Two Business Graduates #MakeADifference by Connecting Local Interns with the Community
Tiffany Elbert (Finance ’15) likes to tell the interns she comes across that she was in their position, too. She sat in the same seat as them as a wide-eyed student, ready to learn.
Elbert participated in the Kossuth/Palo Alto County Economic Development Corp. Internship Program when she interned for Iowa Trust and Savings Bank in summer 2015. Now she’s trying to #MakeADifference herself by serving on the internship committee, which sets the summer agenda for each year’s cohort. “Since I’ve done both sides of it, I can really relate, and I can tell our students how it was for me,” said Elbert, who now works full time at Iowa Trust and Savings Bank in Emmetsburg as a loan credit analyst. “I tell them that I was once in your chair, and it helped me get the job I currently have, but not only that, I had connections in other places in the community, too.”
The internship program brings together Kossuth/Palo Alto County-area interns for networking events, skill development sessions, volunteer opportunities and fun group activities. The Kossuth/Palo Alto County Economic Development Corp. started the program 19 years ago, and it was the first of its kind in the state. Similar programs have popped up in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and other Iowa metro areas since.
The goal of the internship program is to connect a wide range of interns with each other and with business leaders, which can be tough in a rural community. Having a professional network will help the students find jobs in the area after graduation. The program has been effective. Since 2008, it has brought back more than 200 interns to work in the area full time. UNI President Mark Nook spoke at the internship program’s luncheon in May and commented on how the skill development courses are similar to what UNIBusiness offers in the Professional Readiness Program. “I think it’s an awesome way for us to bring interns together across many different industries and many different jobs,” said Kathryn Wirtz (Marketing ’10), who also serves on the committee and works at the Des Moines-based advertising company Meyocks remotely from Algona. “We kind of see it as mutually beneficial. We want to be there to provide these interns opportunities and professional development training. In the end, we want them to see the beauty of living and working in our area as well.”
These two UNI grads are enjoying their ability to #MakeADifference. Wirtz isn’t from northwest Iowa originally but moved to Algona from Des Moines after her husband had a job opportunity in 2013. “It’s a bit different for me because I work for a company that’s based in a Des Moines and I’m not from this area,” Wirtz said. “It’s important for me to give back, ingrain myself here and develop those relationships that make you feel like a part of the community.”
Elbert feels the same way. While she’s originally from the Kossuth/Palo Alto County area, helping others see the benefits of working in a small town is a passion of hers. “It’s great knowing that we can get more kids coming back here because it really is a great community,” Elbert said. “I like to see these kids and know that I’m having an impact on their life. I love to interact with them and help them in any way I can.”