Perspectives on the Summer Transportation Internship Program


Intern Paula Rolim (left) from Howard University inspecting a bridge

This year’s Summer Transportation Internship Program came to an end in August after another successful year. The program, which began in 2012, continued this year with a strong partnership between the Center for Transportation Studies, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), and Howard University, located in Washington, D.C.

This year, as the internship program coordinator, I had the opportunity to engage with six undergraduate students who were selected for the program from a candidate pool of 28 applicants. Students were selected from three institutions: the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, the University of Minnesota Duluth, and Howard University. Students were placed in various MnDOT locations, including the Office of Materials Services, Office of Environmental Stewardship, Metro Maintenance, and the Office of Human Resources.

In 2013, the program increased from 8 to 10 weeks. This was a great decision, because adding an additional two weeks to the program gave students the opportunity to learn more about MnDOT and to build stronger relationships with their MnDOT supervisors and colleagues.

Each student came into the program with different experiences and interests. The one thing that really struck a chord with me was how dedicated the students were to the work they were given. In each of my discussions with the students, they expressed great satisfaction in being able to learn about the inner workings of MnDOT and about how MnDOT provides a service to the people of Minnesota.

All six students had great experiences, but I wanted to note a few examples of the program’s success.

In a final wrap-up meeting with the students and MnDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle, one student noted that a relative of hers didn’t have a high opinion of MnDOT. The student explained that she was able to sit down with her relative and explain MnDOT’s vision and role in the state of Minnesota. Since that discussion, the student’s relative has more appreciation for MnDOT’s work and service to Minnesota. It was wonderful to see the transfer of knowledge from a student to another person.

The Howard University student—originally from Belém, Brazil, and currently a senior in civil engineering—came to Minnesota with a passion for engineering. She had the opportunity to work in the MnDOT Metro Maintenance Bridge Inspection Unit. Her internship experience included accompanying other bridge inspectors to inspect bridges and culverts for damage or cracking. This required her to be lifted high in the air in a bucket and to crawl through tight spaces in the bridge or culverts to get to the damaged areas. She always said “yes” with a smile on her face and really enjoyed the experience.

Thanks to the Summer Transportation Internship Program, I am proud to say that MnDOT now has six potential hires for the future MnDOT workforce.


Posted in Workforce development

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