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Interns Learn Determination, Focus, and Community Enrichment

Interns Learn Determination, Focus, and Community Enrichment

NOTRE DAME, IN  (December 20, 2011) - Holy Cross College students participating in the internship program come away with much more than a letter grade.  They discover skills that help them succeed in a broad number of career paths, providing greater options upon graduation.

Ben Ulm is a senior at Holy Cross College.  The business major from Winamac, Indiana, recently completed an internship with Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center, and says the experience

has prepared him well for a variety of situations. Working with focus groups, Ben helped distribute surveys and compile information to help the hospital better serve the community.  Even problems were turned into learning experiences, as Ben recalls a computer error that required the interns to re-check the over 2,000 surveys already scanned into the system.

"It taught us a little more determination and focus, to actually see the need and what we can better do for the community," explains Ben.  "It gave us that sense that 'this is important' and we had to go back through it, even though it's the most tedious thing we've ever done, just to see the outcome and reach the goal, was kind of a cool thing for us."

Working with focus groups involves interacting with people from a wide range of backgrounds.  Ben says even though he doesn't plan to go into health care, interning with SJRMC gave him the tools to work with all kinds of clients.  Ben recalls working with a group of twenty senior citizens at South Bend's Martin Luther King Center, trying to direct the discussion with everyone talking at once.

"It was challenging, but we did really well that day," he smiles.  "That was probably one of our largest focus groups. To walk into a room of twenty people who are basically strangers and be able to talk to them freely, that can be intimidating for anyone.  But in the business world you're going to have to do that every day, and now I have that experience."

Michelle Peters, Community Benefit Ministry Officer and Director of Outreach at SJRMC, says the hospital also benefits from the work done by Holy Cross College interns. 

"They are very helpful!" says Michelle.  "The Community Health Needs Assessment is a pretty big project.  It's also an on-going project, so it will continue. We will probably not be complete with our action plans until February or March, so the interns have an opportunity to see it go from the inception to the actual implementation of the plans."

Michelle says she treats every intern as a student first, giving them an opportunity to learn through hands-on experiences that work well with their field of study.

"This is a great example of how it can work regardless of who it is," explains Michelle.  "If you're a sociology or psychology major, what we're learning in these focus groups and what we're going to be able to provide to the community will be immensely important because that tells them...especially sociology...what we need to learn from our own people that we serve, and that it's not just talking about it, it's focusing on what they're telling us we should be doing."

Ben wholeheartedly agrees.

"Working on the focus groups, for me, was a huge thing because even if my customer isn't in the health care field, I can still facilitate a focus group," he says.  "I can be ready to ask the questions and keep them on point.  I know how to set them up with the food, the catering, whatever else is needed.  Keeping them on task is the hardest thing, though!"

Michelle says interns at SJRMC can be part of the presentation to the CEO and Board of Directors, after compiling the focus group data and following up with the survey participants. 

"I hope that we can do something again because we have projects that are always happening!" says Michelle, looking ahead to her current interns' inevitable departure.  "We're a small group of people and we do a lot, and the only way we can do that is with the help of volunteers and interns.  We're lucky to have them all."

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Holy Cross College is a Catholic, four-year, co-educational, liberal arts institution founded in 1966 by the Brothers of Holy Cross.  With a 13:1 faculty/student ratio, students find personal attention from professors who care about their success. The college focuses on the holistic development of the mind, body, and spirit.  Baccalaureate students must complete four requirements before graduation-a professional internship to develop their real-world qualifications, service experiences to develop their compassion, an international experience to expand their horizons, and a senior Capstone presentation to sum up their learning outcomes and attest to a panel of faculty and business leaders that they are ready for life after college. With a campus adjoining St. Mary's College and the University of Notre Dame, Holy Cross College provides the best of both worlds-a close-knit, small college atmosphere with the resources and social opportunities of a large university.