Student Spotlight: Trevor Abeyta

Trevor Abeyta is a Master’s student in the Political Science department whose research interests include Environmental Politics and Policy, and Public Policy and Administration. As he defends his professional paper and prepares to graduate in December 2016, he reflects on the invaluable experience he has gained through the department’s graduate internship program.

What internship(s) have you been involved with since you have been a graduate student at CSU?

I have had two internships since starting graduate school at CSU. I interned with the City of Greeley Economic Development department from June 2015 to June 2016. I currently intern with a national civil engineering company, CDR Maguire, in the emergency management consulting division.

Describe your duties and/or your typical day at your internship(s)

Greeley was a unique internship in the fact that I was the first employee in the newly formed department. I was able to do things that a typical intern would not be involved in, and I was essentially involved in developing the framework the department operates under today. This experience was fun because it was fairly diverse in the day to day activities, and I did things as broad as forming a business cluster list to use as the basis of a business retention and expansion plan, to researching and recommending the best methods and practices for local government responses to an urban food desert. The internship was also challenging in the fact that I had to take a crash course on economic impact modeling, and the industry best practices that go along with this, and learn an obtuse software program to do this.

My current internship at CDR Maguire is just ramping up, and it is also a very broad endeavor. So far, I have worked on organizing and collecting a lot of data, learning how to write proposals to respond to government requests for bids, and learning how to write emergency support functions for government in the case of a disaster. The main reason I was hired for this internship is for an all hazards recovery planning project with seven counties, and all of the cities in the Denver metro area. The project just recently kicked off, so I will learn more about my role in the coming months.

How have your internship(s) complimented your studies at CSU?

Greeley complimented my studies by giving me real world insight into local government economic development practices, which is my area of study for my professional paper. I also learned more about how to act in a professional environment versus being in grad school, as the two are very different from one another.

How did Susan Opp, the Political Science department’s graduate internship coordinator, serve as a resource for you when applying for internships?

Susan has been an integral part of helping to get the internships with her vast network of contacts throughout the State of Colorado and the Northern Colorado area in particular. Each of the internships I have gotten were not posted positions, and it was based on her meeting people who expressed a desire for interns. My experience in Greeley was also unique because Greeley was the recipient of the Local Food, Local Places grant, which Susan was spearheading while she was on sabbatical working for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Washington D.C. I got to see both sides of the process working from the municipal economic development side, and also talking to her and the federal program participants.

Who was someone at your internship(s) that made an impact on your experience and how?

I made a lot of friends working with the City of Greeley, and I cannot just give credit to one person. The whole Economic Development team was very impactful on my experience and I learned a lot from each member of the team. The department director was an awesome person to learn from about on-the-ground economic development practices and he was a huge part in why I enjoyed the internship so much. The staff that were hired after me were great people too, and we all grew together as time went on in the department. I also made good friends with many of the City Planners, who are an interesting group of people, and I learned about the planning perspective. I spent a lot of time talking to the Long Range Planner, who was a certifiable genius in all matters that are environmental.

How do you foresee what you learned at your internship(s) helping you in your future career?

I think getting a year working in local government, and getting high quality references from those people will help in securing a job. I have not learned one skill per se that stands out above the rest, but I think networking is one of the most important aspects of interning. You can only get so far ahead with academic job references and connections, and getting out there and meeting people in the real world is great.

What do you hope to be doing when you graduate with your Master’s degree?

Eventually I would like to find my way into working for the State or City of Denver Economic Development offices. However, I am not opposed to other jobs, and I like the fact that there are so many different realms of government jobs that you can do with a social sciences education (and the right skills, and job references).

What advice would you give to incoming graduate students in regards to internships?

Do not limit yourself to only certain internships and take whatever comes your way. I was not very excited about only having an offer from the City of Greeley, and it turned out to be an amazing experience. I would also devote as much time as you can to having an internship, and do not just do a one semester or one summer-long internship. Getting as much professional experience as you can on your resume is great. Also, learn as many industry techniques, methods, and tools as possible. For me, knowing how to do statistics and Geographic Information System (GIS) are huge for my internships and future jobs. Also, go into the internship with a good attitude, and be there to learn. Professional people often like to talk and teach people about things, and by having a positive attitude every day, your co-workers will remember you. You never know where you will run into those connections again and it may help you get a job in the future.