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For La Crosse graduate students, UW-River Falls serves as career preparation

Falcon News Service

February 18, 2016

UW-River Falls and UW-La Crosse have a partnership that oftentimes goes unnoticed.

UWRF’s Division of Student Affairs offers a program that allows student affairs administration graduate students from UWL to work as interns. The program has 19 positions within six Student Life departments. The departments include Career Services, New Student Programs, Residence Life, Student Life, Student Conduct and Community Standards, and University Center Operations.

Student Life Director Paul Shepherd heads the student affairs administration program at UWRF. He also is a graduate of the UWL program and said he knows how it prepares students.

“The idea stemmed from this great partnership with the master’s degree program at UW-La Crosse, which has been around since 1968,” Shepherd said. “Historically, it has been a great program for those people who want to work in student services in higher education.”

Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Gregg Heinselman and other directors within Student Affairs that would host the graduate student interns agreed with Shepherd’s proposal and are a big reason why the program was created.

After the online program was created, Shepherd wanted to create a middle ground between the new online program and the traditional on-campus program.

“We wanted to create a program in which there would be a group of students here, at UWRF, that would be working together throughout the campus, but then also taking classes at the same time,” Shepherd said. “I think that working and attending classes with the same group of people is a big part of the graduate school experience.”

The online class environment puts the 19 graduate student interns at UWRF with the students from UWL via the distance learning environment. UWL instructors teach the courses in La Crosse, and they are being videotaped so that the UWRF students can see the instructor and participate in the lecture. Shepherd also said that, on rare occasions, faculty members from UWL to River Falls to teach courses face-to-face.

Manee Yang received her undergraduate degree from UW-Eau Claire and is now a graduate student intern in Student Life. Yang is in the middle of her first year in the program and is very pleased with how the program is going.

“I like the program a lot because I am challenged a lot and I like to be challenged a lot,” Yang said. “Every day is different because there are so many different tasks that are catered towards the field I want to enter into.”

She also said that online classes take some time to get used to because she is not going to a classroom. The homework is also different than from what she is used to.

“My undergraduate degree was in public relations, so I did not have to do much reading,” Yang said. “Now, with the classes that I am taking, there is a lot more reading and research that I have to do.”

Taking the online classes and working for Student Life is preparing her extremely well for what she wants to do when she graduates from the program, Yang said.

Along with Yang’s position in Student Life, there are graduate student residence hall directors who took the place of the undergraduates who used to have those jobs.

“It’s a challenging position for undergraduate residence hall directors because the resident assistants are their peers and their class load is a lot to handle for an undergraduate student,” Shepherd said. “Having graduate students in this role, expands the capacity of what they can do because they have more experience.”

According to the UWRF Division of Student Affairs website, all graduate student intern positions are filled for the rest of this year and the 2016-2017 school year, but a new group of interns will be recruited to begin the fall of 2017.