An Inside Job

By: Christian Camerota '04

At many institutions, internships are an afterthought, left for already-busy students and faculty to identify, facilitate and monitor themselves.

Not so at Saint Michael's.

"Many internship programs are run through faculties and they don't have an internship office, per se," said Joanne Labrake-Muehlberger '75. "What sets St. Mike's apart is we have an office that is completely focused on these students."

Labrake-Muehlberger is particularly well-suited for and adept at her role as internship coordinator. She holds the unique position because of her numerous, far-reaching connections within the Burlington professional community and beyond. Those connections allow her to maintain a variety of standing internship agreements with reputable companies, while the internship-specific focus of her job enables her to tailor each internship to a student's needs and, in certain cases, even hatch a brand new internship from scratch.

Academic internships require 135 hours on-site, paired with frequent meetings and oversight by a specific faculty advisor.

That advisor and Labrake-Muehlberger ensure students are not only getting practical experience, but processing and packaging that experience properly afterward. Students are required to keep a journal of the internship, which can be a valuable resource afterward in accurately describing and referencing the experience during their job hunt. Finally, students must complete a reflective paper on what they learned about themselves and the businesses they worked at.

"We want them to get experience but also to process that experience," Labrake- Muehlberger said. "What did you see on site that you'll use down the road? Look at the meeting you were in—if it's a meeting that's run well, what went well? If not, where would you improve? If a site supervisor is under a lot of stress, do they handle it well? How do employees talk to one another?"

In this way, internships serve the dual purpose of providing practical experience and helping students identify what is important to them in their future employment. They also benefit from the strong, close relationships Labrake-Muehlberger has developed with the site supervisors and the overwhelming respect they have for the caliber of our students."

"The Burlington community is waiting for these students to knock on their doors," Labrake-Muehlberger says. "The site supervisors appreciate our students so much and tell me that our students are fabulous interns and have terrific work ethics. They're great team players. They really become an asset."

Over the years, Labrake-Muehlberger's connections and the strong reputation of St. Mike's students have led to many unique, desirable internship opportunities at sites like UBS, Sopher Investments, the Vermont Refugees Program, the Vermont Technology Council, the Vermont Council of World Affairs, Make-A-Wish, the IRS, the Vermont State Archives, the Flying Ryan Hawk Foundation, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, and the Burlington International Airport, a specially organized internship that allowed Justin Costanga '12 to pursue his dream career in airport management.

"The time to start is sophomore year," she said. "It's not just about going in and learning what you're studying at Saint Mike's is necessary and applicable and useful. It's also about how to develop as an effective professional. These sites bring students on, help them be part of their teams. They get to see so much they can't see elsewhere."

Fast Facts

  • St. Mike's students have access to more than 200 approved internship sites in the greater Burlington Area.
  • It's not all work - students also have to keep an internship journal and write a reflective paper.
  • When's the best time for an internship? Saint Michael's advice is to start actively pursuing them in the sophomore year.
  • For the first time at Saint Michael's, non-business major internships outpaced their counterparts.
  • USA Today reports there are approximately 1.5 million internships completed each year, about half of which are paid.
  • Overall internship numbers have climbed noticeably the last few years. Last spring, close to 80 St. Mike's students had spring internships.

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