MURRAY, Ky. — Students in the nonprofit leadership studies program at Murray State University are spending their summers giving back to their communities and advancing their understanding of the nonprofit sector through various internship opportunities.
The nonprofit leadership studies program in the College of Education and Human Services prepares students for nonprofit work through tracks in nonprofit management and outdoor recreation. As students continue to advance their understandings of the nonprofit sector as a whole through coursework and hands-on learning opportunities, multiple students in the program are pursuing summer internships to experience what their future career paths have to offer.
“Nonprofit leadership studies internships provide vital hands-on experiences for our majors during which they have an opportunity to practice and affirm classroom knowledge as well as gain new skills and work-place competencies,” said Dr. Judy Brookhiser, associate professor. “According to the extremely positive feedback from [students’] supervisors, our interns this summer are doing outstanding work in a variety of organizations.”
Mack Shannon, a senior from Paducah, first developed an interest in the field of recreation as a possible career path after spending five summers as a lifeguard at Noble Park Pool in Paducah. He is now pursuing an internship with Paducah Parks and Recreation.
“I think it is important for students to pursue internship opportunities because they get experience in their field and a feel for what it is like,” Shannon said. “My time at Murray State has prepared me for this internship opportunity by helping me grow and learn how to work with others in a job setting.”
On a regular basis, Shannon is responsible for assisting with projects as needed, gathering supplies, making flyers, answering phones and running errands. The internship with Paducah Parks and Recreation, he said, is a crucial step in achieving his career goals.
“So far in my internship, I have enjoyed working hands on with the community and putting together events that people can take advantage of and enjoy,” Shannon said. “My long-term goal is to work my way up the ladder of a parks department and move on to eventually work in national parks.”
Ariell Monroe, a senior from Elkton studying outdoor recreation with a minor in biology, also aspires to work in parks. Monroe grew up watching wildlife conservationists and interpreters like Jeff Corwin and Steve Irwin on TV, which served as the catalyst for her own career goals: to share the wonder of nature with others.
“They showed me that learning about wildlife, conservation and the outdoors can be fun as well as the importance of teaching others about natural resources,” Monroe said.
She is currently doing just that through an internship with Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park. In her day-to-day responsibilities, Monroe maintains recreational facilities and cares for the park’s resident educational animals. She also creates, implements and leads various educational programs for guests, including crafts, games and concerts.
Monroe first learned about the internship opportunity from Aviva Yasgur, a Murray State alumna of the nonprofit leadership studies certificate program and incoming student in the University’s Master of Public Administration program. Monroe met Yasgur, who would ultimately become her internship supervisor, while volunteering at Woodlands Nature Station in Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. Working with Yasgur has further helped her develop her program-planning skills, Monroe said. Looking ahead, she hopes to use her experiences with Kentucky Dam Village and the Woodlands Nature Station to prepare for a career as an interpretive park ranger, naturalist or recreation specialist.
“To see the smile on kids’ faces when they touch a turtle for the first time or make a craft with their families is so worth it,” Monroe said. “My goal for any program is to see the visitor smiling and making a memory with their family.”
Brenner Ullery, another student in the nonprofit leadership studies program, is pursuing an internship that serves the South Bend/Mishawaka community in Indiana. Although Ullery initially began her time at Murray State with a different major, she ultimately switched to nonprofit management after taking a class about community engagement and seeing all the ways she could make a career out of helping people.
Now, the senior from Mishawaka, Indiana, is pursuing an internship with Habitat for Humanity of St. Joseph County. She works with the nonprofit’s homeownership and marketing/development teams with different responsibilities in each role, ranging from maintaining databases and assisting at events to sending thank-you notes to sponsors and creating short bios about families for promotional materials.
“I wanted to gain some experience, learn the ropes of a nonprofit organization and find a job I would enjoy,” Ullery said. “The one that caught my eye was Habitat for Humanity of St. Joseph County. I think they do amazing work, and I wanted to help people achieve their dream of [having] a home and being able to call it their own.”
As Ullery prepares to enter her senior year at Murray State, she aspires to hold the role of executive director for a nonprofit organization one day. Internship opportunities, she said, are a step toward making that happen.
It’s a sentiment Brookhiser echoed.
“Internships provide students opportunities to learn about organizations, network with professionals and focus their career goals,” Brookhiser said. “They provide critical additions to résumés — especially for those with little or no professional work experience — and serve as important transitions between college and professional careers.”