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College internships are an important asset for providing real-world experience and skills before graduation.

This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it exceedingly difficult for students to find and participate in internships. However, in spite of the hardships, many students worked hard to find a summer internship that would help to build their portfolios.

Emiliano Rodriguez, a senior University of Wisconsin Oshkosh history and education major from Appleton, had just started his search for internships when the pandemic began. Knowing that many internship positions would no longer be offered due to the virus, he ultimately decided to take a break from searching until things had settled a bit.

It wasn’t until professor Gabriel Loiacono notified Rodriguez about an internship position with the History Museum at the Castle in Appleton that his hope for getting a summer internship returned.

The position, typically offered in person, was being offered digitally in response to the pandemic. It involved developing a program for the museum that teaches local students about the differences between primary and secondary sources.

“The internship at the museum interested me for multiple reasons,” Rodriguez said. “One reason was that it would give me experiences in both of my majors of history and education while allowing me to make lesson plans about historical subjects that I was interested in. Another reason was because I wanted to try to get a feel for working in public history, specifically museums.”

Erin Comer, the education and collections manager at the History Museum at the Castle and Rodriguez’s supervisor, said from her initial interview with Rodriguez she could tell that he would be a great fit.

“Since he’s an education student, he’s always thinking about lesson plans and the best way to reach students, but this internship forced him to think outside of the box,” Comer said. “He had to think of non-traditional education and how he could reach students best outside of the classroom. He started to plan lessons where students are actively involved in their learning by doing activities.”

Gabriel Loiacono

Having never made lesson plans for younger students before, Rodriguez considered tailoring program content for younger students to be the most complicated part of the internship—but it’s also his favorite.

“I knew it was a challenge, but I also knew this would teach me a lot and help me to become a better educator,” Rodriguez said. “I tried to make the lessons fun, hands-on and engaging so the students would not only learn a little bit about history, but also have a fun day at the museum—and possibly pique their interest in history.”

UW Oshkosh history department internship coordinator Gabriel Loiacono strongly recommends students, especially history majors, participate in internships in order to build on their education and prepare them for the professional field.

“For all students, of course, internships can give a taste of a career, as well as help students forge valuable connections in an industry,” Loiacono said. “For those history majors who want to try out history-related jobs, our departmental internships give upper-division credit, industry connections and experience. These history-related internships help students like Emiliano figure out if the public history world is right for them.”

Rodriguez agrees that his internship helped to prepare him for his future career after graduation.

“Since I want to one day be a high school history teacher, I was lucky to find an internship that helped get experience in both education and history,” he said. “I got experience in writing lesson plans, creating a cohesive unit, researching, working in an archive and so much more.”

“I greatly value my time being an intern at the museum and I highly recommend everybody to get an internship in their field of study to get a feel for their career early on and to make great connections.”

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