What I Did on My Summer Vacation

UNC Student Ashley Ruesgen

UNC Student Ashley Ruesgen stands on a promontory overlooking the enormous gold mine in Peru where she spent part of her summer serving an internship. Photo courtesy of Ashley Ruesgen

Whether they were working a summer job in Colorado, serving an internship in Washington, D.C., conducting research in the Middle East or at the largest gold mine in South America like student Ashley Ruesgen who’s pictured, UNC students and faculty members had rich and rewarding summer "vacations."

Internship at South American Gold Mine
Ashley Ruesgen, a senior majoring in Political Science and Mexican-American Studies with a minor in Spanish, spent her summer in northern Peru working as an industrial hygiene environmental intern at the Minera Yanacoca gold mine.

The mine, located high in the Andes Mountains, is the world’s second largest gold mine, and is operated by Denver-based Newmont Mining Newmont, the second largest mining company in the world.

Ruesgen split her time between the city of Cajamarca and at the mine, working with its emergency response team, industrial hygienists, and loss prevention teams. She was also able to treat the internship as a Spanish immersion program.

"As a result of this experience, I’ve developed both valuable business insight and a higher degree
of professionalism," Ruesgen said, noting that she’ll never forget the first time she set foot in the 125-square-mile mine. "The sheer size of the open pit and the massive equipment and machinery was breathtaking."

- Gary Dutmers, UNC Office of Public Relations editor/writer

Helping Children with Mental Disorders
Jacqueline Badalucco, a junior majoring in Psychology, spent her summer working with children ages 10-16 who are unable to attend regular schools because of a mental disorder.

In her job in Aurora Mental Health’s Intercept Summer Program, Badalucco prepared for a career in the field by working side by side with teachers and therapists to provide structure in the children’s daily lives. Badalucco said she learned how to communicate effectively with the children, and that medication does not take the disorder away.

“Working with children with any type of mental disorder is very challenging and requires a lot of patience," Badalucco said. "Many times these children will test your limits and drain all your energy, but at the end of the day, working with them is very rewarding.”

Badalucco said she also learned that there is more to children’s disorders than what’s written in textbooks, and how the disorders can also affect the lives of family members, teachers and therapists.

- Fiza Johari, UNC Office of Public Relations student employee

Experiencing Art History in the Middle East
Aaron Lindquist’s summer trip with his grandfather to Egypt, Jordan and Israel started as a vacation but turned into bases of research for the fifth-year senior’s on-site study presentation this semester for one of his majors - Art History.

Lindquist, who’s also majoring in Philosophy, visited museums, archaeological dig sites and different tours, and conducted his own outside research related to art history. His travels took him to the pyramids, the Great Sphinx of Giza and Jordan’s historic city of Petra, which was his personal favorite stop. Along the way, Lindquist said, he made friends and learned about the different cultures, and he’s looking forward to sharing the photographs and information he brought home through his class presentation.

“Rather than reading about art history through books, it was beneficial for me to be able to experience all the artwork firsthand," Lindquist said. "Learning through the textbooks is like getting a sample taste, but going to actually see it was like a buffet.”

- Fiza Johari

In Her Own Words: On the Sixth Floor of the Denver Post
I was among about 20 Journalism majors from Colorado universities who were given the opportunity to attend the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication convention held in downtown Denver this summer. We worked as news writers, covering as much of the conference as possible within the four short days spent there.

From the sixth floor of the Denver Post’s building, our stories were perfected by several volunteer editors, including UNC professors Anita Fleming-Rife and Lynn Klyde-Siverstein. Each student-submitted story was edited; and then published on the conference website for attendees and many others to see. Two stories written by students were picked up and published on the Denver Post’s website. Here’s a contribution from me.

In addition to writing, students were encouraged to use a FlipCam (video recorder) for interviews with professors and scholars attending the conference. Corresponding videos appeared at the end of a student’s 400- to 500-word story, summing up the main points for each conference panel, field trip interview or miscellaneous story.

The need for renaissance journalists is increasing with each year that goes by. Skills in news writing and video journalism are just a few that undergraduates will need to have when they enter the world of journalism. I am confident that the few days I spent at the conference gave me a boost most students my age have yet to attain.

- Katie Owston, UNC Office of Public Relations student employee

Internship with Military Sealift Command
Paige Watkins, a sophomore Business major with an emphasis in Accounting, held an internship this summer with the budget department of the Military Sealift Command in Washington D.C.

The MSC is the transportation provider for the U.S. Department of Defense with responsibility for delivering fuel, weapons, oil and basic supplies U.S. Navy ships deployed throughout world.

Working on budgets all day may sound boring, but Watkins said her experience was far from that. She toured the Pentagon, and visited the Naval Surface Warfare Center and the National Transportation Safety Board’s offices.

She also took a week-long trip to Virginia Beach, Va., where she toured MSC ships as well as British Navy ships.
“I will honestly say this internship taught me more than I could ever hope to learn in a classroom,” Watkins said. “I was able to take my knowledge and apply it to real-life situations.”

- Brittany Sarconi, UNC Office of Public Relations student employee

Research in the Persian Gulf and a Colorado Connection
Like many UNC faculty members, much of assistant professor of Geography Karen Barton’s summer vacation was spent working.

A Fulbright-Hays grant – her second such award in the past three years from the U.S. Department of Education – took Barton to Kuwait, Qatar and United Arab Emirates to conduct research and develop a curriculum project on the consequences of marine development in the Persian Gulf.

Her research focused on the ways in which large-scale modernization such as the Dubai model of capitalism has affected cultural traditions, heightened economic struggles and altered critically sensitive marine ecosystems in the region.

Barton’s trip offered a unique example of how peoples from different cultures have more in common that we sometimes realize.

"The highlight of my journey was a dinner in Abu Dhabi shared with an Emirati who had attended the Colorado School of Mines and beamed whenever he spoke of his experiences in and around Golden," Barton said. "He was in the U.S. on 9/11, and when he heard the news that the first tower had fallen, he expressed the same shock as the rest of us, remembering every nuance of the day. I asked him what it was like to be an Arab living in an America on high alert. He laughed and said it was difficult, but made easier by the many friends he’d made here in Colorado. We then spent most of the evening discussing the dangers of driving on I-25. It was quite poignant to see how humor connects us across the globe.”

- Gary Dutmers

In Her Own Words: Life-Changing Trip to South Africa
I spent my summer working on a professional documentary production on location at two animal sanctuaries in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa, with professor Gary Swanson and classmate Ryan Workman from UNC’s Journalism and Mass Communications program. I’m majoring in Criminal Justice with dual minors in Media Studies and Philosophy, and will graduate in December.

Monkeyland houses 15 species of primates. Nine species live in the main free-roaming 12-hectare (30-acre) Monkeyland forest, three live in the free-roaming “Special Monkey Home,” and the remaining three live in Birds of Eden, sharing their home with close to 200 different bird species.

I spent most of my time at the Special Monkey Home working closely with Ryan and professor Swanson. My role included gathering background information and research, and public relations-related tasks throughout the duration of the documentary production. Having a knack for picking up foreign languages, I managed to learn some Afrikaans on the trip.

This was a life-changing experience for me. After visiting both Monkeyland and Birds of Eden, I can’t step foot in any type of zoo. This trip has reinforced my beliefs that not only humans deserve to be respected.

- Fiza Johari

Helping Quantify the Effectiveness of an AIDS Prevention Program
Lisa Rue, assistant professor of Applied Statistics and Research Methods, traveled to South Africa this summer with eight doctoral students to train local researchers involved in an AIDS-education and prevention program in protocols of data collection and how to conduct focus groups and interviews.

The program is a joint community-based initiative between public schools, the ministry of education and a local church. Focus groups and interviews were conducted with school principals, teachers and staff who are implementing the program to develop quantitative data about the program’s effectiveness.

Rue and her students stayed in dorms at the University of Pretoria and worked in Shoshanguve, one of the poorest townships in South Africa. The country has the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the world (5.7 million cases), according to the June 2010 National Geographic.

Rue took advantage of this opportunity to teach her students how to work a project from start to finish.

“The trip was a culminating activity for my advanced evaluation course," Rue said. "Students were able to apply issues related to cross-cultural evaluation in the field.”

- Brittany Sarconi