UAPB students reinforce studies, gain work experience at internships with ASC

Will Hehemann School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences

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Morgan Green, left, and Amirical Allen, right, have both recently served as interns at the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas as part of their coursework for the UAPB Merchandising, Textiles and Design Program.

Amirical Allen, a senior major of merchandising, textiles and design (MTD) at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, has spent the early summer teaching local youth about textiles and LED lighting during an internship with the Arts and Science Center (ASC) for Southeast Arkansas. The majority of her duties so far have centered on helping coordinate the ASC’s annual educational summer camps for children.

“I have enjoyed teaching children the basic concepts of electronic circuits and showing them how to make interesting creations that glow,” Allen said. “The participants had a lot of fun learning how to weave with a needle and fabric, which is a skill I learned during my coursework at UAPB.”

Morgan Green, a 2017 graduate of MTD, completed an internship with the ASC in her final semester at UAPB and has continued to assist with the summer camps as a camp coordinator. The students’ internships were designed to reinforce their studies at UAPB by allowing them to gain experience teaching some of the concepts they learned in the classroom to local youth.

“My degree in merchandising, textiles and design intertwined with my internship by giving me the chance to express the importance of textiles and teaching innovative ways to design artwork,” Green said. “I enjoyed that I was able to be creative, while also giving back to the community.”

In her work as an intern at the ASC, Allen said she most appreciates the chance to help and have fun with the children. She has enjoyed making bonds with the participants as she helps them complete different educational tasks.

“Interns provide a valuable contribution to ASC’s educational outreach programs,” Dr. Rachel Miller, executive director of the ASC, said. “Since so many of them come from different backgrounds and bring varying skills, interns introduce new perspectives and approaches to existing programming. The support they provide ASC’s staff allows for us to reach a bigger community audience.”

During internships at ASC, students receive hands-on experience in implementing youth educational activities based on arts and sciences and build creative collaborations, all while working in a professional setting, she said. Both the experiential training and the professionalism prepare interns to interact with diverse audiences in various work environments.

“Internships and other professional experiences are a very important part of the student learning process,” Dr. Kaye Crippen, professor of the MTD Department, said. “University courses and learning activities don’t always prepare students to participate in the world of work. The responsibilities of an internship allow students to put knowledge gained in the classroom to practice, as well as meet professional expectations.”

MTD students are required to gain six university credit hours – or 225 clock hours – at an internship to complete their degree. Students are encouraged to search for unpaid internships on their own first, but can also seek assistance and suggestions from Dr. Crippen, the MTD internship coordinator. Students can also apply for paid internship opportunities through UAPB’s Cooperative Extension Program, and register for the course through the Department of Human Sciences if accepted for the position.

In the past, MTD students have pursued internships in Little Rock at clothing retailers such as The Buckle and for designers such as Romás by Linda Rowe Thomas. Others have helped coordinate the annual Little Rock Fashion Week.

“Pine Bluff is relatively small, so students who look for an internship on their own often have to work hard to find one,” Dr. Crippen said. “However, the experience of taking the responsibility to find out what opportunities are available is very beneficial. Many MTD majors have discovered some really interesting opportunities that benefit their education and work experience.”

In coordinating MTD internships, Dr. Crippen said she prefers to build long-term relationships with community partners. This allows local companies or organizations to benefit from the young and creative talent at UAPB, while helping students gain invaluable work experience that will help them get their foot in the door when applying for jobs after graduation.

Dr. Crippen said the MTD Department’s partnership with the ASC began in 2011 when Dr. Lenore Shoults, former executive director of the ASC, arranged a meeting to discuss opportunities for collaboration in the areas of fashion design and costuming. Soon after, UAPB alumna Elisabeth Adair became the first MTD intern to work with the ASC when she assisted in costuming for the theatrical production of “Hair Spray.”

“Dr. Shoults, who happens to be an expert in costuming, taught Elizabeth so much about costuming techniques and fitting,” Dr. Crippen said. “We have since had several other students assist in ASC productions and gain lots of on-the-job experience. Last year, Breanna Adkins, a junior MTD major, completed a costume design internship at the ASC in which she designed and created costumes and masks using special textile materials.”

Dr. Crippen said she sees the difference an internship makes in the scholastic and professional lives of her students. The experience is often transformational as students learn about their individual strengths and start thinking more about their future.

“Internships can have a profound affect on students by giving them confidence in their ability to do good work, expose them to new ideas and opportunities and connect them to others in the community in a productive way,” she said.

For more information on the MTD program at UAPB, contact Dr. Crippen at (870) 575-8367 or crippenk@uapb.edu.

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