Story by Erik Potter
Amanda Purchase Roberts has helped shape, manage and lead a successful student internship program at Mizzou. For several years before that she was director of career development at Stephens College. Before Stephens she was a graduate student working in residential life at the University of South Florida.
But before all of that she was a freshman at Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois, and she felt very much like an imposter.
Purchase Roberts was a first-generation college student, and she wasn’t sure she belonged at the private, liberal-arts college among students who weren’t necessarily smarter than her but seemed far more confident.
It’s impossible to know how things might have turned out had she not found a job on campus. Through her job as a switchboard operator at the school’s student center, she started to build her own confidence. After one month she was promoted to evening student manager of the entire building. She made friends with other students, got connected with student affairs professionals — and changed the course of her college career.
“I think that is why I was drawn to higher education,” Purchase Roberts says. “That campus job helped with every aspect of my college experience.”
As the student development coordinator in Student Affairs at Mizzou, Purchase Roberts has built a structure for creating internship positions and evaluating students that helps both supervisors and students maximize the experience. The internships are rigorous, requiring students to give a final presentation on what they learned. The desired outcomes, built around core competencies, are identified in advance. The process is designed to give students the vocabulary to communicate their transferable skills to future employers.
About 30 students take part in the program each year, completing internships in areas as diverse as marketing, information technology, residential life and interior design.
Purchase Roberts meets individually with each student at different points in the year. Those meetings have been some of the best moments of her career, she says; times when she knew she made a significant difference in someone’s life simply because she was there to listen.
“I’ve had students come in, and their intent is to get resume help, but we uncover that their career goal — it’s not even their goal. It’s someone else’s goal for them,” Purchase Roberts says. “Those are the moments that really keep me motivated.”