Lisa Wallace, director of career services, 406.657.1039,
RMC Media Team, 406.657.1105,

RMC students combine book smarts and work wisdom in community internships

BILLINGS, March 25, 2014 – Organizations in Billings and Rocky Mountain College students both highly value RMC internships in the work world, said Lisa Wallace, director of career services. Students find “wonderful ways to use what they’ve learned in a classroom setting,” she said. Businesses and organizations appreciate the “fresh perspective of an energetic, excited, and motivated individual that adds current learning to their operations.”

More than 80 percent of RMC students complete a semester internship focused on skills learned in their major or minor. Many RMC students also enjoy experiential learning that is not an internship, such as student teaching or a physician assistant clinical year. In spring 2014, approximately 90 RMC students are completing an internship.

Internships in the Billings community reinforce two of the core themes of the RMC mission statement: transformational learning and shared responsibility and stewardship. 

Most people grow and change more from their real-world experiences than from book study, even in a strong academic environment. Experiential education, learning from the real world, is irreplaceable in a liberal education. A student who proves him/herself in a mature semi-professional role grows from managing appropriate challenges. Whether analyzing airframes or banding birds, tracking inventories or teaching peers, it’s a treat to toil alongside mature mentors.

Juniors and seniors qualify for internships. “It’s a way to test the waters, to confirm or help clarify, to give a student time to refine their choices,” Wallace said. About half of RMC internships receive pay from their employers, who then must follow employment laws. Interns receive one semester credit for each 45 hours of work. 

Wallace explained that only 25 percent of tasks for an internship can be clerical or administrative; 75 percent must be pre-professional, and many employers say outright “I’d like to hire them” in written evaluations of students, she said. When they require major-focused work, internships can overlap with off-campus or on-campus work study positions.

As when they seek a career, students take some responsibility to find an internship. After students research their own wants and needs, Wallace gives them sure shots of connections she has forged, then students go sell themselves. “I help outline the steps to make connections,” Wallace said.

Until about 2008, every RMC student took an internship, but some of the College’s 32 major programs did not find enough local venues for students. English, communication studies, history, theatre, and the fine arts, for example, offer, but do not require, major-focused internships. In 2014, RMC is again exploring how to require a major-focused internship of every student. “I always am working to find ways to increase our students having more options,” Wallace said.

Meaningful employment outside of school lets students recognize their competence as they demonstrate performance. Students come back from internships with enhanced maturity and responsibility, because they learn how to contribute in the work world.

Below are comments from RMC community interns in the spring of 2014.

“I work for Falls of Neuse Management, as a general ledger accountant managing the fixed assets of the company and filing its sales taxes. I started my internship last spring, it has turned into a full time job, and they are moving me to Raleigh, N.C., upon graduation from college with my master of accountancy degree.

What I find especially satisfying are the bonds I have formed. I have met some of the best people and learned so much from them, both in accounting and in how to succeed in an office environment.

My internship has helped me grow in my communications skills the most. It amazes me how much of my days involves communicating with other people, be it electronic (email) or face to face. Rocky could not have prepared me better for my journey ahead.”

- Andrew Riordan, business major, intern with Falls of Neuse Management

“My spring psychology internship is at Head Start preschool, an education facility that provides educational and life skills to children at or under the poverty line. I am constantly learning and expanding into a role of confidence and leadership. I have been absolutely thrilled to work with some great educators and students!”

Emily Rapacz, psychology major, intern with Billings Head Start

“The most satisfying part of my job is gaining experience and insight into the political arena. I am growing in my knowledge within the world of politics. As well, I am learning how to respond effectively to concerned citizens in a professional setting. Right now, I like everything about my job.” 

- Mariah Gondeiro, intern with staff office of Rep. Steve Daines

“The amount of new stuff I learn each day, and the people I work with, are the most satisfying aspects of the work I do. I'm becoming a better software developer, with a deeper understanding of various types of technology.”

Chris Gilg, computer science major, intern with Link Communications, Inc.

“This semester, I am managing the Visit Southeast Montana annual travel guide, which will have 100,000 copies printed and distributed nationally. I am also managing the social media marketing for Visit Southeast Montana. 

Throughout my internships, I have met valuable, helpful contacts that have assisted me to grow in areas where I was not confident in my skills. My personal growth and relationships with my current and past employers will continue to propel me into the next chapter of my career.

I am blessed by the opportunities that I have been given and the kindness I have received from the business community.”

Benjamin Rose, business major, intern with Visit Southeast Montana

“Getting to interact with the staff and getting a feel of the workplace is especially satisfying about the work. I am learning different things and building up the knowledge of what to expect as we exit the college life.”

Noah Kiprono, accounting major, intern with Anderson ZurMuehlen

“I am working with HRDC in their VITA (volunteer income tax assistance). I assist the site coordinator with preparing and reviewing customers’ taxes and answering questions that they have about their returns.

The most satisfying part of my job is to be able to see their smiles and hear how thankful they are when we tell them how much money they are getting back. We are a completely free program, so we do save a lot of money for people who generally can't afford to get them done professionally. 

I am learning so much about taxes and the different deductions and tax brackets that each individual is in. I am learning how each individual return is so different and how I can try and save as much money as possible. I'm growing by learning about our government and the way that our tax system works.”

- Heather Smith, communication studies major with business minor, intern with HRDC #7