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Caroline Wator
Caroline Wator worked to improve Chicago’s parental leave policy, hoping to then influence the State of Illinois.

Vikinternships: Illinois and beyond

This summer, these four Vikinterns applied their Augustana experience outside the Quad Cities for successful internships in Chicago, Peoria and Washington, D.C.

Caroline Wator ’21 (public health, political science) focused on analyzing policy on maternal and infant health at the Chicago Department of Public Health this summer. The goal was to create better parental leave policy for the city of Chicago, which may then influence policy for the whole state of Illinois.

Her experience in both her majors helped prepare her for this internship—for starters, the amount of research she’s responsible for. “I don’t know if I would be capable of doing it, if not for research I do in my political science classes,” she said.

Her Augustana education also has prepared her to attend meetings in the health department and not only understand conversations at that level, but contribute to them, as well.

“Being able to communicate with others and knowing what’s going on around the office wouldn’t be possible if I wasn’t taking public health classes to be more aware of those issues and understand how different parts of health affect our lives,” she said.

Yet contributing to such an important conversation can only come from getting out of the classroom, and Wator was glad for hands-on work in the field she wants to pursue post-graduation. 

Though her internship is unpaid, Wator was able to secure a student leader grant from CORE to cover her expenses. 

Vanessa Blankson

Thanks to $2,000 from Augie Choice,

Vanessa Blankson ’21 (biology, neuroscience), who is from Ghana, West Africa, also called Chicago her home for the summer. At Illinicare Health she works in the Medical Management department, but is always on the move. 

“Every day at work for me is different,” she explained. Some examples of her duties include her work on the asthma van project, “where we provide children with asthma who have transportation issues…easy access to treatment, medication and education through a mobile van.” She also worked with the Start Smart For Your Baby (SSFB) team, helping pregnant women with high risk conditions to take health assessments, and sitting in on discussions about their diagnosis, medications and health progress.

Blankson learned quickly that an internship can be both exciting and demanding. “Illinicare health is a very diverse work environment with people from different races and cultural backgrounds. I was able to utilize most of the skills I learned in my Comm 210 (Interpersonal Relationships) class with the other interns and employees.” 

A high point of her internship was when Illinois Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton visited. She “made it known that that every single employee’s hard work and dedication is being recognized and is leaving a huge impact on the health care of people in the community.” 

Blankson also has become a master of time management. “Working in a fast-paced professional environment, every minute counts.”

Brady Johnson

When he’s not reading his own work in the news,

Brady Johnson ’21 (multimedia journalism and mass communication) is busy tracking down new stories with the Peoria Journal Star in Peoria, Illinois. Though veteran reporters generally stay in the office to write, Johnson is frequently sent out into the field to cover everything from summer camps to brain cancer research to police activity.

“The first day I was thrown into a cop beat driving around,” Johnson said. “I went to talk to city officials to cover an event, wrote about it in a span of three hours, and the next day it was on the front page of the local section.” 

That same week, he wrote a story about farmers in the area that also made the front page and gathered thousands of views.

“That’s a notable thing in that it has a little wider reach than the Observer,” Johnson chuckled. As an editor of the Augustana Observer, Johnson frequently covers stories on a range of issues on campus. “But the Observer was a stepping stone for a moment like this,” he added.

For Johnson, this was a glimpse into a future career. Gaining real-world experience in new news media such as video and podcasts was invaluable to him, and he is optimistic about the future of his profession in the new digital age.

Olivia Carroll

Making connections in D.C.,

Olivia Carroll ’20 (communication studies, political science/concentration in international relations) is just a few miles farther away than cities in Illinois. At AMIDEAST through the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations in Washington, D.C., Carroll helps coordinate Fulbright Scholarship recipients from the Middle East. 

“I’m reading the Fulbright grantees applications, helping them with logistics, corresponding with them, getting to know their story,” Carroll said. She also attends seminars on the Middle East two nights a week with the Council, as well as site visits around D.C. at venues such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) embassy.

Carroll has been impressed by the students who come to study in the U.S. with the intent to bring their knowledge back to their native countries, and has made friends with others in the program from the Middle East.

She had been planning on staying in the Quad Cities area for the summer when her political science advisor forwarded her the opportunity in D.C. She thought the internship was “a longshot,” but decided to apply and was surprised to hear when she made it past the first cut. Next came a lengthy interview with company placement options through the council. Finally, only an hour after her conversation with AMIDEAST, Carroll was offered the internship.

“I’d just say that this internship program has really opened me up to a lot of new possibilities and opportunities to expand,” she said. 

And of course her location was an important aspect of her work. “Especially in D.C., building connections is very important—and that’s something this program has allowed me to do.”

That’s how internships build on Augustana advantages.

Tips from advisors, learned experiences from class or a student group, Augie Choice and other grants through CORE… these are just some of the “stepping stones” Augustana students use going into their internships. 

And when they take their Augustana experience and carry it into test runs of their future careers, they discover new paths to success, wherever those paths may lead.

By Jack Harris ’20, Augustana Writers Bureau

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