- By Tom Weaver
THE GREEN /
Burton Snowboard’s formidable R&D operation—“pretty much the ultimate prototyping facility for our industry in the world,” according to company founder and CEO Jake Burton—is located in a cavernous warehouse next to the company’s Burlington headquarters. Its collection of custom-built machines and rapid prototyping equipment can crank out an experimental new snowboard in a day or a prototype binding in a few hours.
This hotbed of product innovation is where Logan Williams, a mechanical engineering major from Vergennes, Vermont, spent last summer working and learning through an internship. With the guidance of Jeff Burga, a Burton engineer, Williams designed a machine that will test the ability of a new generation of snowboard bindings to endure all manner of simulated crashes.
Williams landed his internship thanks in part to a new partnership between UVM’s College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences (CEMS) and Vermont HITEC, a workforce development company with deep ties to Vermont employers, that placed engineering and math students in summer internships around the state.
He’s one of a bumper crop of UVM students with challenging internship positions last summer, the product of a new effort to expand and consolidate the university’s many internship initiatives. The internship push has both evolved organically in UVM academic units and departments, as in the case of CEMS and Vermont HITEC, and been consciously set in motion by the internship recommendations in a comprehensive plan that Honors College Dean Abu Rizvi and a team of colleagues created last year at the request of UVM President Tom Sullivan.
The investment in deepening the well of internship opportunities is critical to students’ success after graduation. Internships and employment during college are the top traits employers consider in evaluating recent graduates for a position, eclipsing GPA and major, according to a survey conducted last year by the Chronicle of Higher Education and Marketplace, the public radio program.
Beyond the expansion in internships this summer, the groundwork has been set for continued growth. Among the most obvious signs of progress: two new positions in Career Services. An internship coordinator will work with students, employers, and academic departments to create and fill new internships. And an employer relations professional will network with employers largely to find job opportunities for graduating seniors, but will also, inevitably, learn of many new internship opportunities Career Services can promote.
The CEMS/Vermont HITEC partnership followed a six-month pilot period with a yearlong contract on July 1. With funds from a grant secured by Sen. Patrick Leahy, Vermont HITEC placed twenty-nine students in demanding summer internships, placed six in full-time employment, and advised sixty more from the office it opened in Votey Building in January.
Also, the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources has rolled out a new program of “perennial” internships, positions that will be available to students every summer in a growing number of organizations. And many of UVM’s other colleges and schools have expanded the number of internships they offer through their departments.
For his part, student Logan Williams says his Burton Snowboards experience was a critical complement to his UVM coursework. “Here, I’m learning how to run a business and getting to work on all these awesome projects,” he says.