In the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS), students learn inside and outside the classroom. The following Cyclones found real-life learning opportunities around the state, nation, and world this summer to prepare for their future careers and develop their professional skills.
While there are numerous resources available to students seeking summer internships, Shae Bernhardt (’26 public relations, event management) used old-fashioned networking to secure her summer public relations and communications internship with the Office of the Governor of Iowa.
At first, Bernhardt thought a prestigious internship in the state capitol might be out of reach, but she persevered and landed the job.
“I thought the state capitol was way above anything I could accomplish,” Bernhardt said. “But I put my foot in the door and didn’t quit until I had the position.”
Bernhardt explored events for Governor Kim Reynolds to attend throughout the summer, including the 99 County Tour project. Each year, Reynolds visits all of Iowa’s 99 counties, and Bernhardt was tasked with finding potential activities for her to attend.
“It challenged me to work outside the box because some counties don’t have many things to do,” she said.
Aside from new and challenging work responsibilities, Bernhardt enjoyed getting to know other interns from other colleges and universities across the state. She also realized that Iowa State has prepared her well for the professional work force.
“I felt very prepared for my internship based on what I learned at Iowa State,” Bernhardt said. “Research and people skills were a critical part of my everyday tasks. In particular, Journalism and Mass Communication 201 helped with the writing aspects of this position.”
Bernhardt is also grateful to Iowa State for providing her with a scholarship that covered her living expenses while she learned valuable career skills from an unpaid internship.
“I was beyond excited to receive an unpaid internship scholarship,” she said. “I chose not to have a second job so I could focus on my work in the Iowa State Capitol, so this scholarship was huge.”
Though she is a few years from graduation, Bernhardt’s summer internship helped define what her future career may look like.
“First off, my internship taught me that I do not want to work in politics in the future,” Bernhardt said. “However, a more important thing I learned was how to ask questions. Asking questions allowed me to get a tight grip on each project I did. By fully understanding what needed to be done, where to start, and what the end goal was, I could work more efficiently.”
A valuable investment
For Aditi Pokharkar (’24 economics), investing her time in a summer internship yielded career clarity. Pokharkar spent her summer as an advisory compliance intern with Cambridge Investment Research after obtaining the internship at an Iowa State career fair.
Pokharkar previously interned with Cambridge last summer in Iowa. This year, she interned at the company’s offices in Phoenix, Arizona. There, she learned to adjust to a new environment, from new daily weather patterns to diverse mindsets and perspectives.
“I loved the work environment,” she said. “Every day was new and challenging in an exciting manner, both in my personal and professional life. I relocated myself to the West Coast for the duration of this internship. Even though I was a second-year intern at this firm, I had the opportunity to interact with new people from different cultural backgrounds.”
Pokharkar, who also has a minor in data science, is interested in compliance-related work in the financial sector. Her favorite project this summer focused on U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) guidelines.
“One of my projects involved researching SEC guidelines and incorporating them into an accessible format so our associates can help financial professionals navigate the latest regulations set in place,” she said.
Pokharkar said she felt well-prepared to succeed this summer, thanks to campus career fairs, confidence-building extracurricular activities, and conversations with her academic advisors. The internship also provided insight for her future in the industry and confirmed her desire to pursue her master’s degree.
“I have gained a lot more clarity on where my expertise lies and what makes me truly happy,” she said.
A vital research experience
Claire Holtkamp (’24 global resource systems, chemistry) is making the most of her time at Iowa State University before she graduates in 2024.
As Iowa State’s first intern at the European Biological Control Laboratory (EBCL), located in France, she is able to expand her research skills as a chemist and pursue post-graduate studies in chemistry. The EBCL is operated by the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) and helps develop biological control technologies that can be used to get rid of invasive weeds and insect pests.
Holtkamp’s search for an internship started with some research on laboratories in France. Motivated by her interest in the country and its culture, she found what she was looking for with the USDA. With a technical interest in sustainability, Holtkamp was able to use the skills that her major provides her with and enhance her research skills.
“My internship has done so much for my future career. Most importantly, it has expanded my research experience,” Holtkamp said. “I want to become a full-time research chemist after I complete graduate studies. It has also greatly improved my networking, French, and experimental design skills.”
Taking ownership and expanding skills
Benedict Neo Yao (’23 statistics) spent his summer with Tesla Motors as a data analyst intern. In this role, he was able to add leadership, decision-making, and collaboration skills to his resume.
“My internship has been an invaluable step towards preparing me for my future career. It offered me a firsthand glimpse into the dynamics of the working industry, exposing me to real-world challenges and scenarios that can’t be replicated in a classroom setting,” Neo Yao said.
Neo Yao also participates in Iowa State’s developer student club. This experience prepared him for his internship by helping him gain leadership and decision-making skills, and he honed his ability to delegate tasks, set clear goals, and foster collaboration among team members. He strongly encourages other students to network with industry professionals.
“One of the most significant takeaways was learning how to take ownership of projects. This involved not just completing tasks, but understanding the larger context, setting goals, and driving the project’s success from inception to completion,” Neo Yao said.
Finding confidence and making strides
Lors learned several professional skills that have prepared her for a future career in marketing and communications. Some of her responsibilities included handling their monthly social media calendar, which developed her time management skills. She also answered emails and attended meetings. Lors even found the confidence to pitch her own ideas in front of others.
“Internships can be really important in finding a future career. I was offered a full-time position after my internship at this company, and likely would not have had such luck finding a position post-graduation if I had not done this internship,” Lors said.