but like most students, I knew I needed a summer job. I looked for an internship that might lead to a full-time position after graduation,” he says.

Biology major Michelle Palmer says her internship was a combination of adventure, professional exploration, motivation, and financial benefit. She also saw it as an opportunity to be a Christian involved in science at a public university, interacting with people and sharing Christ’s love.

This past summer, Dordt students worked in rural businesses and major metropolitan cities. Among other places, they worked in labs and parks, for-profits and non-profits, cared for injured animals, and designed marketing materials. Here’s a closer look at a few of their stories.

Josina De Raadt

History major Josina De Raadt worked as a baker and a printer this summer. De Raadt wanted to explore possible careers that tie to her love of history, so she worked as a historical interpretation intern at Living History Farms in Des Moines.

“My typical day at the farm might include building a fire, baking bread over coals from the fire place, or cooking pancakes on a griddle precariously hanging over the open fire. At the print shop I composed period advertisements and even had the opportunity to print my own wedding invitations for an 1850 pioneer wedding ceremony,” says De Raadt, referring to the ceremony at which she played the part of the bride.

The goal of the internship was to help demonstrate to museum visitors what life was like on the pioneer farms and towns on the prairie in the mid-1800s.

“My job was to bring history to life.” Sometimes this meant talking about why she wore six layers of clothing on a 100-degree day; other times it meant showing visitors how to use the proof press.

“It was an amazing experience. I learned a great deal about everyday life in 1850s and 1870s Iowa,” says De Raadt, who had to master historical skills and learn a large volume of historical information within a short period of time.

She also learned that museum work is not the career she wants to pursue. Still, she earned six hours of college credit, based on papers she wrote.

“I love history and going to museums, but I do not like putting the exhibits together. I found that I prefer the argument of history to the presentation of it,” she says. She believes the internship made her more independent and resourceful, gave her experience working with the public, and helped her better understanding history. It was also fun, and she made several good friends.

“Plus it made me into an excellent baker, much to the delight of my present roommates,” she says.

Michael Gorter

Michael Gorter interned at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) in the Risk Management division. Based in Sioux City, he had to travel to a variety of banks in the area to help conduct bank examinations that would verify the safety and soundness of a bank’s financial position.

“I was hoping to find out how what I had been learning in class translated into real life and at the same time learn about the banking industry,” says Gorter.

His goals were realized. Interns at the FDIC are treated almost like new hires. He was assigned trainers and a coach who oversaw his training. As the summer went on, his responsibilities increased.

“Time and again I saw the importance and applicability of the concepts I am learning at Dordt,” he says. “Sometimes the amount of work and material I had to absorb was challenging, but even this challenge was a highlight for me.”

Gorter found his internship helpful for thinking about his future too. Interns at the FDIC typically receive job offers a couple of months after completing the internship, but he’s chosen not to pursue this route.

“I enjoyed the internship, but I do not feel called to make bank regulation a career,” he says.

Michelle Palmer

Michelle Palmer came up with a method to measure the health and strength of cells in the body this summer. In more scientific terms she worked with a Principal Investigator (PI) in the Biochemistry lab in the Redox Department at the University of Nebraska Lincoln (UNL) to develop and refine an in vitro method for measuring levels of oxidative stress in cells. The goal of the research is to learn more about cell activity as it relates to diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and possibly some cancers.

Palmer wanted to get some lab experience to help her think about her future in science. She also hoped to learn more about graduate school.

Palmer and her PI developed and refined an in vitro method using high performance liquid chromatography to measure the chemical balance in cells so they could determine how much oxidative (toxic) stress the cell they were studying was experiencing.

“I learned more than I expected or hoped,” she says. “I learned that science isn’t cut-and-dried. And when my research was stalled or when things didn’t go as planned, I learned to stay positive and reflect on what happened and why.”

Palmer learned more about science, and she learned what to expect from and how to prepare for graduate school and a profession in research. She also established relationships with others already in the program at UNL—something she’s been told is important in the science world.

“After such a meaningful, rich, and shaping experience, I am quite convinced I’ve found my niche,” she says. She plans to attend graduate school, hoping for a career as a researcher.

“But even though plans for my future have been refined, there are still so many options and so much I don’t know,” she says. She’ll continue to lean on God for wisdom and direction.

Luke Resnecheck

Luke Resnecheck was excited when he heard that he had received an internship with Zachry Holdings, Inc. this summer He already knows he wants to work for a company that works in the power generation industry, and Resnecheck worked with biomass conversion at Zachry.

“At the beginning of the summer I viewed this internship as a growing experience for my career portfolio. It became much more than that,” he says.

Resnecheck worked with the engineering branch in the Mechanical Engineering Design Group at Zachry. Although the company is based in San Antonio, Texas, he worked out of their Minneapolis office, allowing him to live at home for the summer. Dordt graduate Bjorn Vaagensmith (’11) had a Zachry internship in solar energy in Omaha.

“I was very impressed by the company’s policies and their treatment of their employees,” says Resnecheck. “I gained a lot of technical and professional knowledge about the power industry, as I was hoping to, and I’m still very interested in that line of work.”

Resnecheck also learned something about the role of a company in the life of an employee. “Choosing a job at any company is more than showing up from 8 to 5 and collecting a paycheck. Co-workers have a strong impact on your life and on how much you enjoy your work,” Resnecheck says.

“I learned that finding work that gives you satisfaction not only depends on doing something you enjoy, but also working in an atmosphere that encourages growth in all areas of life,” he says. He found the atmosphere at Zachry to be honest, open, and friendly and felt that they encouraged growth of the whole person: physical, financial, and spiritual.

“This experience has affected my ideas about my future,” he says. He has a better idea of what he will look for in a job and understands that career paths don’t always follow a predictable route. He’s also decided to wait to attend graduate school, because he feels work experience will prepare him to get more out of additional schooling.

Liz Van Drunen

Last year, Liz Van Drunen began thinking that she’d like to go abroad during the summer between her junior and senior year. She also wanted to connect it to her education studies. So, she walked into Dr. Tim Van Soelen’s office to ask where to start. Just that day he’d received an email from James and Aileen Riady looking for college students to teach in the summer program at Sekolah Pelita Harapan (SPH), a Christian school they founded in Indonesia.

“I was hoping to gain a greater understanding of education, in a broader context. And I was eager to visit a Christian school in a country that is predominately Muslim, teaching students who come from a different cultural background than mine,” she says.

Van Drunen applied and, along with nine other Christian college students, was accepted. Throughout her spring semester, she thought about and prepared lessons to take with her to Indonesia, enlisting the help and advice of her education professors as needed.

“I so overprepared. But it was great because when I got there I could choose my favorite lessons—and have more free time in the evenings,” she says.

Van Drunen describes her nearly six weeks in Indonesia as filled with one unforgettable experience after another. She was on Bali for one week, Nias for one week, and Java for three weeks.

“I had the time of my life visiting three different Indonesian islands, teaching at two schools, and interacting with passionate Christian teachers,” she says. Indonesia is 90 percent Muslim. Yet Van Drunen was amazed to see the government allowing Christian schools to start popping up throughout the country.

On Nias, she taught English to 10th grade students for a few days, staying in a dormitory with other teachers. It was a memorable experience for many reasons, one of them being awakened by the sound of fellow teachers singing.

“We couldn’t help but get excited about teaching after seeing their enthusiasm,” she says.

“The teachers are so passionate about their work,” she continues. Some of them received free tuition for teacher training if they committed to five years at SPH, and they’ve committed themselves entirely to their students and Christian education. Many of the students on Nias are poor, some are orphans, and some have never seen North American people, but all treated Van Drunen and her fellow teachers incredibly well, she says.

On Java, she taught in a three-week summer program at Lippo Village Sekolah Pelita Harapan. Students there learn in English, and Van Drunen taught mostly science classes, mimicking volcanoes, creating experiments, and exploring the outdoors.

“I am so thankful for the opportunity to spend my summer in Indonesia and will never forget it. It will forever be special to me, not only because of all the amazing times I had, but because of how much I learned about life, teaching, and God while I was there,” says Van Drunen.

Nathan Rider

Nathan Rider knows where he wants to serve: he wants to help provide safe and clean water to the developing world. That’s why he spent the last three summers working with EDGE OUTREACH, a faith-based nonprofit in Louisville, Kentucky. EDGE trains people to install low-input/high-output mini water treatment plants, to teach health and hygiene education, and to repair broken hand water pumps.

“We are trying to help raise awareness of and bring an end to the world water crisis, because of which 25,000 people died today and every day due to lack of access to pure drinking water,” he says. This summer he worked on a research project with a student from Georgetown College in Kentucky and with Dordt College student Nathanael Couperus to improve systems currently used to provide pure water in disaster relief situations.

Rider is committed not only to the work he does with EDGE but also to its people and mission.

“The small staff at EDGE has adopted me into their story and culture,” says Rider. He has participated in a service work program since he was in seventh grade and the staff nurtured him so that he was able to help lead the program this year.

“The executive director of EDGE saw leadership abilities in me that I hadn’t yet seen,” says Rider. By returning to work at EDGE, he was hoping to continue developing those abilities.

“Working at EDGE OUTREACH always changes me. The folks at EDGE love the Lord and know how to live in a way that shows it. I struggle with the idea of what it means to be a missionary, but I think after working at EDGE I am starting to get it. ‘Missionary’ is not a job title; it comes in a package bundle with the title ‘Christian,’” says Rider. “At EDGE, we do what we do because of our faith, but we consider ourselves like firemen entering a burning building: we will train anyone willing to combat the world water crisis with us. We will provide pure water because that is what EDGE staff and volunteers do: empower ordinary people to provide safe and clean water around the world. And our words and actions speak about the lifesaving gospel message.”

Working with EDGE OUTREACH “quenches a passion” to serve for Rider. It also links to his goal to teach agriculture in developing countries.

“Why teach a man to fish if he has no pure water to drink? If he is drinking contaminated water, he is sick.” Even with a healthy diet, diarrhea from impure water ravages the digestive system to the point that people are malnourished.

“My goal of working as an international agricultural community development worker cannot be carried forward without pure water,” he says. “This internship is a necessary link to my success in that task.”

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