By Jake Weber
Ford Institute for Leadership in Public Policy and Service and with a concentration in human services, it's no wonder Erin Davis wanted an internship that could give her a wide array of experiences. "I've always been interested in helping others and it was nice to get an internship in which I could see things firsthand and work with college students at the same time," Davis said.
She spent much of her summer at the University of Michigan, University Health Service in the Health Promotion and Community Relations department (HPCR). With some 40,000 students at the University, HPCR provides everything from one-on-one counseling to mass-distribution information.
Not surprisingly, HPCR also relies on a variety of strategies to reach its audiences. Davis posted regularly to the UHS Facebook page, wrote articles for a biweekly electronic newsletter, and developed posters used by other staff members for public presentations. The work covered a variety of topics: sleep, nutrition, exercise, and hydration during hot weather. "I had to research the topics so that I could provide sound information from credible sources since there is so much misinformation out there," Davis noted.
Davis also had the chance to obtain more hands-on education through working with the UHS counselors. "They have health educators who address sexual health, alcohol and other drugs, eating disorders, body image and HIV," she noted. Davis especially appreciated the opportunity to sit in on a Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students (BASICS) session. "I was able to see how the health educator related to the student and made him feel comfortable, even though he probably didn't want to be there. She told him from the get-go that he was in charge and that if he didn't want to do any of the activities she recommended, he didn't have to. I think that made him more relaxed and open to what he needed to do, and that was interesting to see."
The internship also gave Davis some intensive training—a 20-hour course on motivational interviewing. "It's a counseling style that promotes behavior modification by gently directing clients to examine their ambivalence toward change. The goal is to help the clients help themselves, by reflecting their own words back to them so that they realize the direction they want to go in," said Davis, who was surprised to find herself the youngest member of a class filled with professionals and graduate students. "It was a great opportunity to work with others who use this technique in their everyday jobs. I feel very lucky to have been trained and I know that it will come in handy in the future."
One of the highlights of Davis' internship was meeting an Albion alumna who was working at UHS as their care manager. "I met Michelle Wicksall the second day on the job and within a few minutes we realized that we had a lot in common, including that we both are Alpha Chi Omegas," said Davis. Wicksall and Davis were able to share stories about college and their sorority even though Michelle graduated in 2008, when Davis graduated from high school. "You never know who or what will come your way," Davis remarked. "From that standpoint, this summer was an amazing experience all around."