New Internship Program Grows Out of Partnership
About a year ago, MU Extension invited the leadership of FCS Financial, an agricultural and rural financial institution, to attend a Missouri 4-H Youth Futures conference. Jo Turner, former Interim Vice Provost and Director of MU Extension, extended the invitation to Steve Harrington, FCS Financial Chief Financial Officer. He accepted. As a result of his experience at the conference, Harrington felt inspired to reach out to Latino students to become part of FCS Financial’s established college internship program. He asked Dr. Turner for her thoughts on how to best achieve that goal. She immediately thought of Alianzas, believing we could help FCS Financial pioneer this new outreach by helping them tailor their program to Latino college students and their families.
Soon after, Harrington and FCS Financial Vice President of Human Resources Karie Mengwasser, and HR generalist Liz Shollmeyer met with MU Extension and Alianzas to discuss forming a partnership, including roles, responsibilities and planned outcomes. MU Vice Chancellor of Extension and Engagement Dr. Marshall Stewart dropped by the meeting to show his support for the new joint effort.
The new partners agreed upon the following internship program goals:
- Promote successful internship experiences for Latino/a college students
- Contribute to Latino/a college students’ positive future career outcomes
- Increase cultural awareness and intercultural competencies at FCS Financial
- Forge strong relationships between FCS Financial and the Latino/a community
Soon after all details were settled, Alianzas reached out to state universities and Latino organizations to announce the internship opportunity and encourage students to apply. In June, FCS Financial selected two students, Rick Huacuz (Missouri State University, Accounting) and Isaac Roldan (Oklahoma City University, Business Administration), from its first pool of applicants. The opportunity began soon thereafter and lasted six weeks.
Huacuz and Roldan began working with mentors within FCS Financial, studying components of the agricultural lending process. They learned credit fundamentals by working in FCS Financial’s central office in Jefferson City and multiple branch locations alongside specialists in credit, appraisal and risk management positions. They completed applications and gained experience with credit analysis, decision-making, appraisal and loan closing. Roldan and Huacuz also met customers by visiting farms and talking with owners about their operations, production methods and business practices. The interns received broad exposure to the real world intersection of agriculture and financial lending.
Through it all, Alianzas remained in contact with the young men to work toward making the internship even more appealing to Latino youth in the future. Near the end of the internship period, the students presented on their internship experience to the FCS Financial Board of Directors alongside Gerardo Martinez, Alianzas Director. The three of them also presented on Latino cultural values to FCS Financial personnel.
Roldan and Huacuz felt the internship was an excellent opportunity to learn and gain hands-on knowledge of the agricultural financial field.
“Before my time at FCS Financial, I liked accounting. Now I love it,” said Huacuz. “I had great mentors and experiences with different departments that increased the confidence I have that I am choosing the right professional career for myself.”
Roldan expressed his gratitude for the opportunity he had to learn about FCS Financial’s marketing department. “Having such hands-on experience in that department helped me be more determined about what I want to major in,” said Roldan.
FCS Financial already has a reputation for listening to its interns and working to make the program responsive to their needs in order to create an overall positive internship experience. With Alianzas’ partnership, this reputation is growing to include cultural competence as well.