Students Gain Experience Through Internships

Two Oklahoma Baptist University students begin the new year on Bison Hill with a new appreciation for their fields of study after completing memorable summer internships. Senior Brittni Coursey dedicated her summer to the Dairy Farmers of America, Inc. (DFA) as a public relations and communications intern for the Dairy Food Products division in Kansas City, Mo. Junior Stephanie Wilburn, a biochemistry major, worked with the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation in Oklahoma City.

DFA is a dairy marketing corporation that serves and is owned by more than 18,000 dairy farmers in the continental United States. DFA manufactures dairy products as well as food components and ingredients. Coursey was one of 10 DFA summer interns.

Through DFA, Coursey, a news and information major from Kansas City, experienced the corporate work environment by helping with publications, events and other communication tasks.

In addition to her writing and design projects, Coursey received the opportunity to work directly with DFA members and products through an event promoting DFA's Borden EssentialsTM.

"I also got to travel to Philadelphia," Coursey said. "They do a big event called the ‘Friends of Elsie' for Borden Cheese. I was able to meet with DFA members and work with farmers. We got to do things like have a cow simulation where kids could see what it's like to milk a cow. It was neat because all of the proceeds of the event go to the members."

In preparation for the Philadelphia event, Coursey took part in corporate board meetings and the organization of booths for the event, and helped compose a video to present to the board members. Coursey said she appreciated the responsibilities she was given to help make the most of her internship experience.

"I really enjoy the corporate environment," Coursey said. "I learned you have to take risks. It was nerve-racking to write press releases and do other things. But they were really helpful and ended up giving me projects that were important on the corporate level."

Coursey's internship with DFA not only gave her exposure to a corporate environment, but also the farming environment. Not having much experience with the dairy market, Coursey said it was interesting to learn the terminology and procedures and learn how to apply her communication knowledge to an industry foreign to her.

"Everyone needs a communicator, especially in big businesses," Coursey said. "I know how to be a communicator, so I feel prepared to go into different industries. I learned that I can get to know what is specific to that industry and apply what I know."

As Coursey prepares to leave Bison Hill and begin her career, she said she feels equipped to enter the communications industry because of her time at OBU. Coursey's involvement with the student newspaper and yearbook production also aided in her academic studies as well as her positive outlook on the field of communications.

At the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF), Wilburn was one of nine Sir Alexander Fleming Scholars chosen to do hands-on biomedical research for eight weeks.

OMRF is one of the oldest independent research institutes in the nation and is committed to stay at the forefront of biomedical discovery. The Fleming Scholarship is one of many educational programs available through OMRF. The scholars are chosen based on academic standing, aptitude in science and math, as well as recommendations from teachers, principals and counselors.

During her study, Wilburn, from Fitzhugh, Okla., completed a research project, wrote a scientific paper and presented her findings to OMRF scientific staff in a formal seminar. Wilburn worked with Dr. Susan Kovats, assistant member of OMRF's arthritis and immunology program, for her research studying dendritic cells in the immune system.

"I know now I want to go into research," Wilburn said. "The lab I worked in was an immunology lab, so the research was on a larger scale than a biochemistry lab would be. I mostly worked with cells instead of proteins which a biochemistry researcher might study."

Wilburn developed a new passion for biomedical research OMRF. Each day, Wilburn learned more about the research process through her hands-on study in the immunology lab.

"I learned that I love being in a research lab and the whole process that research involves," Wilburn said. "From the planning and designing stages to making the data charts, I enjoy learning and challenging ideas. I also learned, though, that research is a long process and that breakthrough discoveries stand on many years of previous basic research. Every new piece of information is valuable in completing the process."

Returning to Bison Hill for another year, Wilburn said her time at OBU has helped prepare her for challenges and adventures in her future career.

"Now I have a new excitement because I feel more sure that the career path I am headed on is a nice fit for me," Wilburn said. "Studies at OBU prepared me to learn quickly from different types of people and to ask good questions to help me understand what I was learning in the lab."