Sweating in the warm July sun, a group of Oregon State University students laughed and joked as their garden hoes struck the soil in unison. Scattered around the SAGE Community Garden at Starker Arts Park in southeast Corvallis, they were focused on pulling weeds and planting potatoes, a task many of them had never before attempted.
But becoming comfortable with unfamiliar things is an important part of being a PROMISE intern. PROMISE stands for Professional and Managerial Internships in State Employment, and has been housed at OSU since 1992. It pairs OSU juniors and seniors with paid work experience at a variety of state and local government agencies, including within the university. The program, which is operated out of the OSU Office of Equity and Inclusion, lasts for 10 weeks each summer, and many of its participants are from historically underrepresented groups.
In addition to gaining professional work experience, the interns attend weekly professional development luncheons and workshops, and participate in a community service event. This year, the interns gathered to help out at Starker Arts Park and its neighboring community garden.
“The professional development portion is huge,” said Kasra Azizian, a senior at OSU. “We’re learning how to put a portfolio together, and it will be nice to come out of the program with a portfolio I can present for graduate school or for getting a job.”
Azizian formerly worked with OSU KidSpirit, and his adviser, Karen Swanger, suggested PROMISE might be a good fit for him. He was paired with Catherine Law of OSU’s Pre-College Programs, and has been spending the summer working on engineering education projects for youth.
Next to him in the garden was Ralen Jones, a business management and entrepreneurship student who had been looking for a good summer internship, and found PROMISE met the bill. He is working with Lissa Perrone in the Office of Business Affairs.
“PROMISE seemed like something that would get me involved with the community and keep me local,” Jones said. “I needed to build my business networking skills and I thought this would be a good place to do it.”
Jones intends to get into project management after graduation and the PROMISE program is giving him experience he’ll be able to take to future employers.
Sophie Wilson just graduated with a degree in human development and family sciences. She’s attending OSU in the fall as a graduate student, and wanted a good summer internship that would keep her in Corvallis.
She’s working with Dean of Student Life Mamta Accapadi, someone she’d had the chance to work with previously.
“This was a great way for me to continue my relationship with her,” Wilson said. She’s been tasked with creating video resources for incoming students that are available online.
“Coming from being an undergraduate to a graduate student, there are a lot of transitional pieces you can’t learn in the classroom,” Wilson said, and the PROMISE internship is helping her fill in some of those pieces.
“Plus it’s a chance to give back to Corvallis,” she said.
Diane Davis, director of the PROMISE program, said this year’s cohort of 27 interns is particularly motivated.
“They are the most engaged and energetic group I’ve had,” she said. She hopes that word continues to spread about the PROMISE program, and encourages OSU faculty and staff to consider sponsoring an intern next summer.