Students explore career possibilities in internship programs

intern lineupCivil engineering undergrads interned at MnDOT this summer This summer, university students put their skills to work on real-world transportation projects in internships at the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and Ramsey County.

Thirteen civil engineering undergrads participated in the eighth year of the Civil Engineering Internship Program, a partnership between CTS and MnDOT that gives students hands-on, professional experience to help them prepare for careers in transportation. Interns spent 10 weeks in a variety of MnDOT offices, where they worked on projects related to design, land management, bridges, water resources, traffic, construction, and more.

Many of the interns say that participating in field work, collaborating with transportation practitioners, and developing new skills were their favorite aspects of the program. Project highlights included helping with prescribed burns in wetland mitigation sites, conducting underwater 3D sonar scans of bridge piers and abutments, performing bridge inspections, and developing a document on temporary barrier guidance in work zones. 

U of M student Inara Smith, who worked in MnDOT’s Environmental Stewardship Office, says she enjoyed seeing how MnDOT works to protect wetlands and wildlife. “It was definitely a great opportunity to learn how building roads and fixing bridges should be done without causing harm to our habitat—something that I am personally passionate about,” Smith says. “I’ll definitely apply the experience and knowledge that I gained during my internship in my future work.” 

“I enjoyed seeing different kinds of bridges and comparing them, especially looking at modern versus older bridges and seeing how they have improved,” says Madeline Riddle, a U of M student who interned with the Metro Bridge Maintenance and Inspection Office. “This experience will help me relate what I’m learning in the classroom to what I’ve seen in the field.”

Building on the longstanding success of this program, CTS also launched a new summer internship with Ramsey County this year. The new program, focused on the county’s All-Abilities Transportation Network initiative, gave students the opportunity to work with several county departments, including public works, public health, and parks and recreation.

According to Josh Olson, redevelopment manager with Ramsey County, one of the program’s goals was for the interns to help facilitate collaboration across these departments. By creating a structured program that appealed to students in several disciplines, the county also hoped to encourage interest in Ramsey County as a future employer. “When they’re done with their college careers, students have a choice to make, and we’d love for Ramsey County to be top-of-mind,” Olson says.

Four undergrad and graduate students participated in the program’s inaugural year. Throughout the summer, they performed site assessments, updated websites and interactive maps to reflect the status of road projects, reviewed regional solicitation applications, mapped pedestrian ramps to assist with ADA compliance, mapped school walk zones, and participated in public meetings.

“I gained knowledge outside of the classroom that I’d never have the chance to learn inside the classroom,” says Ben Murphy, a U of M urban studies student who worked with the county’s public works and community and economic development departments. Murphy also says the internship experience confirmed his plans to pursue a master’s degree in urban and regional planning. “Now I know that what I’m working toward is what I want to do.”

“I really believe that this program has been a win-win-win,” Olson says. “It’s been a great opportunity for the students to get some good exposure to how city and county government work, and also beneficial for the county at large. [It has also been] worthwhile for myself and the other supervisors who have been alongside the interns…The students come with a lot of energy and a lot of new ideas.”

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