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Internships as Immersive Learning Experiences in Centerville

The City of Centerville recently revamped its internship program, configuring its summers as immersive learning experiences for as many as a dozen undergraduate students each year.

“This is a mutually beneficial experience: our students spend 40 hours a week learning one-on-one with experts in their chosen fields and the city emerges stronger and more efficient because of their work,” City Manager Wayne Davis said.

In the summer of 2022, for example, Centerville hosted ten interns across nine departments ranging from civil engineering and communications to economic development and finance. Students represented schools from Ohio, Indiana and South Carolina.

Davis engineered the overhaul of the program, which continues to evolve with the support of City Council.

“Many organizations talk about work like this, but they never achieve maximum results. It takes time. It takes effort. We are fortunate to have a team willing to make that commitment, as well as the support of City Council,” Davis said.

Kileigh Lade, a West Virginia University graduate, was a Development Department intern in 2021. She now works as a landscape designer at Kiser + Vogrin Design, a landscape architecture firm outside of Nashville Tennessee.

“My experiences in Centerville ranged from creating wall diagrams for mural artists to building a comprehensive business database. I am grateful for the months I spent there as an intern, which offered me lifelong relationships and prepared me well for my professional career,” Lade said.

She points to interacting with prospective business owners as another highlight of her internship.

“I was trusted with the freedom to pursue projects that aligned with my passions, provided they also aligned with the city’s values and strategic plan,” Lade said.

Intern Michael Berner spent the summer working out communications details of an electric and gas aggregation program, coordinating with performers of the Summer Concert Series at Stubbs Park and improving a children’s activity book.

“I coordinated with all departments across the city to make sure the information was updated, accurate and age-appropriate for the many groups of children who tour city building each year.”

Berner is now bound for law school at the University of Dayton.

Other significant intern projects have included a significant value to residents and businesses in Centerville:

  • Clerk of Council interns took on the mammoth task of inventorying, assessing for retention and recommending dispositions for an estimated 180,000+ pages of documents.
  • Interns assisted with the reconciliation of income tax returns and also helped audit businesses in Centerville to determine appropriate filing status. 
  • A Benham’s Grove intern created a digital floorplan application that enhances customer service by allowing faster and more flexible event set-up, as well as a more accurate plan for the day of the event.
  • A public works intern worked with waste truck drivers’ route maps to determine which route every container is on and create a comprehensive spreadsheet. This allows staff to replace containers based on routes and creates a more efficient way of replacing containers.
  • An engineering intern established a ditch inspection program by creating an inventory, charting out all the ditches in the city and helping to develop the inspection procedures.
  • An economic development intern prepared a contact list for a business walk, an opportunity for staff to walk commercial areas and chat first-hand with business owners about challenges they may face. This work included research on the history of each business.

The city says the value of the work generated by interns each summer far exceeds the cost to the city.

Each intern tours all city buildings, attends a Career Next Steps workshop, has the opportunity to shadow the city manager and assistant manager and attends relevant local and regional events.

2023 interns will converge in Centerville from universities in Ohio, Kentucky, North Carolina and Florida. The group of ten will also join in a summer-long public service project. Recycle Right is a Centerville program run every two years designed to reduce the amount of recycling contamination. Interns will be integral to the pre-sorting process with Rumpke, getting a baseline contamination figure. They will spend time across four weeks surveying recycling toters and offering feedback to staff and residents on whether communication efforts are working and people are recycling appropriately.

“These unique, meaningful experiences prepare our next generation of leaders for the workforce – whether that be in public service or the private sector,” Davis said. “We are both stronger for these experiences.”