Category Archives: Academic Programs

How do you get an internship helping a non-profit promote its mission?

Learn how Brianna LaMar is helping the a community organization communicate its mission as a “lifeblood” of support to its communities.

LaMar, a first-generation college student, has worked in the Office of the Vice President and has been a recipient of multiple scholarships, including the Doris& Victor Day Foundation Undergraduate Scholarship, in addition to entering the honors program at WIU-QC. Learn more about her experience, and advice, below.

young woman with blonde hair and purple shirt poses for portrait in front of blood-drop logo

Lamar, a Communication major from Coal Valley, IL, poses at the reception area at her internship site.


1. What is your internship title, and where do you work? When did you start? Do you have an end date?
My title is Marketing and Donor Promotions Intern at the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center. I started in early October 2018, and it ends May 2019, upon receiving my Bachelors in Communication Studies at Western Illinois University-Quad Cities.

2. How does your internship relate to your major or classes?
I use many aspects of my major and the knowledge from my classes every day. One that I use most is Computer Mediated Communication. Because I rely heavily on computers to connect with our donor bases through social media, this class has helped me when connecting with others and understanding communication processes through various online platforms. Others I’ve found beneficial in my daily work are my Persuasion and Persuasive Campaign classes. I’m able to use my knowledge of effective campaign designs when assisting with different donor promotions and marketing campaigns to persuade others. But I think the most important class I’ve taken so far is Interpersonal Communication, because I’m the skills and strategies I’ve learned when I communicate every day on the job with our diverse group of donors and MVRBC staff members.

3. How did you hear about the opportunity?
I came across the ad for the position on I thought it was a great opportunity: to take the knowledge and skills I learned in class and get a head start on a career, possibility using my Communication degree!

4. Can you summarize the process you went through to apply for, and receive, the internship?
I filled out an online application through the company’s website. I first had a phone interview with an HR recruitment coordinator. She asked me about my knowledge of the organization, why I was interested in the position, and I briefly went over my work history. I was then scheduled for an in-person interview with who would become my bosses (Emily, Donor Promotions and Communications Supervisor, and Lori, Community Relations Coordinator). At this interview, I was able to go in depth about my experiences and past positions and showcase some of my past work that qualified me for the intern position. A few days later I received a phone call from the company’s human resources department offering me the position, and I accepted!

Two young women working together over a small laptop.

LaMar receives guidance on a project Emily Roebuck, Donor Promotions and Communications Supervisor at MVRBC headquarters in Davenport, IA.

5. How did you feel on the first day?
I was really curious and excited my first day. I had such a warm welcome, and many of my co-workers introduced themselves and told me how happy they were that I was there. It was nice to feel appreciated. I was eager to learn more about the organization in general and the operation side of things. And I was excited that I was now apart of MVRBC’s leading effort in helping provide blood products to our local communities and enhance the lives of others.

6. What are some of your duties and responsibilities? How do they fit into the bigger picture at the organization?
I have many duties and responsibilities in my position that keep me busy all day long. Two of the most important duties I have include assisting with our Donor for Life program and our Impact Rewards Loyalty Store. Both of these programs celebrate the commitment and dedication of our donors. With each donation given, donors receive automatic points that they can spend on cool blood-center merchandise. We also have select times when we have free promotional items that our donors qualify for. My job is to assist and make sure all of these orders are fulfilled. Other duties include monitoring our social media channels. I assist in making sure we’re getting the word out about current promotions and events our donors can participate in, and I engage with our followers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. This includes creating promotional pieces used for advertising these promotions and events, and sending this information to our donor centers.

7. What is the most important skill or task you’re learning at the internship?
The most recent skill I’ve learned is how to create Snapchat geofilters using Canva. I was familiar with the Canva software before working on this task but I didn’t know it could be used for Snapchat! It definitely allows me to use my creativity and add something personal to the geofilters that are used for the special blood drives we run.

8, What’s your favorite thing about the internship?
My favorite thing about my internship is I know the organization makes a huge impact on people’s lives every day. It’s a great feeling to know that you work for an organization whose mission is to serve its communities and help people stay healthy.

9. What’s one thing that has surprised you about it?
I think the thing that has surprised me the most is the amount of donors we have and how big of an impact we have on others. Currently, MVRBC partners with hospitals across Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, and Wisconsin to carry out its mission. We’re able to serve more than 4 million residents in our region thanks to our donors’ contributions. That is a huge! And really fascinating to think about the impact our blood products have on many lives.

10. Would you like work for this company, or in this type of job, after graduation? If so, do you feel this internship might help you stand out as a full-time applicant?
I knew when I transferred into Western Illinois University-Quad Cities that I wanted a degree that would give me the flexibility to learn a variety of skills and strategies to help people and make a change in society. I’m thankful that I’ve learned so much from this internship in a short amount of time.

I’m looking forward to the months to come with this organization. The ability to help others and make an impact is such a rewarding feeling. However, my future plans for this coming fall are to continue my education at WIU by enrolling in the College Student Personnel program, and hopefully becoming a career counselor or academic advisor to help students like myself get the most out of their college experience.

11. What advice would you give to someone in your major who might be looking for this same type of opportunity?
My advice would be to use the resources you have available to you on campus. Make connections with your professors and the Career Development Center. They will help prepare you to land a great opportunity while studying in your program of choice. If you want something, go after it. Make yourself unforgettable and showcase your greatest strengths and talents that can land you an internship beneficial to you and your future career ambitions.


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Troubleshooting and Teamwork: What It’s Like to be a Part-Time Student IT Analyst for John Deere

Meet Brandon, who came to WIU-QC after serving in the military and beginning his college career in the Pacific Northwest. After getting married, returning to his hometown, and transferring to WIU-QC, Oleson has been a student worker in the Office of the Vice President for Strategic Planning and Initiatives on campus, in addition to pursuing his studies and the John Deere Part-Time Student position. 

Name: Brandon Oleson
Hometown: Geneseo, IL
WIU-QC Major: Information Systems

Brandon Oleson, a young man in jeans and a sweater posing in front of new John Deere machinery at the John Deere Pavilion.

Brandon Oleson, an Information Systems major at WIU-QC, poses during Fall 2018 at the John Deere Pavilion, Moline.

“I was a little nervous about starting, just like anyone would be, but I had a lot of helpful people show me the ropes my first day and felt welcomed right away. It made me excited about working there going forward.”


1. What is your job title, and where do you work? When did you start? 

I am a Part Time Student IT Analyst at John Deere. I started in June 2018. My projected end date is July 2019, when I receive my bachelor’s degree in Information Systems.

2. How (if at all) does your job relate to your major or classes?
Some of the concepts that I’ve learned in my IS classes have helped me grasp and understand ideas and processes that John Deere utilizes faster.

3. How did you hear about the opportunity?
Some fellow classmates had started working in Part Time Student positions with John Deere, and I heard about the process of applying through them.

4. Can you summarize the process you went through to apply for, and receive, the position?
I applied through the John Deere website. I was then called for an interview where I did two interview sessions in one day, with two different groups of interviewers. They called me a few weeks later and I was offered the job.

5. How did you feel on the first day or upon entering the work site for the first time?
On the first day, I had to go to John Deere Headquarters first thing to fill out HR paperwork and get issued my badge. That was a little intimidating just because it’s the world headquarters. I was a little nervous about starting later in the day at my actual location, just like anyone would be, but I had a lot of helpful people show me the ropes my first day and felt welcomed right away. It made me excited about working there going forward.

6. What are some of your duties and responsibilities? How do they fit into the bigger picture at the company?
We are responsible for troubleshooting major incidents that occur within John Deere’s IT infrastructure. This is done by working with other teams across John Deere.

7. What is the most important skill or task you’re learning on the job?
How to effectively communicate and drive a conversation with multiple people at once and to be able to convey your ideas using technical wording effectively.

8. What’s your favorite thing about the job?
There are always new challenges that vary from day to day. You get to communicate with different people from teams all across John Deere. You also get to help people solve issues and they are usually very grateful for it, which makes you feel good.

9. What’s one thing that has surprised you about it?
How even if you don’t have the technical expertise needed for the job, if you give your best attempt, your coworkers are usually happy to help you out. It’s more of a helpful and teamwork based environment instead of an isolated and “figure it out yourself” type environment.

10. Would you like to see yourself continuing to work for this company or in this type of job after graduation?
Absolutely. I have the opportunity to apply for the Employee Development Program or apply internally after graduation. I will most definitely do that and I believe that this Part Time Student position will have set me up for an opportunity to get hired on as a full-time employee.

11. What advice would you give to someone in your major who might be looking for this same type of opportunity?
Apply to as many internships and part time student positions as you can. This will allow you to get your foot in the door and make it much easier to transition into a job after graduation. Even if you don’t meet all of the requirements of the job listing, still apply anyway. The fact that you took the leap and applied is really all a company is looking for. They don’t expect you to have all of the technical knowledge needed. As long as you work hard and try your best, they will be satisfied with that. The technical knowledge will come with work experience anyways, and you can’t get that if you don’t apply.

young male students having a conversation on a college campus

Oleson chats with a fellow Information Systems student during a study break in the Riverfront Hall atrium.



WIU-QC Alumna Finds Her Place with Girl Scouts

Maura Warner

  • Communication major
  • English minor
  • Spring 2015 graduate

Where do you work and what is your current job title?

Director of Marketing and Communications, Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois

What is required of you in your position?

I am responsible for the internal and external communications for 38 counties in eastern Iowa and western Illinois. Every day is different and I love it! One day I could be doing a live interview on a news station and the next I’m working with my team to create the summer camp guide. I cover all public relations, email marketing, social media, direct mail, print pieces, website, photography, and advertising. I also love helping with special events for the organization.

4 females posing together.

Warner, a 2015 graduate, poses with local Girl Scouts.

Why did you choose your major?

I always enjoyed writing and public speaking so communication was a natural fit for me. I enjoyed the broad range of skills the major offered and its flexibility helped me when searching for a career.

I think the English minor paired so well with my major. It really helped me refine my writing skills and gave me a creative outlet.

What did you like most about your major?

I loved the professors and students. I still keep in touch with many of my classmates and the faculty. Western Illinois University-Quad Cities was a good fit for me because the small class sizes made it much easier to build connections through classes and student organizations.

How did WIU-QC prepare you for your job?

Covering a broad range of communication theories was very helpful stepping into my career and in general, time-management was a valuable skill I learned in college. I think networking was really encouraged as well and it definitely helped me find a job and then build community connections to help develop program and volunteer connections for Girl Scouts. Also, as much as I dreaded them at the time, working on group projects was so useful to then transition into an office setting.

What did you like the most about your experience at WIU-QC?

I loved being a member of so many students organizations and building friendships with other students and the professors! I really miss event planning with the Communication Student Society and Liberal Arts and Sciences Organization.

Why did you pick WIU-QC for higher education?

I transferred to WIU-QC from a larger university because I wanted to move back to the Quad Cities, but also receive a high-quality education. I toured the campus and sat in on a few classes and instantly thought it was going to be a great fit.

What was your favorite class/who was your favorite professor? Why?

I loved Advanced Organizational Communication with Dr. Young (associate professor of communication). I learned that I really loved looking at communication systems in organizations to see how things can be improved. I enjoyed writing case studies and actually had an opportunity to present research at the Central States Communication Conference. Dr. Young is always so wonderful about connecting opportunities for students and that conference was a highlight!

I would say a close second was a course on science fiction literature with Dr. Hamner (associate professor of English). It was my first English course and I had never read science fiction and was honestly really nervous, but I found I loved the genre and had a lot of fun in that class.

What is a memory of WIU-QC that you often think about?

I have so many memories that just make me laugh because we had so much fun in the communication and English classes! Don’t get me wrong, we were working really hard, but the professors always made classes way more fun than just lectures.

What advice can you offer to current college students who might be interested in going into your field?

Work with your professors to network as much as possible with current professionals and find an internship. It’s a great resume boost and you will enhance your skills working directly in your field. Also, I would recommend to any students to get involved on campus.

Woman posing for photo with children.

Selfie moment on the job.

What is one thing about your job that you didn’t expect, or that might surprise a current college student?

The 8-5 schedule can be a little bit of a difficult adjustment. I always thought not having homework would be such a plus, but I really miss my college schedule.

Information on the communication major at WIU-QC available here

How this WIU-QC grad ended up on The Travel Channel’s ‘Mysteries at the Museum’

When Katie Conrad was contacted by producers of The Travel Channel’s Mysteries at the Museum, she had museum expertise and professional curating under her belt. But when she was asked to talk on-camera about a historical figured named John Wesley Powell, she says, “I was terrified, quite honestly.”

photo of a student and professor at graduation, side-by-side with image of Mysteries at the Museum host

Conrad, who graduated from WIU-QC in December 2016 with a master’s degree in WIU Museum Studies program, is the collections manager and and curator of the John Wesley Powell River History Museum in Green River, Utah, a position she’d secured before even graduating from Western. The role includes caring for the museum’s collection and creating exhibits. But this particular museum’s focus would also soon require her to serve as an expert on a man whose “mysteries” the show wanted to highlight. Conrad was featured in the “Adventure” section referenced in the title of Season 16, Episode 6: “Eisenhower’s Crazy Convoy, Criminal Measures, and Canyon Adventure.” (The last section of that title referring to “…an explorer’s dangerous quest to be the first to uncover the secrets of the Grand Canyon.”)

photo of a woman holding up a small paper figurine

Conrad and “paper Powell”

“I was nervous about not knowing enough about him, because I’d only worked here three months,” she said. “I hadn’t studied him at all. The other people they feature on the show are always so well-put-together, with a lot of knowledge behind them.”

So she did what any good student would do.

“I bought three books, and I started making a timeline and memorizing all these facts,” she said. “After I read a few books about him, I felt comfortable enough to put myself in his shoes. So that helped a lot when a producer would ask me, ‘What do you think Major Powell was thinking?'”

Green River is a small town in the area near Arches National Park with a river flowing through the center of town. And as Conrad explained, it’s the river that quite literally put it on the map.

“In the 1860s, this area of the Colorado River was literally empty, and Major Powell was a great adventurer. He loved exploring, and he decided to fill in the gaps on the map. He rafted down and basically filled in the western area of the map by rafting rivers. He commissioned three boats, some men from the Civil War, and they mapped the whole way. It had never been done before, and rapids were something new they had to figure out. They lost a boat along the way, lost their food, and had to dry their flour out every night…it’s a great story.”

photo of an 1860s explorer

photo courtesy John Wesley Powell River History Museum

When the TV crew came to town, they interviewed Conrad and shot footage of one of the replicas of Powell’s boats, as well as other artifacts, and took footage of Green River.

“It was so much fun. I learned so much,” she said. “I’m flattered that my director trusted me enough to do it, and I’m happy with how it turned out. I’m happy for the museum and for the great city of Green River.”

How Did Western Send Her On Her Way?

Despite having only worked in Green River for a few months, Conrad is no stranger to Utah, having lived there all her life prior to coming to WIU-QC. A 2012 graduate of Utah State with a degree in anthropology, Conrad worked as a curatorial and developmental assistant at the Brigham City Museum. After three years there, as she began to research new career possibilities, “I would find that most of the positions required a master’s degree, so I’d end up getting an interview but not the job. I started getting discouraged,” she said. “So I started thinking about going back to school.”

It was while she was attending a professional development workshop in Salt Lake City that she met the instructor, Dr. Pamela White.

“The workshop was two or three days long, and we started talking at dinner one night,” she said. “She told me about her program, and when I talked about being concerned about money, because I was already working at a museum and didn’t want to leave that to become a student again, she told me about the graduate assistantship program.” Within a few months, Conrad had applied and been accepted into the program, and was soon on a plane to Illinois.

“Leaving Utah was the first time I’d lived by myself, and it was terrifying but extremely exciting at the same time,” she said. “My family was a big help, and I was able to get great student loans and two or three interviews for grad assistantships, one at the Putnam Museum and one at the Muscatine Art Center. Two or three days later, I had offers at both.”

Conrad accepted the assistantship at the Putnam, where she worked in the collections and exhibits department. During her time at Western, she also gained practical experience through projects and internships at sites such as the Figge Museum, the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, and the International Preservation and Studies Center.

“The program was fantastic, from being able to have classes in museums, to professors who work in the field, to working on projects that you get to see come to fruition, to the books that the professors pick, the conversations you have, all the visiting people who come in and talk,” she said. “They really pushed us to get out there, go to conferences, present at conferences, and go to museums in our free time. That was great.”

Did you catch the episode on the Travel Channel? Leave a comment, or suggest a new post idea to Alison McGaughey, public information specialist, at