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QUEST: Blurring the Lines Between College and Career

February 2, 2023

This story is included in the most recent issue of Quest Magazine, the College's twice-yearly Alumni publication. To view the entire issue online, or to view longer-form "Quest Extra" pieces, click here.

High Impact Practices. It sounds like part of a football schedule. Or something that crash dummies experience as part of testing safety protocols in vehicles. Even the acronym, HIP, has alternate meanings. Like shooting from the hip or, in celebration, hip, hip hooray. But at The College of Idaho, “HIPs” is its own important division of the College, formed recently to ensure that every student will graduate with a distinctive, programmatic, and time-intensive endeavor that blurs the line between College and career. 

There are many ways to deliver High Impact Practices. The most common is an internship, either off or on campus, to gain real-world experience that will give the student needed skills to embark on their next chapter after graduation. However, High Impact Practices include many other learning opportunities, such as:  

  • study away and off-campus programs led by College faculty and experts.   
  • in-depth, collaborative scholarly research among College faculty and students. 
  • the College’s outdoor education program that emphasizes leadership development, environmental awareness, and stewardship. 
  • field-based experiential learning opportunities, such as the College’s work program and service-learning program, either on or off campus with community partners and businesses. 

Many examples of these HIPs are featured in this magazine. For this article, the focus is on the mutually beneficial practice of internships, which have long been a hallmark of a College of Idaho education. Eventually, some majors, such as business administration, began requiring at least one internship before graduation. But it was not a requirement for all majors. Seeing a need to ensure that all the College’s graduates leave campus with the skills to apply their knowledge in real-world settings and succeed no matter what their career choices, faculty now requires all students to complete a High Impact Practice.  

One aspect of the College’s PEAK curriculum (where each student completes at least one major and three minors) is earning a minor in professional foundations and enhancements. Every student obtains a minor in this field. The minor includes first-year seminar courses and classes in intercultural knowledge, as well as a requirement for three to six credits of professional foundations, otherwise known as High Impact Practices such as internships and other applied experiential learning opportunities. What was previously a more informal approach to internships has shifted to a more deliberate, inclusive and intentional procedure. To ensure that all students receive the benefit of this experiential learning, the infrastructure was formed into a new division of High Impact Practices. To help bring the vision to reality, former Concordia University Law School Dean and attorney Latonia Haney Keith was hired in September 2020 as the new vice president of High Impact Practices. 

Haney Keith brought these questions with her: “If you want all of your students to have those opportunities, how do you do that? How do you do that equitably? If we really want the liberal arts education to flourish right, how do we make sure we’ve got connections in the community? How do we teach our students how to transition from what’s considered more of that educational environment into what you’re doing out in the world? That’s really where we are trying to bring a little more focus and make it more purposeful.” 

Reaching out through established relationships in the community and building new relationships, especially after the pandemic, was important to grow the program. One natural source of experienced professionals that could provide hands-on opportunities was the alumni network. “I think it’s a really good way for our alumni to get involved and help our students understand even more what a liberal arts education can do,” Haney Keith said. 

The alumni-student experiential learning model has some impressive results. 

Creating Career Skills 

Caitlin Copple Masingill ’04 benefitted from her own internship experience during her junior year at the College. She interned for the Idaho Statesman in 2003, and some of her coverage of the Legislature made the front page of the state’s largest newspaper. She was well on her way to developing the skills that would lead to a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Montana. In early 2019 he founded Full Swing Public Relations, a firm that is rapidly growing and will generate more than $1 million in annual revenue for the first time this year. (Only 2 percent of women-owned businesses in the U.S. reach this threshold.) She was named to the Idaho Business Review’s list of 2021 Women of the Year. This led to her being a guest speaker in a class taught by Business and Accounting Professor Marilyn Melchiorre (known on campus as Dr. Mel). 

Sitting in that class was junior Kana Oliver, a student double majoring in psychology and business who came to the College from rural Enterprise, Oregon. She recalls Copple Masingill off-handedly mentioning that she would like to start bringing interns on board, and asking any in the class who were interested to email her.  

Oliver was intrigued by the alumni-owned business and investigated further, eventually realizing it could be a great fit. “My mindset at the time wasn't like I need an internship,” Oliver said. “It was more I need an internship that is going to be aligned with my values, that's going to give me these experiences that are life-changing; and I need something that I'm doing more than just for the credit, but that I'm really doing for me so that I can make an impact on the world.” 

Oliver became Copple Masingill’s first intern, despite the fact the firm did not have a formal internship infrastructure in place. The experience was so mutually beneficial that, after two months, Oliver was offered part-time employment for her senior year, with hopes that she will join them full-time after she graduates in spring 2023. “When I met Kana, it was a no-brainer,” Copple Masingill said. “We charged her with remaking our internship program into an actual program so we could have more than one, and hopefully, she could just create them to be exactly like her.” 

When asked about the top benefits she received from her internship, Oliver said, “First and foremost, I got to explore a realm that I never thought of.” She learned she had an interest in operations development, and the firm encouraged her exploration of this field in addition to her public relations duties.  

“The best thing about C of I graduates is that we know how to think and we have good discernment and we know how to solve problems,” Copple Masingill said. “Kana really embodies a spirit of entrepreneurship, which we’ve realized is hugely of value to us as a super-fast-growing company.” 

Priming the Pipeline 

When students are completing their professional foundations minor in PEAK, they are encouraged to utilize multiple aspects of experiential learning, such as an internship and collaborative research – or even doing multiple internships with different organizations.  

Senior Megan McManus has taken that counsel to heart. Before the Timberline High School graduate earns her degree in the spring of 2023, she will have potentially completed three internships and a semester studying abroad. McManus credits Haney Keith and Director of Off-Campus Experiential Learning Jodi Nafzger with frequently sending information about cross-disciplinary opportunities. 

McManus, a psychology major, began with an internship with Jesse Tree executive director Ali Rabe, a 2010 graduate who is a member of the College’s Board of Trustees. She was one of a handful of students who learned about the inner workings of the state government, as Rabe was also a state senator. But when Rabe gave up her seat because she moved to a different district, the interns also learned about the campaigning side of politics as Rabe launched a successful bid for state office in a new district. 

Her work with Rabe satisfied McManus’ internship credit requirement, but she still had the desire to get first-hand experience working at a law firm. Haney Keith had been working with 2004 alumnus Luke Malek, who co-founded Smith + Malek law firm in 2015, about the potential of hosting the firm’s first-ever undergraduate intern. Malek had utilized a steady stream of law school interns over the years but never before brought on an undergraduate.  

From his time at the College, Malek remembered how coveted the Salmon River Medical Internship was for a pair of students each summer, how it inspired many students to get into medicine. He had been thinking about trying something similar with his firm in the law field when Haney Keith contacted him about internship opportunities, and the plan started coming together. 

“We are looking down the line saying, ‘Who's the next generation of leaders going to be in the firm? And where do we want to be pulling those from?’ The College of Idaho obviously is a place that we'd love to be on the radar early,” Malek said.  

McManus joined them in the summer of 2022. 

“I think we ended up putting more work on her plate and more diverse work than we ever thought we would,” said Malek, “because she’s a very talented person. But we also really needed the help, and she was perfectly suited to do it.”  

McManus was engaged in work that counters the age-old stereotype that an intern’s primary job is to fetch coffee. “I appreciated that they gave me tasks that were challenging and that were meaningful,” McManus said, “not just kind of mundane.”  

Malek said he’s encouraging McManus to go to law school because he would like to hire her when she’s finished. But she is far from finished in her undergrad endeavors. 

Thanks to Haney Keith sending out an alert for a study-abroad opportunity, McManus was able to arrange an out-of-country experience at a school in Stirling, Scotland, for the fall semester of 2022. And she will likely add a third domestic internship in the spring semester. “I know it's not something I would have been able to do at another school,” McManus said, “because I've talked to friends from other schools, and if they get one internship, it's pretty lucky just because there are so many people trying to get the same one or from the same school. I just feel like I've gotten the range of different academic disciplines and gotten a better idea of what they all could look like instead of just doing one thing and having one path.”  

High Impact Benefit 

The examples of these two students can certainly be viewed as success stories in terms of career development. Both have practically guaranteed themselves post-graduate employment. However, the value of their experiences is much more than that. The larger benefit is putting into practice the core tenets of a liberal arts education. “It's not about just preparing them for a job,” Haney Keith said. “It's more about preparing them to enter into society after they graduate and to be a valuable member of society, to be those problem solvers that we want to see.” 

It just so happens that those problem solvers are also highly desirable members of the workforce. Those alumni who have benefitted from partnering with the College for experiential learning encourage others to consider ways to become involved in these High Impact Practices. 

“I feel like the benefit is much more to us than probably to Kana,” Copple Masingill said. “I hope she’s gotten a lot out of it. It’s just been great.” 

“The College of Idaho was so formative for me, and I still carry the experiences that I had there, and I think about them every day in my professional career,” Malek said. “So the fact that I could be part of providing that for the next generation of Yotes, I think that's pretty special.” 

The College of Idaho has a 132-year-old legacy of excellence. The College is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition, and history of producing successful graduates, including eight Rhodes Scholars, three governors, and countless business leaders and innovators. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell, where its proximity both to Boise and to the world-class outdoor activities of southwest Idaho’s mountains and rivers offers unique opportunities for learning beyond the classroom. For more information, visit