by Annie Dubois

The term “student intern” often conjures the imagery of a monotonous desk job in which checking email, answering the phone, and talking to customers is the expectation. If this isn’t their dream job, students need not fret! Being a student intern can also mean painting theater sets, tending to crops, and getting their hands dirty, if that’s what they're looking for. Below is a list of five fascinating MSU internships that go beyond desk duty.

1. Student Farm Worker for the Student Organic Farm 

Conor Crenell, a Biosystems Engineering senior, and Emma Roussey, a Nutritional Science sophomore, work as Student Farm Workers at the Student Organic Farm (SOF), which covers more than 15 acres of land and is located at the Horticultural Teaching and Research Complex.

Conor also works as an Engineering intern for the farm and currently helps manage the solar irrigation pump that the farm uses. Life on the farm is far from monotonous, though, and each day brings a different set of tasks than the last. Starting bright and early, the farm crew meets to go over daily chores, one of which is consistent: feeding the farm cat.

One day the crew might transplant seedlings and weed garden beds, and the next they’ll be harvesting produce, washing vegetables, and packaging produce for the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares, a program that provides community access to fresh, local produce. 

“My favorite part of the job is getting to work with the Earth and under the sun every day! It's so refreshing and grounding being out in nature seeing the fruits of your labor continuously pay off,” Conor said. 

Although Conor and Emma have different majors and career paths, the SOF provides a common ground for their shared passion for the environment to flourish. 

“My favorite part about this job is the feeling I get after a hard day’s work is over,” Emma said. “My career goal is to own my own organic farm in order to bring fresh, healthy produce to those in my community. I also want to be involved in research towards ending world famine. By getting hands-on experience at an organic farm, I have learned a lot about food production and the large impact small farming operations have. I look forward to learning more at this job and continuing my education to create a more sustainable agricultural community in the future.”

2. Gallery Guide and Operations Intern for the Broad Art Museum

Sydney Wharram, a fourth-year student double majoring in Studio Art and Psychology, works as a Gallery Guide and Operations intern for the Broad Art Museum. Sydney has been in her position since January 2020, and recently started her Operations internship in June 2021. 

A typical day on the job starts with Sydney arriving before the museum opens to organize and replenish any displayed retail and log interactive information for certain exhibitions. Come opening time, Sydney and other gallery guides rotate between exhibitions and answer any questions about the art or general questions about the museum. Occasionally, Sydney will work at the Broad Art Lab, an extension of the Broad Museum focused on artist collaboration.

“One of the most important parts of my position is informing visitors what they can and cannot touch. You wouldn’t expect the number of times we have to remind guests not to touch the art,” Sydney said. “My favorite part about my job, though, is constantly talking about and learning about art and artists!”

3.Writer for The Cube

Claire Bahorski, a Humanities Pre-Law and Human Capital & Society senior, works for The Cube, an MSU-based publishing organization. As a multifaceted entity, The Cube supports a monthly magazine, a literary quarterly, several scholarly journals, filmmaking projects, book and monograph production, and web design. 

As an intern for The Cube, Claire has accrued a wide variety of publishing experience. In addition to her current work for the Provost’s Office, she has written and produced content for other publications under The Cube, including The Current and agnès films. She has also worked on The Cube’s Grant and Proposal Writing committee.

Claire typically begins her workday with a team meeting to go over task progress, new assignments, and project deadlines. With a wide variety of projects and partnerships, no assignment is the same for Claire. One week she will produce op-eds and write movie reviews, the next she’ll be focusing on a press release and developing web content.  

“I love how each role I’ve had with The Cube has been slightly different from the last,” Claire said. “My experiences with this job have helped me immensely as a writer, because I am pushed to widen my horizons and I have learned how to produce all different genres of content. Every supervisor is hands-on and allows room for growth. Everyone is understanding and each person has an opportunity to show their strengths and learn new skills that will be beneficial in the professional world.”

4. WJ Beal Botanical Garden Crew Member

Nevaeh Marshall, a junior with dual majors in Horticulture and Environmental Studies and Sustainability, works as a Crew Member for the WJ Beal Botanical Gardens, a 5-acre garden situated on MSU’s campus. 

Mornings at the garden start early, with crew members arriving at 6 a.m. to discuss operations for the day. The garden is home to more than 2,000 unique plants and is one of the oldest operating university botanical gardens in the United States, so its maintenance requires careful attention. On a daily basis, you can find Nevaeh and other crew members weeding, pruning, fertilizing, maintaining the pond, and transplanting plants in order to keep the garden in good shape.

Much to the surprise of garden visitors, a pineapple plant thrives amidst a row of tropical climate plants. Thanks to crew members like Nevaeh, these tropical plants are able to survive because of the special care they receive as they are transplanted to and from greenhouses in the spring and fall.

Although the garden is located in central campus by the MSU Library, Nevaeh has encountered an exceptional amount of wildlife like squirrels, groundhogs, geese, snapping turtles, mallards, American bullfrogs, monarch butterflies, and even a family of cooper’s hawks. 

“My favorite part of working at WJ Beal Botanical Garden is the plants! Each plant in the garden is labeled with the common name, scientific name, and a short bio,” Nevaeh said. “The labels help a lot with plant identification.”

5. Scene Shop Technician 

Emma Kolakowski, a Professional & Public Writing senior, worked as a Scene Shop Technician for the Department of Theatre for two years, where she painted and built sets for the university’s theater productions. 

Emma mainly worked in the scene shop, a building located south of the MSU main campus, as well as in the Auditorium building and the Wharton Center. Sets are designed by a show’s scenic designer, and Emma carried the responsibility of articulating these designs. Typically, she worked with wood and shop tools, such as miter saws and jigsaws, to measure, cut, and attach pieces in order to build assigned set pieces. Later, Emma would paint the sets, which required the use of different techniques, from applying base coats to using lining tools and sponges to create realistic textures. 

Although Emma’s job might seem artistic by nature, it actually includes a lot of mathematics. Translating artistic design concepts into real-world materials that bear weight, rotate, and move positions requires a lot of physics knowledge as well as mathematics to determine size and angles of materials. 

“My favorite part about the job was coming in each day and seeing how the set/set pieces have changed since my last shift,” Emma said. “Since I was still learning the skills of the trade, and because of the strict timeframes we work with, I often came in and saw a set looking completely different than it did 12 hours before. It was great to see the work of the very skilled professors, instructors, and students that I was able to work under.”