Students Complete Paid Internships in Alaska

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The darkness and cold don't bother me—as long as I have friends, candles and cozy sweaters.

Taylor Coffin
Student Intern

Arctic Circle Internship

Three students are completing their winter semester internships in Kotzebue, Alaska—about 30 miles north of the Arctic Circle. This paid internship is offered by the Maniilaq Association, an organization that helps the native Inupiaq population with mental health and substance use counseling, along with community engagement and education.

John Solomon, the Director of Behavioral Health and a 2019 graduate of the IRCOD program, said the Graduate School is offering this paid opportunity because of the life-changing impact that graduate students can have on the community. Solomon says, "I'm just taking something we have—budget for staff—and connecting it with people that are much more willing to try something new—interns!"

Solomon says he's excited about these internships because they focus on the cultural strengths of the region. Students will develop their counseling skills, and they will also learn about important cultural differences between themselves and the Native Alaskan populations.

One intern, Murph Murphy, saw this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and he wanted to apply after attending a presentation by Solomon last fall. When asked what he's most excited about, Murphy said "Working with another culture and broadening my counseling skills. I am sure there is a lot that I have learned that I will need to put aside when working with the Inuit population." But Murphy sees these challenges as opportunities to grow.

Taylor Coffin, another student-intern, says "The darkness and cold don't bother me—as long as I have friends, candles and cozy sweaters." Like Murphy, Coffin is most excited by and nervous about navigating the Native cultures of indigenous Alaskan peoples. Coffin plans to practice cultural humility by being aware of the spaces that she occupies, when she centers herself and where she is able to make change.

Solomon reports the interns have been in Kotzebue for a few weeks, and after a hectic period of cancelled flights and complicated housing situations, they are doing great. The clinicians who work with the interns say they bring in a great energy. We look forward to hearing more about their cultural experience and how they stay warm north of the Arctic Circle!

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