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Finding Your Groove in Year One: Community Connections

August 19, 2018 6:46 pm Published by 1 Comment

By: Alyssa Marks, MSW, Internship Coordinator, Metropolitan State University of Denver

Some of you reading this post may be in the same situation I found myself in this time last year: just starting in Cooperative Education and Internships. You also may be someone who came from outside of Higher Education, as I did. Fear not, after a full year, you do actually start to understand the lingo, the processes, and the politics!

I worked in primary education and non-profit spaces for many years prior to returning to the realm of Higher Education. Working with interns from a supervisor perspective prior to this role as an Internship Coordinator, gave me unique insight into how to think differently about employer relations as a whole. Students are the center of our mission, but how can we look at the way we interact with employers to provide an even more robust experience for our students? And, in return, feel more fulfilled in our roles?

One piece I valued most as a supervisor is now something I value most as a coordinator: site visits. Although they do take up quite a bit of time away from the office, it allows for the chance to really connect; connect with students, community partners, and with what our students are doing in the field that builds upon the skills they are gaining in the classroom. These visits help to build trust with our community partners and with students who want to know we see their successes and that we are there if they begin to falter.

Site visits have allowed me to build stronger connections and to find more purpose in this work. Coming in knowing a lot about a few fields I would be working with, and very little about a few others, the visits with students have given me perspective and knowledge I would not have been able to gain otherwise. All of this is to say, if you have the opportunity to engage with community partners and students in their place of work, likely, the more comfortable and confident you will feel. Hopefully, if you find yourself in a program that does not participate in site visits as a rule, your team would be open to you making some inroads in a similar fashion and support your knowledge-building by encouraging a few opportunities outside the office within your first year.

What I love most about this work is the connections I build with students and community partners in a way that strengthens experiences and departmental goals. I feel confidently that those of you who are also just starting, will find similar comfort in your roles once those connections are built and more readily accessible.

AUTHOR: Alyssa Marks is an internship coordinator at Metropolitan State University of Denver. She can be reached at



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