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Starting from the bottom …

Being an intern may not be the most glamorous job, but for MSU Denver’s Vaughn Toland, Braelin Pantel and Brandi Scott, it was their ticket to the top.

By Kristen Lotze

August 9, 2017

Braelin Pantel, left, Vaughn Toland and Brandi Scott, right.
Braelin Pantel, left, Vaughn Toland and Brandi Scott, right.

Internships can be a double-edged sword: When they’re good, their value is immeasurable; but when they’re bad, it can put a permanent damper on ever wanting to work for that particular company. Every now and then, though, an internship opportunity comes along that becomes a life-changing experience.

That was the case for MSU Denver’s Vaughn Toland, Braelin Pantel and Brandi Scott. All three started as interns or student employees, and all have returned to MSU Denver to continue and further their careers.

Toland, executive director of Admissions and Outreach at MSU Denver, started his career as a summer student employee in the advising office. After a six-month stint as a temporary employee in the registrar’s office, Toland landed in his current office as an admissions counselor. It was through his time at the University, and meeting people in various student-services departments, that Toland realized that he wanted to make his home here, to have a career in helping students.

“Those two positions helped me to see that I really enjoyed working with students and I liked working at a college,” he said. “I enjoyed the atmosphere here and the people that I worked with, so I knew I really wanted to pursue a career here.”

For Pantel, dean of students and associate vice president of Student Engagement and Wellness, the path to MSU Denver was a little more winding. Pantel began as an unpaid intern under Toland in summer 2003. While her internship experience ultimately influenced her decision to return, Pantel was in the midst of finishing graduate school, and there weren’t any available full-time positions at the end of her internship, leading her to work for another institution for several years. But Pantel’s positive experience with MSU Denver stuck with her, and she eventually found a permanent position with the University in November 2010.

In summer 2011, Pantel was contacted by an eager young Colorado State University graduate student named Brandi Scott who had met Pantel on an Auraria Campus tour. Scott knew she wanted to work for MSU Denver and was looking to get her foot in the door. She was able to do so through an internship in Pantel’s office, helping with student conduct and application projects. Scott moved into working with TRIO, where she eventually became the director. Scott now is the director for the Center for Equity and Student Achievement. Not a bad ascent in such a short time.

All three of them, now in high-ranking positions within the institution, share the common thread of having started out in low-paying or unpaid internships or as student employees, and all desired to come back to work for MSU Denver. All three also emphasize how influential their previous experiences were in getting them to where they are now.

“Our story is a perfect example of how an internship has value,” Pantel says. “The value [of an intern] to the institution goes beyond just the immediate work that the intern is doing; we’re also building connections with a possible future employee.”

That sentiment is echoed by Toland and Scott, who stress how important it is to not only work directly with interns in an office environment but also how helpful completing an internship can be toward accomplishing future career goals.

All three recommend that every student get experience as an intern, even if it’s not an academic requirement. And while in the midst of an internship, be sure to take advantage of any and all opportunities to network and meet as many people as you can.

“Take it [an internship] as seriously as possible,” Toland says. “You never know where it’s going to lead, what connections you’ll make or who’s noticing you and may offer you a job opportunity. Treat it like a professional position in every way possible.”

The Applied Learning Center’s Internship Program is a resource for MSU Denver students interested in finding their own internship experience. The center offers guidance for students seeking an internship along with a searchable database of internships for most majors. Internships can be for credit or pay, and sometimes both. Call 303-556-3290 or visit the Applied Learning Center, Administration Building Suite 325 for more information.

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