UMN Crookston students get hands-on experience as interns

Times Report
Rebecca Smude

The University of Minnesota Crookston prides itself on preparing students to be career ready once they walk across the stage with their University of Minnesota diploma. A big part of preparing students for their life as a professional is internships. The internship component is a segment of UMN Crookston’s long tradition of applied, experiential teaching and learning.

UMN Crookston has students completing internships across the country. In one program in particular, agriculture and natural resources, UMN Crookston has 75 students completing internships this summer across the state of Minnesota. Three of those students are Rebecca Smude, a senior from Pierz, Minn., Trace Brayton, a sophomore from Prentice, Wis., and Morgan Schelske, a junior from Zimmerman, Minn.

Brayton is currently working as an intern at CHS Field, the home of the Triple A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins - the St. Paul Saints. It was a connection to UMN Crookston alumni Marcus Campbell 2016 and Cody Pamperin 2017 that helped Brayton get this once of a lifetime experience working on a grounds crew for a minor league baseball team. Campbell serves as the director of field operations for the Saints, while Pamperin is field operations supervisor for the club.

“It has been a lot of fun to work under Marcus and Cody and learn from them,” Brayton said. “It’s nice for me because we don’t just have to talk about work, we can talk about college classes and the college experience in Crookston because we’ve all done it there.”

Brayton first learned of the opportunity in January of 2020 and planned to intern with the St. Paul Saints during the 2020 season. “The original plan was for me to do it the summer of 2020, but with the COVID-19 pandemic I decided I wanted to do it in a more normal year to get the full experience. Luckily, Marcus was willing to do this for me.”

Trace Brayton is interning for the St. Paul Saints.

He has loved learning the skills it takes to care for a highly maintained athletic field. “Most people think you can just mow and paint lines and have a really good looking field,” Brayton stated. “This might be the case for a high school field or town ball teams field, but not at all for a Triple A teams field. A field at this high quality takes work everyday. The people I work with are fun to be around so that always makes going to work better.”

Morgan Schelske is also obtaining hands-on experience in her field of equine science and equine business management. She is completing an internship with Bowman Second Chance Thoroughbred Adoption. Schelske is working with off-the-track thoroughbreds in retraining for new careers after racing. Schelske first learned of the amazing opportunity through her horse trainer.

“I actually knew the owner, Dick Bowman, through my trainer that taught me to ride horses,” Schelske stated. “My trainer, Andrea, had been getting horses from Doc Bowman for years, and I trained a couple throughout high school and during the summers when I was home from UMC. I contacted Andrea for Doc’s number and gave him a call. I asked if there was a way for me to come out to his farm and train horses over the summer for an internship, and he was willing to let me come out here and work with these horses.”

Morgan Schelske

The opportunity to work with off-the-track thoroughbreds has taught Schelske the importance of patience. “To retrain an off-the-track-thoroughbred (OTTBS), you need a lot of patience, just as you would an unbroke horse,” Schelske said. “Even though a majority of OTTBS have been saddled and ridden before, you never really know their past experiences. Some of them at the farm were never even track broke for whatever reason, so they had never been saddled or ridden. Because of that, I like to start them just as I would a young unbroke horse. They generally progress faster than an unbroke horse, but some need more patience and need to learn to trust you.”

Another UMN Crookston student getting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is Rebecca Smude, who is interning with Wild and Free Rehabilitation Center. She is working with a wide array of animals at the wildlife rehab center in Garrison, Minn.

“I learned about Wild and Free through a friend who knew Dr. Debbie Eskedahl’s daughter, who also worked at the Garrison Animal Hospital,” Smude stated. “The Garrison Animal Hospital is connected to Wild and Free. I actually was supposed to start last year, but COVID prevented that from happening.”

Smude’s work for Wild and Free includes feeding all the animals, cleaning pens and cages, giving the animals medications and injections, watching for any health issues, and helping release the animals back into the wild. “The best part of this internship so far would be having the opportunity to learn different rehabilitation methods for different species and working with the animals you would normally not get to see,” Smude said. “Seeing the animals up close gives you a different perspective of the life of young wildlife. The other best part would be watching animals be released. It is so rewarding to watch a young animal that you have fed and cared for turn into a thriving animal that is able to be released. There is nothing else like it.”

The hands-on experiences for the trio of interns have helped prepare them for life after college and have been wonderfully memorable experiences providing key outcomes.

While Schelske thoroughly enjoyed her internship and has loved trail riding on the horses on Bowman’s hilly terrain on his farm, she doesn’t think she will go into full-time training of OTTBS horses. “My key takeaway from this internship is that I don't think I would go into a job where I am working full time training off-the-tracks,” Schelske remarked. “As much as I love training OTTBS, it's much more enjoyable when it is a small part of my day that I look forward to than being my full day.”

Smude has learned several important key points she will keep with her going into her future career. “I learned the importance of communicating between different levels of command, the reporting of conditions of the animals and what needs to be done for the next shift coming on, coming to the understanding not all of the animals will make it, but cherishing the ones that do, the differing and specialized care of each species, and the reward of successfully raising and releasing a wild animal.”

Brayton’s internship with the St. Paul Saints has reinforced what he wants to do as a future career. “This opportunity has for sure made me want a job on a big name baseball field’s ground crew one day. I can’t think of a better place to go to work everyday than a stadium.”

The experiences of the trio and of all University of Minnesota Crookston’s students doing internships around Minnesota and the country this summer have been undoubtedly different, but one thing remains the same, the students will come out of it more prepared and career-ready. While UMN Crookston students get a great education in the classroom and hands-on learning on-campus, you can’t replace the opportunity of direct, experiential learning in a student’s desired field.