Summer internships provide real-world experience for student-athletes

There are approximately 100 African American and other student-athletes of color this school year at the University of Minnesota. In an occasional series throughout the 2017-18 school and sports year, the MSR will highlight many of these players

This week: Gopher football junior Rodney Smith and senior thrower Temi Ogunrinde

We recently talked to two Gophers who spent this summer away from their respective sport as summer interns.


Rodney Smith (Charles Hallman/MSR News)

Rodney Smith

Whenever his football days are over, Rodney Smith wants to work with youth. This summer he got a real chance to see if this career choice would be wise or not.

“It was a different experience,” Smith said about his Hennepin County Youth Services internship. The youth studies major said he enjoyed working with young people. “I took the internship in hopes to get another perspective in working with young people. I worked with foster care youth,” he told the MSR after a preseason practice.

Without getting into specifics, Smith said he often served as a listening ear for the young people. “They go through a lot coming from foster home to foster home,” he continued. “I [also] learned a lot about mental health and how it affects children. It might be child-like behavior but those kids go through things that are traumatizing. I found that to be the most eye-opening thing that I witnessed.

“I did home visits with newborns…all the way to 18 years old” as he worked with Hennepin County staff, recalled Smith on his summer internship. “Before this internship, I worked with young people at Boys and Girls Clubs. This was a different opportunity to impact young people in a different way other than being an athlete, coaching or mentoring. I took the opportunity to experience social work.”

As a result, Smith’s internship put him on the right career path, he said: “[Youth services is] definitely something I will think about after football.”


Temi Ogunrinde (Charles Hallman/MSR News)

Temi Ogunrinde

Minnesota legend Linda Roberts, now a longtime school administrator, alerted Temi Ogunrinde about a local summer internship opportunity, and the first-generation Nigerian American didn’t hesitate to apply.

“I came in and interviewed, and thankfully I got the job,” recalled the entrepreneurial management major. The summer job was in downtown Minneapolis with the 2019 Minneapolis Final Four Local Organizing Committee.

Ogunrinde worked on community impact, diversity and inclusion projects. “Our main job function was to do research on the wards in Minneapolis.  I specifically did Wards 2, 3, 7 and 11.”  She met often with city council members at City Hall, located across the street from her office, to learn about the ward’s characteristics and demographics.

“We came up with proposals” on how to best integrate the Final Four activities around the city, and not just the downtown area around the stadium, noted Ogunrinde. “Kate [Mortensen, the group’s chairperson]…is really big on community outreach and inclusion.”

That serious commitment “was huge for me” stated Ogunrinde. Also the Committee’s office staff “[is] a very diverse group,” she pointed out: “She [Mortensen] asked about my culture” during her interview, remembered the incoming senior.

Even more important to her, the group is more than talk when it comes to diversity and inclusion, and bringing in the community as well.

“We’re not in the suburbs or outside Minnesota. It’s here in our backyard. It’s really important to see,” said Ogunrinde. “They [the committee] is really trying to make the entire Final Four as diverse and inclusive as possible and to showcase that.”


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Related story: Sportswriter’s Notebook: Gopher student-athlete spotlight