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UVU: Hands-on, engaged learning brings UVU students success in life and work

Presidential internships are one example of UVU’s engaged-learning programs.

By Avery Green - Special to the Daily Herald | Sep 17, 2023

Courtesy Utah Valley University

Utah Valley University’s Presidential Internship Program provides students with a unique opportunity to collaborate closely with UVU's executive leadership.

OREM — Utah Valley University continues to innovate by offering engaged learning (hands-on) programs in all majors that provide students with real-world experience to prepare them for the workforce. One of the ways UVU accomplishes this is through its internship programs.

A good example is UVU’s Presidential Internship Program, which provides students with a unique opportunity to collaborate closely with UVU’s executive leadership. The program, housed in the office of President Astrid S. Tuminez, pairs 13 students from various backgrounds with the president and 12 other UVU vice presidents.

The interns receive mentorship from cabinet members and have the chance to visit and learn from local, regional and state business and civic leaders. Over the course of the year, interns actively contribute to meaningful institutional projects.

Henry Wolthius is a senior from Eagle, Idaho, majoring in national security studies and is serving as a presidential intern to UVU’s Val Peterson, vice president of Administration and Strategic Relations. Peterson also serves as a member of the Utah House of Representatives. Wolthius works side-by-side with Peterson, attending meetings, researching topics and learning skills that will lead to employment in the future.

Wolthius said, “I was able to attend U.S. Rep. John Curtis’ Conservative Climate Summit with Vice President Peterson, where we discussed effective energy solutions for the United States. We gathered information to write a paper on nuclear energy. This opportunity not only broadened my understanding of the critical issues surrounding energy but allowed me to engage with experts and policymakers, providing insights that will enrich the depth and scope of my research.”

The UVU Presidential Internship Program began in 2010 under the direction of then-President Matthew S. Holland and cabinet members. It is one of many internship programs offered at UVU through the university’s Career & Internship Center.

The center has career counselors, internship coordinators, marketers, an industry liaison and others who placed more than 3,100 students in meaningful positions last year. One of the unique aspects of UVU’s internship program is its partnership with the UVU Innovation Academy, which collaborates across campus and with external business and community partners to create engaged learning opportunities for students. Through this partnership, UVU students have the opportunity to work with these businesses and nonprofit organizations to gain experience in a fast-paced, innovative environment.

The academy was created in response to employers asking UVU for work-ready graduates, meaning employees who are critical thinkers, decision-makers, problem solvers, innovators and project managers. They also asked for employees who have social skills and can work in teams. Employers want graduates who have experienced the workforce, not just read about it.

The academy oversees the university’s Excellence and Innovation Initiative (e2i), which was created to give students real-world problem-solving opportunities by working on projects of significance. Students are specifically recruited to a team for each e2i project. Each team receives resources, a student project manager and a professional mentor to keep them focused and meeting benchmarks.

An early success of the e2i program was a partnership between a home-security electronics firm that partnered with a UVU professor and her class to develop a security app for college dorm rooms that could remotely lock and unlock doors, turn lights on and off, and open and lock closets and drawers.

To create the app, the students studied the technology, interacted with customers and studied their experiences with the company, and met with an emergency technology dispatcher. They also conducted two scientific surveys of more than 800 college students, compiled data, used data analysis to make decisions and regularly sat in on design team meetings.

Students met weekly with the professor for instruction and the design team for mentoring. The employees helped the students refine their findings and presentation, but the students oversaw the project themselves. They did the work and made the decisions. The team achieved its goal and presented the finished product to senior management. Their semester grade was based on their presentation to management.

“We were mentored by professionals, real teams and professors,” said Andrew Jensen, a UVU student on the team. “We came up with the ideas and built the app. We felt rewarded and respected and learned valuable skills along the way.”


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