For Grace Heiss and more than 1,100 other University of Wisconsin-Stout students, this past year was a chance to take their education to the next level — on the job.
Heiss was a sales intern at Haggar clothing headquarters in Dallas, Texas, where she saw more clearly the career that lies ahead of her. “This was one of the first times I've been able to apply the accumulation of all my coursework. The pieces between my studies and industry fit well together,” she said.
Heiss, a senior from Janesville, is majoring in retail merchandising and management; the program name has since changed to fashion and retail.
“This role allowed me to conceptualize how businesses and the apparel industry function,” she said. “I thought that even the concepts I learned in my general education courses were helpful as they have allowed me to think critically and analyze information.”
The 2021-22 Cooperative Education and Internship Program at UW-Stout wrapped up this past summer, and it was record-setting — 1,130 students benefited from hands-on learning experiences to supplement their education. The previous record was 1,084 set five years ago.
More than half of the students, 664, worked in Wisconsin and 295 in Minnesota. Overall, students worked in 37 states and in Canada and Ireland.
The co-ops, internships and field experiences were with 707 companies. In a ranking recently by CollegeValuesOnline, UW-Stout was named one of the top 30 schools in the nation for its business and industry partnerships.
“UW-Stout has been working on expanding the co-op and internship program in order to meet the needs of all students. The program now encompasses both co-op and field experience-type work serving students in both full-time and part-time positions as well as paid and unpaid positions. This inclusive framework has led to program growth,” said Bethany Henthorn, CEIP coordinator.
The program is celebrating its 40th anniversary throughout the 2022-23 academic year.
Henthorn called it a “high-impact practice linked directly to UW-Stout’s polytechnic mission. Students develop career readiness skills while applying curricular concepts within the industries related to their field of study. Participating in the co-op and internship program sets students up for success and ultimately increases their employability upon graduation.”
UW-Stout’s most recent employment rate for graduates is 98.4%, best in the UW System. In 2021, UW-Stout implemented its FOCUS2030 strategic plan, which includes five key goals, led by student success.
Many students land co-ops and internships through UW-Stout’s Career Conferences, among the largest in the Midwest. The Fall Career Conference, featuring 385 employers, is scheduled Monday, Sept. 26, through Thursday, Sept. 29.
Many employers will attend more than one of the industry-focused days at the event, said Bryan Barts, Career Services director.
Student CEIP experiences in 2021-22 included:
Walter Fernandez, of Osceola, majoring in information and communication technologies: He worked in Osceola for Polaris Industries, providing IT client support. He also helped deploy and support systems and technologies used by the outdoor motorsport manufacturer.
Cecilia Knudsen, of Hugo, Minn., graphic design and interactive media: She interned in Minneapolis for the global design firm Perkins & Will, designing charts and diagrams for project pursuit forms and interview slide decks. She also helped write, edit and arrange model calls for onsite project photography and provided Instagram content creation and management.
Jackson Lindner, of Loyal, engineering technology: He was a product engineering intern for Kohler Kitchen and Bath in Kohler. He worked with bathroom vanities and was part of several new product development teams.
Grayson Kief, of Park Falls, industrial design. He had a co-op at TTI Floor Care in Charlotte, N.C., working with national brand products Hoover, Dirt Devil and Oreck. He helped with design concepts and various tasks that bring vacuums closer to production.
Rachel Younker, of Genoa, Ill., interior design: She interned at Ashley Furniture headquarters in Arcadia, using AutoCAD to work on retail store floor plans, creating mood boards, doing competitive shopping and creating models using special software. “I’ve learned so much about the interior design industry as a whole,” she said.
Brandon Larsen, of St. Paul, applied biochemistry and molecular biology: He was a research assistant at UW-Stout under Assistant Professor Brian Teague. “This experience has made me more aware of what it takes to conduct research and how to best collaborate with others to achieve research goals,” Larsen said. “Dr. Teague has been a stellar teacher providing guidance without direct instructions or answers and allowing me to think critically about the questions we are addressing.”
Anthony Poirier, of Rochester, Minn., construction. He worked for Ames Construction as a safety engineer on the Diversion Inlet structure in Horace, N.D., a dam that will hold back a projected 100-year flood in Fargo-Moorhead area.
All of UW-Stout’s undergraduate and Graduate School programs have an experiential learning component, many with a required co-op or internship.