Land & Environment

A Hands-On Summer: QCNR Student Internships Offer On-the-Job Experience

By Lael Gilbert |

During a recent career fair, students from the Quinney College of Natural Resources connected with management agencies and organizations to participate in summer internships, experiences designed to build professional skills, help students to gain practical experience, and allow them to focus career trajectories with a rubber-to-the-road experience.

Students from the Quinney College of Natural Resources are getting their feet wet — in the depths of Timpanogos Cave, on a windy hill in the Wasatch-Cache National Forest, even in the Land Records office at the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (mostly figuratively, but literally too — stream restoration work is an option).

For a decade, the QCNR has worked to connect USU students with state and federal agencies and nonprofit organizations in its summer internship and seasonal employment partner program, where students have the chance to apply newfound knowledge with on-the-ground experience.

The program allows students to build professional skills, gain practical knowledge and focus their career trajectories with a rubber-to-the-road experience. It lets agencies and other organizations make direct connections with qualified, energetic, engaged summer employees who are ready to become the professionals of the future. The program is one of the many ways that USU collaborates with state and federal agencies to solve environmental issues on Utah lands.

QCNR teams with the United States Forest Service, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Utah Forestry, Fire and State Lands, National Parks and other nonprofit and state agencies to provide internships. It’s a cost-share partnership between QCNR and the agencies, and is supported by private funds donated through the university — a great bargain for all parties, said Shelly Kotynek, QCNR academic adviser and program coordinator. Hiring and payroll for the positions is handled directly through the college.

“The internship was definitely the best field work experience I’ve ever had,” said Hannah Johnson, a recent student participant in the program. “Not only were all the people incredibly motivated and fun to work with, but they made sure that I got what I wanted out of the internship and that I knew what the data was being used for. I was able to work on so many different projects and see what large-scale research looks like at each step of the research process. I learned so many valuable skills both in the field and in the office. I also got to live in one of the most incredible and beautiful places in the world.”

The program continues to grow. Over the last few years, 130 students have participated in summer experiences through the program. This year, the college is working with 14 agencies in several states to place students for the 2022 season

“The university is dedicated to moving our academic expertise into practical application, and this is one way we make that happen,” said Chris Luecke, dean of QCNR.


Lael Gilbert
Public Relations Specialist
Quinney College of Natural Resources


Shelly Kotynek
Director, Student Services
S. J. Jessie E. Quinney College of Natural Resources

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