Internship opportunities run the gamut of responsibilities, but all help students integrate knowledge and theory learned in the classroom with practical application and skill development, and help employers invest in their own future success and grow their talent pipelines.
Bennett Perlinger, a University of Nebraska–Lincoln student studying business management, knows the value of an internship firsthand. Bennett grew up on a farm and cattle feed yard just outside of Paxton, Nebraska. He has always had a love for local agriculture, but when he came to Nebraska in 2019, he knew he wanted to explore other areas of the ag industry. He is currently a Human Resources Intern at Farmers Cooperative, where he has grown his knowledge and skills through various opportunities on the job.
“Farmers Cooperative has a really awesome internship program where they do a bunch of group activities for the interns, like doing different location tours and getting to learn more about the industry,” Perlinger said. “I really enjoy it because a lot of it is centered around my learning and anything that I want to experience. I just say something, and I get the opportunity to do that, but I also feel like I have a responsibility to produce something valuable.”
Carley Conover, a junior at Nebraska studying biological systems engineering, has also learned the importance of internship opportunities through her time in the coveted Summer Undergraduate Research Program at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
“Having a background in DNA extraction techniques, knowing how primers work, and being able to understand what I’m doing and why I’m doing it, it’s really important,” Conover said. “It’s also cool because I can combine my knowledge in biology, engineering and chemistry through this program.”
Conover’s main research focus was on the process in which ticks transmit Borrelia burgdorferi, the Lyme disease-causing bacterium. She spent countless hours helping to optimize a model to study the bacteria and the process in which it is transmitted, all to eventually develop a therapeutic that could be used in the community.
“I’ve learned a lot of different techniques as far as science skills, which has allowed me to figure out where I want to go post-grad,” Conover said.
Throughout the program, Conover worked directly with Amanda Brinkworth, assistant professor at UNMC. Brinkworth stressed the importance of the program in furthering the research process.
“When an undergraduate joins an intense research project, you have to hit the ground running very quickly, and learn a ton very quickly, and keep doing it consistently for it to stick, and because Carley was able to be here all day, all summer long, we were able to continually make progress in a way that I couldn’t do on my own,” she said. “So having a summer undergraduate student only focused on moving the research forward all summer is actually a really unique thing that we don’t get very often, and it helped a whole lot.”
Brinkworth was also incredibly grateful for Conover’s work ethic.
“I was super impressed with how hardworking Carley was and how she picked up everything so quickly and would get excited about the project,” Conover said. “Even towards the end of the project, she continued to try to solve all the little problems we were having. So, it wasn’t just a day job for her —she was fully engaged in the project, and I was very excited about that.”
As part of Perlinger’s duties at Farmers Cooperative, he develops leadership programs for managers, sources and interviews candidates, conducts performance reviews, processes payroll and much more.
Taylor Collins, Human Resources director for Farmers Cooperative, worked closely with Perlinger and emphasized that along with Perlinger’s infectious positive energy comes a driven achiever.
“Bennett did a great job bringing some perspective of where college students are at and what they look for in a workforce,” he said. “He brought in talent and helped us identify good recruiting strategies for the future. He also helped us with the employee experience in some of our training programs.”
Perlinger prides himself on his background in agriculture and on giving back to his community. He sees incredible value in his work for local Nebraskans.
“We employ about 600 employees, but the vast majority of our employees are all from rural communities in southeast Nebraska and northeast Kansas,” Perlinger said. “So, being human resources, I feel like I have an impact on every single one of those 600 employees by the benefits we provide, the employee experience that we bring to help them out in their job, and all the problems that we solve for them.”
Conover also feels a strong commitment to giving back to Nebraskans. On top of her research for UNMC, she has other ambitions to help her community.
“I plan to go to grad school and design pharmaceuticals. I want to do a drug-design path, specifically for some type of womens’ cancer,” Conover said. “I think that designing therapeutic options would be a great way to feel accomplished, but also to use my skill set and what I’m really interested in to help people.”