When Taylor Williams began his career in the Minnesota Student Association two and a half years ago, he ran for a committee position unopposed.
So did his roommate.
To combat this apparent lack of interest, now as MSA president, Williams has expanded and developed the group’s Freshman Internship Program.
Through the program, 14 interns gain experience as student leaders by working with MSA leadership to help organize projects and brainstorm new ones.
The program existed last year, Williams said, but meetings were infrequent, and the three interns in the program performed mainly clerical duties.
This year, Williams said the focus is event planning and leadership development. In October, interns helped with Voterpalooza — a voter registration event — and they are currently planning a banquet for student group leadership that will take place early spring semester.
Interns meet twice a week to discuss projects like these and to explore other ideas, like asking University Dining Services to consider exceptions to the mandatory meal plan for students with allergies.
“Freshmen have all these great ideas how to improve the campus. We really want to tap into that,” said MSA Community Program Liaison Andrew Stone.
Although freshman interns aren’t voting members of MSA and are free to leave the program whenever they choose, Williams said the program is meant to develop leaders who could potentially fill higher positions later.
MSA intern Valkyrie Jensen said the program has already helped her attain a voting position as an at-large representative. Jensen, a public and nonprofit management freshman, was elected Oct. 30.
“Getting involved so fast helped people realize that I have commitment and motivation,” she said.
Another freshman intern, Ryan Olson, was elected to an at-large representative position in a September meeting, Jensen said.
Any student can become an at-large representative. Students who run for a position in the fall are elected by MSA members, while students who run in the spring are elected by the student body. Students serve in the position for a full academic year.
The MSA Freshman Internship Program was advertised to freshmen during Welcome Week and in the Undergrad Update eNewsletter.
Finance freshman Domingo Ramirez said he talked to Williams at the Explore-U fair during Welcome Week and later applied for the internship because he wanted to get more involved on campus and meet new people.
“I thought that joining student government would be a great way to network around campus,” he said.
During her interview to join the program, political science freshman Joelle Stangler said Williams was interested in what she wanted to get out of the experience and what she was hoping to accomplish.
Williams said he didn’t turn down any applicants.
“Everyone who applied seemed to be extremely involved in high school, really interested to get involved in college,” he said.
Students in the program are involved in other University activities including the Rooter Club, Quizbowl Team and the Society of Professional Journalists.
Williams said he is optimistic the internship program will continue in coming years.
“I can’t see why next year’s leadership wouldn’t want to have a program like this,” he said. “It’s really important … that people are ready to do our jobs next year so student government doesn’t just fall apart.”