Land & Environment

Hands-On Summer: National Park Internship Offers Students Peek Into Professional Life

By Lael Gilbert |

Video by Taylor Emerson, Digital Journalist, University Marketing & Communications

A few USU students are spending this summer hiking the precipitously steep 1½ miles to Timpanogos Cave … almost every day. Through a cooperative internship program, undergraduate students from the Quinney College of Natural Resources have the chance to work side-by-side with rangers from the National Park Service at Timpanogos Cave National Monument, shadowing professionals for three months to complete rotating assignments in resource management, maintenance and interpretation.

This year, QCNR offered more than 40 paid summer internship positions, placing students in the field with working professionals in a variety of agencies, locations and specialities, doing everything from bird banding to stream restoration to forest management.

“This kind of internship is an incredible opportunity to find the kind of work that you love,” said Cami McKinney, program manager for Timpanogos Cave National Monument, “and perhaps to experience real-world work that you find you don’t especially care for. That’s also important knowledge.”

There seems to be a lot to love about the experience, according to former intern MiKenna DeBruin, who returned this year as an officially-employed seasonal interpretive ranger. Her internship experience offered her a detailed perspective into the lifestyle and variety of tasks that a ranger for the National Park Service performs, she said. She decided that for her, it was a good fit.

That’s the goal of the program, said Shelly Kotynek, academic adviser for QCNR. It allows students to build skills for their future careers, network with professionals, add to their resume, and be a little more ready to launch their future career.

These Timpanogos Caves internships were funded by the Joseph Ray Miller Memorial Internship Endowment, which has been supporting students in similar endeavors for more than 10 years. The fund honors the late Joseph Ray Miller and his life-long career in the National Park Service. For more information about the variety of internship opportunities offered through the QCNR program, visit the QCNR advising page.


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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