Internship provides test of skills, valuable learning experience for December graduate
The Swiss Colony is most recognized for its gift baskets filled with chocolate and cheese and the Chirstmas holiday. For December 2008 graduate Amanda Richgels, this Wisconsin-based company synonymous with holiday treats, was the site of her sixth month internship.
An organizational communications major, Richgels worked at the company's Monroe headquarters as an employee communications intern. Richgels took on many responsibilities in her role, which she said was like a “liason” between human resources and shipping operations.
“I was like a neutral party that employees could talk to,” she said. “I was someone whom people could ask questions to if they felt uncomfortable talking to their supervisor.”
As part of the employee relations aspect of her job, Richgels said she produced weekly newsletters. She also served as employee health and safety representative, which included driving new hires to drug test appointments and giving first aid at the loading dock.
The majority of her internship she said, focused around hiring thousands of employees for temporary positions for company's holiday operations. She worked alongside full-time human resources staff, conducting job interviews for the company’s temporary workforce. At one career fair, Richgels said she could recount interviewing over 340 applicants in one day.
Swiss Colony Employee and Internship Coordinator Sara Anderson, said that Richgels ability to think analytically helped her to juggle multiple tasks.
“She was very though and sought to understand something before acting.” She said. “She had well thought out questions and asked questions about the direction she need to take.”
For her own position, Richgels said she began her application process at Internship Mania, a career fair held every February on the UW-Eau Claire campus. Out of the field of potential employers, Richgels said the The Swiss Colony’s professional atitude, including her conversation with representative Dana Fritsche drew her to apply for the internship.
Later that night, she received a call back from Fritsche who extended an interview.
“I remember being very serious (about the interview),” she said.
The preparation paid off as Richgels was invited to have a second interview at the Monroe headquarters.
Richgels said she also credited meeting with former Career Services Arts and Sciences Internship Coordinator Bill Jacobson, who initially mentioned the internship to her. While she had a previous internship working as a manager trainee at a bank, Richgels said she wanted a more active position.
“I wanted to do something more aggressive,” she said. “I went to Bill Jacboson at Career Services, and he told me about the job and strongly recommended it.”
Interning for six months, Richgels described her internship as experiencing the whole process of employment, from hiring applicants, to on-the-job relations and to end-of-term processes.
Now employed as an Executive Team Leader for the local Target in Stevens Point, Richgels said she credits her internship at The Swiss Colony for contributing to her success during her final semester at UW-Eau Claire.
“My classes made more sense,” she said. “I had more of a hunger to learn.”
Richgels also said that while she has been “a naturally inquisitive person,” she notes that the internship put that personality trait to the test the use of critical thinking.
Assistant Professor Martha Fay said that as a student, Richgels showed the qualities of a natural leader, especially in the group work aspect of the organizational communication major. Fay also said that Richgels diverse perspectives through her international travel benefitted classroom discussion.
“Her world experience made her more mature,” she said. “but she was not cocky about her experience– she never presented her opinions as one-sided.”
Similarly, Richgels said her education through the Department of Communication and Journalism at UW-Eau Claire attributed to her career success.
“I am so grateful of my time at UW-Eau Claire,” she said. “(The university) was a good fit for me. There are good students - good faculty.”