Honors College Students (from left) Caroline Gerdes, Kori Lutenbacher, and Tiffany Lemon learning through internship experience
For many students, summer is a time for sleeping in late, watching reruns, and taking a break from the stresses of college life. But for many students in the Honors College, it is an opportunity to gain valuable work and educational experience by participating in an internship related to their major.
“Internships are important because they give students the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to a real-world situation,” said Cindy Seghers, Coordinator at the Honors College Office of Experiential Learning. “The Honors College believes that internships help students to begin the transition to post-graduate life as they focus on specific career paths.”
Here, three Honors College students discuss their summer internships and research and what they’ve gained from the experience.
Kori Lutenbacher, Product Engineer Intern at John Deere
Twenty-one-year-old mechanical engineering senior Kori Lutenbacher doesn’t mind being the only girl in the room; after graduating from an all-girls high school in Covington and studying a male-dominated field for four years, she’s used to it.
“It doesn’t really bother me … I mean, I picked engineering,” she joked.
Since Lutenbacher hopes to someday work in automotive design, she wanted to find an internship that would allow her to gain design experience. When she about an internship at the John Deere plant in Thibodaux, she jumped at the chance to apply.
“My family kind of laughed at first when I told them about it, because they immediately thought of the tractors, but it’s such a great company to work for,” she said. “When I got it, they were proud of me because they knew I wanted to work outside the oil industry, which is hard to do in Louisiana.”
Over the course of her ten-week internship at John Deere, Lutenbacher created a safety course and certification check sheet for operators of sugar cane machinery and designed a row guidance censor.
“It’s very involved — I feel much more like an employee than just an intern,” she said. “John Deere gave me real projects that are going to make a difference, not just busy work.”
Lutenbacher also traveled to the John Deere headquarters in Moline, Illinois, where she was able to meet over 400 other interns from across the nation.
“That was kind of the best part for me — I love traveling, and I got to meet a lot of awesome people,” she said.
Although landing such a high-profile internship was intimidating at first, Lutenbacher said that being an Honors College Advocate and studying at LSU prepared her for her job at John Deere.
“Being an Advocate has helped me set my goals really high and it also helped me to become more outgoing and driven,” she said. “I really feel like LSU has prepared me for this job. You take a lot of what you’ve learned in classes and apply it to every day situations; I’ve become more of a practical thinker, and it’s been a big help.”
Caroline Gerdes, Marketing Intern at National Geographic Live
Twenty-one–year old print journalism senior Caroline Gerdes is a self-described “magazine junkie.”
The former editor of LSU’s LEGACY magazine voraciously reads The Atlantic Monthly, TIME, The New Yorker, Vogue, Elle, W, and Glamour — to name a few — and hopes to someday work and write for the magazine industry.
So naturally, she was thrilled to obtain a summer marketing internship at the National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C.
“Growing up, my dad saved pretty much National Geographic he ever had, so we literally have bookcases full of them at my house,” she said. “I really didn’t think I was going to get it, because people from all across the country were applying, but I’m so excited that I did.”
Caroline served as an intern for National Geographic Live, a public program of speakers, concerts, and films that allows National Geographic’s explorers to share their research and stories on various
Gerdes’ job included helping with marketing for National Geographic in national and international cities, as well as setting up for events and promoting them on social media sites.
She has also gotten to meet several of National Geographic’s prestigious explorers, including James Cameron, Paula Kahumbu, Michael Davie, Kevin Hand, and Mattias Klum.
“It’s really just an amazing, exciting place to work,” she said. “Everybody here has a story … People are here because they care about the planet, and everyone’s passionate about helping others.”
Gerdes said that the Honors College played a crucial role in helping her obtain the highly competitive internship, especially the marketing experience she gained as the FOCUS Director of Finance and Marketing her sophomore year. She also expressed her gratitude to the Honors College faculty.
“They’ve been really supportive,” she said. “I was a latecomer to the Honors College but there were still opportunities for me. Cindy Seghers was really helpful … she was the person who taught me how to write a cover letter and resume, she read my drafts and gave me handbooks and guides, and she gave me the tools I needed.”
Although Gerdes hasn’t studied abroad, she said that her work with National Geographic has instilled in her a desire to travel.
“Everyone is interested in exploration and travel. It has really inspired me to want to see more of the world,” she said. “I would work for National Geographic in a heartbeat — everyone really cares about what they’re doing here.”
Tiffany Lemon, Howard Hughes Medical Institute exchange student
Like many students, Tiffany Lemon would jump at the chance to attend graduate school at Harvard. Unlike most students, however, the 20-year-old biochemistry junior has studied there before.
Lemon, an Opelousas native, studied at Harvard from June 6 through August 13 through the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), a nonprofit medical research organization that works to advance biomedical research and science education in the U.S.
With the help of Dr. Isiah Warner, one of LSU’s two HHMI professors, Lemon (who is a first-generation college student) was nominated to participate in HHMI’s Student Summer Program. She was selected based on her educational qualifications, experience, and research interests, and given the chance to study at the institution of her choice.
She chose to work at the RAGON Institute under Harvard’s Dr. Bruce Walker, an HHMI professor, a leading HIV and AIDS researcher who has spearheaded the creation of advanced clinical and laboratory facilities at the front lines of the epidemic in South Africa.
“It’s pretty intense [at the RAGON Institute] — researchers from different perspectives of biomedical research are collaborating together to fight HIV,” she said. “The research is targeted towards developing a vaccine, and it’s so interesting how many different aspects each researcher is looking at the problem from.”
Lemon’s research was centered around studying how cells combat HIV. She worked in a tissue culture lab growing T-cells, helping with lab duties, and performing various experiments.
“It took a few weeks to learn everything … there’s so much you have to learn and a lot of basic precautions go into a lab like this one, since you work with HIV-positive samples,” she said. “And you’re excited about what you’re doing because it contributes to the overall development of the vaccine, no matter how small your role.”
At LSU, Lemon studies protein-DNA interactions, so learning about immunology was a challenge. Luckily, she’s a fast learner.
The learning curve is steep, but I’m learning so much,” she said. “At first it was like, ‘What is going on?’ But working hands-on with the things you’re studying is such a dynamic experience, because you’re applying what you learn … you pick up really quickly if you listen. It’s a lot of fun.”
Lemon, who hopes to someday earn her PhD and become a professor, said that the experience has taught made her more confident about her research and sparked her desire to do even more research back at LSU.
“I’m excited to get back to school and get more into the research I’m doing there,” she said. “With any research, as long as you have the drive to do the work and the curiosity to see it through, you can see results if you put in the effort.”
Story by Elizabeth Clausen, LSU Honors College
For more information, contact the Honors College at 225-578-8831