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A foot in the door

Economics professor helps steer students to internships

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October 29, 2015

By Tommy Benson '17

From left: Parker Wheatley, associate professor and chair of economics and Michael Seehusen '16

Photo: Amanda Baloun '17

The internship marketplace can seem vast and complicated to an undergraduate. In such an environment, it helps to have a mentor.

Michael Seehusen, a Saint John's University senior economics major and mathematics minor from St. Cloud, Minnesota, began his search for a summer internship with his gaze set on the public sector. However, paid internships in the public sector are sparse.

That's where Parker Wheatley, associate professor and chair of economics at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University, enters the frame.

Fruth Summer Internship

Wheatley encouraged Seehusen's application for the Fruth Summer Internship in Economics and Public Policy, which offers "financial support for economics majors and minors taking internships with non-profit organizations and in government." This program is made possible through the generous support of SJU alumnus Terry Fruth.

With the funds made possible through the grant, Seehusen was able to intern as a nonprofit economy analyst at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN), where he compiled the annual Minnesota Nonprofit Economy Report on employment, wages and financial figures for the six regions of Minnesota as well as the state as a whole.

"Parker was so helpful throughout the whole process. He found the internship for me and guided me toward it," Seehusen said.

The mentorship didn't end there, however. Wheatley checked in on Seehusen during the course of the summer and also communicated with his employer. In due course, Wheatley and Seehusen collaborated further and he advised Seehusen on his final internship reflection paper.

On the whole, Seehusen believes that the tremendous relationship between CSB/SJU students and their professors proved vital to his own internship experience, noting his particular relationship with Wheatley. He also felt that he was extraordinarily well equipped academically to do the work, praising the impact of the liberal arts.

"You don't realize how nice the liberal arts are in a 9 to 5 job. Being well-rounded in the workplace sets you above other people, which comes directly from the liberal arts. When you are specialized in one area you aren't able to do different things and draw on those different subjects," Seehusen said.

Looking to the future

The internship also deepened Seehusen's interest in economics and quantitative analysis, helping him to envision other possible career directions he could take upon graduation.

"My summer at MCN helped shape my thinking about my future studies and career as a whole," Seehusen said. "I still am intrigued by doing analysis in my future, just as I did all summer.

"I grew more excited to begin my econometrics course this fall. I am still considering graduate school, and I believe the skills I honed this summer will assist me if I decide to continue my education. However, I also know that if I directly enter a career after finishing at Saint John's, I will be able to make significant contributions in jobs in either the private or public sector."

Thanks to the efforts of Wheatley, the generosity of Fruth and the support of Saint John's University Institutional Advancement, CSB and SJU have had an internship program for economics majors and minors for the last two years to complement the Fruth Summer Research Fellows program that was developed three years ago under previous department chair Louis Johnston, associate professor of economics at CSB/SJU.

Additional internship opportunities

Along with Seehusen, there are eight current and recent students who completed or are currently engaged in research and internships in economics. Other summer 2015 interns include SJU senior Edward Mallak, who worked under the supervision of CSB graduate Rachel Vilsack '98 at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development; and CSB junior Korryn Flaig, who worked at Wilder Research to investigate rates of return of public investments.

Like Seehusen, these and other students at CSB and SJU have benefited from the encouragement, mentorship and support of faculty members at the colleges as they have pursued internships and research through the many other summer internship and research programs offered at the colleges.