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Internship fund helps UW-Eau Claire senior complete her final degree requirement

| Denise Olson

Photo caption: With her bachelor's degree in social work now complete, Brianna Anderson plans to seek a job with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections. She has been an intern working with the pre-release population as they transition back to society.

Over the course of this summer, the latest recipient of funding through the Eau Claire Internship Fund has completed a social work internship at the Chippewa Valley Correctional Treatment Facility in Chippewa Falls.

Brianna Anderson of Eau Claire officially concluded her internship Aug. 4, marking the completion of her bachelor’s degree in social work at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. The Eau Claire Internship Fund was established in 2022 to support students for whom a full-time unpaid internship is not a financial option.

“I was talking to Joshua Potter-Efron about my concerns that I wouldn’t be able to pull off those hours and still afford my life expenses of housing, car and day care,” says the single mother of three. “My kids are out of school and need full-time child care.”

“I received a $3,000 award, the full amount allowed by the fund. I’m very thankful for this scholarship.”

Potter-Efron, a clinical assistant professor of social work at UW-Eau Claire, submitted a letter of support for Anderson to receive the internship funding, laying out how her student experiences made her an excellent candidate to receive this award.

“Brianna has balanced many roles in her time as a student,” Potter-Efron says. “As a single parent and full-time student, she has managed to focus on both caring for her family and maintaining an excellent academic standing,” he says, adding that Anderson also elected to become an instruction assistant in the program, helping fellow social work students.

“Brianna is a clear asset to the field of social work. The financial support of this fund has allowed her to stay focused on family and her internship roles while continuing to excel.”

What does a correctional center internship look like?

“My main role is facilitating groups within the facility population,” Anderson says.

“I facilitate an anger management group and I shadow in other social skills groups. Our job is to prepare these men to go back out into the community, so we do a lot of treatment and case planning. We work with probation and parole agents to set up housing for release after their 20 weeks in treatment. So, it's really getting them set up for a new life, getting them connected to the resources they will need to succeed.”

Anderson says she always has had interest in corrections but was intimidated by “just the idea” of the population, a largely male population with criminal pasts.

“I've always wanted to be an agent for change and provide tools or a steppingstone for people who are incarcerated. These are not bad people; they’re people who have made bad choices. Helping people who ended up in hard circumstances is why I went to school for social work.”

How can you help Blugold interns? It’s easier than you think.

An internship is required for completion of a Blugold bachelor’s degree in social work, and while not a requirement of all human services programs, these types of internships are most often available only through government or other municipal agencies without the budget to pay student interns, according to Dr. Jason Spraitz, associate professor of criminal justice and internship coordinator for the program.

“This presents various financial obstacles for students, who pay tuition costs for their internship credits and have other living expenses, often working night and weekend jobs to make it work. The Eau Claire Internship Fund can alleviate some of that financial burden.

“We are grateful for all the agencies that provide internships for our students and for the donors who have made the first rounds of awards possible.”

Career Services hopes to see the Eau Claire Internship Fund grow to allow more Blugolds to gain practical professional experience by seeking donations from local employers, alumni and friends of the university to fund support payments for our students with unpaid internships. This support will help close the opportunity gap between college and career for students with financial need.

“Internships are an integral part of the Blugold undergraduate experience,” says Staci Heidtke, director of Career Services. “Graduates with relevant and practical professional experience are prepared for career success, and this funding allows students to have those experiences while lessening the financial hardships the commitment can present.”

Interested businesses and donors can learn more at the Eau Claire Internship Fund website, or contact Staci Heidtke or Liz Julian in the Advising, Retention and Career Center for more information.