Showcasing Career Pathways for a Local Workforce

MPPA graduate student interns with the Colorado Workforce Initiative and CSU Extension

Part of a special series highlighting College of Liberal Arts students and their summer internships with CSU Extension

Cortez city street
The southwestern Colorado town of Cortez, one of America's richest archaeological centers, is the county seat and the most populous municipality of Montezuma County. Photo by Doug Kerr.

This summer, Jake Brick, a student in the Master of Public Policy and Administration (MPPA) program, completed an immersive experience that helped him explore his passion for community engagement and outreach in the context of rural Colorado communities.

Through an internship with CSU Extension, Brick worked with the Colorado Workforce Initiative in Cortez. His time was split between working onsite at the Chamber of Commerce in Cortez and carrying out site visits in key communities in Montezuma County. Throughout this opportunity, he was able to engage with small, largely underserved communities in the southern Colorado area, including two sovereign Native American nations.

“I really wanted to do an internship that gets me on the ground level and gets me into a small or medium-sized community to work with,” Brick says, where he could garner experience in effective communication and community relationship building. By working in client communications at the Chamber of Commerce and performing site visits with countless stakeholders, he got the exact experience in local government that he was seeking, and more.

While in Montezuma County with the government-funded Career Pathways for a Local Workforce program, Brick grappled with the question, “How do we encourage people’s interest in existing educational programs?” Career Pathways for a Local Workforce is dedicated to finding innovative, effective and accessible avenues to connect key marginalized communities with opportunities that can help enrich their lives and their community. Brick found very quickly that many individuals within the rural communities he was supporting did not have large-scale awareness about the existing public resources that were available to them, especially related to upward mobility through higher education.

“We’re trying to create accessible education for nontraditional students, and we’re trying to get more people in the community engaged in higher education,” he says. Brick had key opportunities to talk with stakeholders to better understand the financial investments needed to support initiatives like these as well as general community buy-in. “[Speaking to stakeholders] was one skill that I really wanted to work on – communicating in a more effective and efficient way.” said Brick. “They don’t want their time wasted anyway, so keeping things brief – that was one thing I wanted to really practice.”

Jake Brick
MPPA student Jake Brick

“I really wanted to do an internship that gets me on the ground level and gets me into a small or medium-sized community to work with.” — Jake Brick

He also, subsequently, learned just how nuanced the process of facilitating the creation and dissemination of community resources truly is. The Career Pathways for a Local Workforce program is looking to replicate a “collaborative campus” structure, modeled most notably through the partnership between CSU Pueblo and Pueblo Community College. Partnerships like these send resources into rural communities to help ensure they have equal opportunity to key community-enriching resources like public education.

While the collaborative campus model has potential for creating a positive impact in its surrounding communities, the process of implementing these types of resources is a delicate one. Specifically, it is of critical importance for leaders in this space to consider the local community in a comprehensive manner. “This collaborative campus model that we’re planning on doing, we’re thinking about tailoring it to local needs,” says Brick. “One of the big economic drivers in Montezuma County is agriculture so we’re interested in setting up a lot of agrobusiness courses.”

Through his graduate classes in the MPPA program, Brick has developed an affinity for opportunities and projects centered around community engagement, economic development, and nonprofit work. His Extension internship provided the perfect opportunity to explore all three.

Moving forward in his career, Brick is pursuing work that makes a positive impact on the communities he is working in. Whether that be through government or nonprofit work, he is passionate about supporting systems that promote community betterment. “When I say government, I want to focus on ways that government can make people’s lives a little bit better. So, whether it be parks and recreation, healthcare, education…I want to be involved in that,” he says.

Internships: The Practical and Applied Side of the Liberal Arts

The CSU Summer Extension Internship program gives students the opportunity to take their research and expertise into the field to help communities across Colorado in the areas of Natural Resources and Sustainability, Food and Agriculture, Youth Development, Economic and Community Development, Health and Well-Being, and Emergency Planning and Resources.

In summer 2022, the College of Liberal Arts had 18 students participate in an Extension internship.