Emerging Prairie’s Intern Experience Program

Written by: Kara Lidberg

Photography by Hillary Ehlen & Paul Flessland

As summer comes to a close and fall semesters begin, the third year of Emerging Prairie’s Intern Experience program wraps up. This year, about 45 interns were enrolled in the eight-week program, which began in June.

“It’s designed to help interns connect to each other and to the community,” says Annie Wood, director of community programs at Emerging Prairie. “We want to help them get to know people in other companies so they can share stories and learn from each other.”

Emerging Prairie Intern Experience
Annie Wood, Director of Community Programs, Emerging Prairie

Interns are divided into small groups and meet each week. 

“Each meeting has a theme that works them through a discovery process, helping them understand themselves and how they contribute to the company through the internship they’re in,” Wood says.

“We then discuss what it means to be on a team or part of a group, how it’s different and challenging, and what that means for communicating in a power structure. We wrap up the summer by helping them think about their time at their internship as it’s coming to a close. What do they want to take with them? What do they want to take beyond? The goal is to get them to think one step further as far as careers and continuing in school goes.”

The interns also gather as a large group four times in the hope that they discover more about the community and learn from local experts.

“The first one is designed to be a fun one so this year we had a Downtown Fargo scavenger hunt to help them interact with Fargo in a different way,” Wood says. “For the other three large-group sessions, we bring in community members to discuss other areas we are exploring.

“The first speaker talked about how to understand if your skills are or aren’t really a good fit for your job this summer. How do you make the most of it? Another speaker came in and talked about teams, how they are different than groups of people and how you begin to form people into a team versus a group. The last speaker we had was actually a TEDxFargo speaker. He’s a professor of communication, and we had him talk from a bigger organizational-level standpoint about communication and how organizations view the interns’ age group as part of the workforce.”

The Intern Experience program is a simple and practical tool for local interns, but to be successful, it needs to have active participation from the Fargo-Moorhead community. Fargo INC! connected with two participating companies who sent interns to participate in the program as well as one of the facilitators to get a better explanation of their roles in the program and their opinions of its impact.


Emerging Prairie Intern Experience

Brianne Hoffman, Communication Specialist, Doosan Bobcat North America

How many interns did your company send to the program?

A brief description of the intern’s responsibilities

  • Supporting execution of internal communication’s short- and long-term strategies
  • Ensuring all communications meet company standards within specified deadlines
  • Creating and assisting with research, copy writing, editing, designing stories for various media delivery
  • Working closely with stakeholders across functions and locations to ensure timely, accurate, cost-effective completion of projects

Why did you want your intern to participate in the program?
“We felt our intern, Kim, would benefit from connecting with other interns in the community and sharing best practices. We encourage our interns to grow and learn throughout their time with Doosan Bobcat. We were excited that she sought out this program, looking to further expand her community awareness and learn more about her field of study throughout the process.”

What do you think the intern gained from participating?
“I think Kim liked connecting with other interns in the community and learning more about their experiences. We have a small communications team and this allowed her to share her personal experience with others as well as bring additional insight back to Doosan Bobcat and apply it.”

How did your company benefit from your intern participating in the program?
“I liked that the program gave Kim assignments to complete. It forced her to come back to Doosan Bobcat and do some research and crowdsourcing to complete her assignments. In the process, she learned more about our company, our people and our culture. She was also able to connect with others in the community and expand her social network, which I think will help shape her future career.”

Emerging Prairie Intern Experience
Andy Luikens, Recruiting Coordinator, Border States Electric

How many interns did your company send to the program?

A brief description of the interns’ responsibilities
“The interns spend 75-80 percent of their time working on daily business functions within their department of hire. Some examples of this work are: vendor Analysis, process/operations improvement and business integration. The other 20-25 percent of their time, the interns focus on a company project that allows them to act as an intern team to benefit the organization as a whole.”

Why did you want the interns to participate in the program?
“Border States takes pride in and cares for each and every community we service throughout the 20 states we are located. Even more importantly, we know that civic responsibility is key to getting and keeping great people within our employee-owned business. The Emerging Prairie Intern Experience allows interns to see Fargo-Moorhead in a unique and creative way, which ultimately builds a bond to this area and its people, creating a foundation for future success.”

What do you think the interns gained from participating?
“The Intern Experience makes a direct impact on each young professional involved in it. From getting the chance to simply network with peers and other business leaders to sitting in educational sessions that directly build their skills, knowledge and expertise in areas such as workplace collaboration versus cooperation. We know that each of our interns had takeaways, as they would often come into the office after their meetings and share their most recent growth experience.”

How did your company benefit from your interns participating in the program?
“Seeing the concepts learned through the Intern Experience put to use was truly the most engaging part of having our young professionals participate. This program gives interns knowledge that they continuously bring back into the organization to share and improve our daily work.

“Many used their time and skills as a reason to speak up and share information within their team or department. This not only built them up over the summer but also provided value to all those in our organization who grew from an intern sharing a new idea or concept. Overall, the Intern Experience is simply a great value-add to any internship program.”


Emerging Prairie Intern Experience
Rachel Johnson, Chief Operating Officer (COO), Hatch Coaching, Hatch Realty

Each small group was facilitated by a young professional in the community. Their job was to introduce the talking point for the day and explore and lead the questions to help facilitate discussion. Rachel Johnson of Hatch Realty was one of these facilitators.

Describe your role as a facilitator with the Intern Experience program:
“As a facilitator for the Intern Experience program, my main role was to be a resource for young adults experiencing their first taste of employment in the business world, which can be overwhelming!”

What benefits did small groups specifically add to the Intern Experience?
“The small groups allowed for more intimate conversation and relationship-building that doesn’t always occur in a large-group setting. The small groups brought individuals together to learn and grow by sharing their experiences in the work force. Hearing from people who were sharing similar but different experiences brought perspective and understanding to how they contribute to the teams, organizations and communities they are a part of.”

In your opinion, why should companies and supervisors send their interns to a program like this?
“As a company, when you dedicate resources and time to anyone in the organization, they feel valued. As an intern, not only does this investment show that they are valued members of the company but also shows how much that company wants to create leaders and allow for personal growth.”

What do you think the interns gained from participating?
“The direct feedback I heard from my interns was they appreciated having dedicated time to reflect on the experience they were having at their internship and engaging in conversations with other interns going through similar experiences in our community.”

How do you think insights and skills gained from the program helped FM companies this summer, and how will it help future employers?
“This program allowed for individuals to see their job as more than just a ‘9-5’ but an opportunity to be a leader in their teams, organizations and communities.”

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Originally from Garrison, North Dakota, Lidberg has lived mostly in Fargo since the fall of 2013. She graduated from North Dakota State University in May of 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in theatre arts. Lidberg has a history as a reporter for her hometown newspaper as well as an editor for Fargo Monthly magazine. Currently, she is a freelance writer and editor, working with clients from industries like publishing, wedding, and human resources and on a wide range of topics, including agriculture, business, entertainment, marketing, and technology.