SAIL Offers Real-World Experience

Three students that went through the SAIL programThe name really describes the program – Student Affairs Immersion Learning, or SAIL. The program is a competitive internship program for students interested in possible careers in Student Affairs at the University of Montana. Chosen candidates spend 12 weeks in the fall semester working in three Student Affairs departments. They then focus and immerse themselves for 16 weeks during spring semester on an in-depth project in one chosen department.

It is real-life, on-the-job experience designed to deliver excellent out-of-classroom experience to qualified students and to provide Student Affairs with very interested job applicants for departmental positions.

Since 2008, 11 students have had the SAIL experience. Students enter the intern experience with a variety of majors and range from sophomores to post-graduates. Applications are accepted from February through March, and interns then are chosen by a committee for the next academic year based on their applications and a rigorous interview.

In 2010, Alina Calianu was a successful SAIL candidate. This international student graduated in 2010 and found a position in UM Dining. Her SAIL experience clearly helped prepare her for a Student Affairs position. This is what she says about the internship:

The SAIL internship was such an experience for me! Over two years have passed, but I still get excited when I see new faces in the program and hope that they have the same great experience I had.

SAIL gave me an opportunity to see what happens behind the walls of Student Affairs and The University of Montana. As a student, you only get to see one side and don’t really understand how much goes into providing you with the “total student experience.” Student needs are at the center of everyone’s work in Student Affairs. “How can we improve our services TO THE STUDENTS?” is the theme across every department.

Two of my outstanding mentors as a SAIL intern were Julie Cahill in Enrollment Services and Kent McGowan, the director of Financial Aid. Julie’s great work ethic, welcoming approach to international students and enthusiasm were inspiring. With Julie, I got the chance to apply my class skills in marketing to a project for Career Services and improve one of their programs. Kent took time out of his busy schedule to sit down and personally teach me about the financial aid system in the United States, as well as the processes that happen in his office.

One of the best experiences I had as an intern was sitting with all of the Student Affairs directors, the vice president of Student Affairs and the provost and being welcomed to bring my input to the conversation. This was a very rare opportunity for a student, and I couldn’t be more grateful. Another great experience was being able to participate in the Association of College Unions International Region 14 conference, interact with student leaders and staff members from other universities in the northwest, and make connections that I have kept ever since.

I had some really great and unique experiences through the SAIL program, and I learned a lot of skills I was later on able to apply to my current job with UM Dining. I would recommend the SAIL experience to any interested student.

This fall, two SAIL interns spent three weeks each in Admissions, Residence Life, UM Dining, the University Center, Foreign Student and Scholar Services, and the Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs. After a great experience, the interns look forward to full immersion this spring in their chosen departments. Jordan Griffin wrote of her experience this fall:

As a University student, it has been difficult to realize the forces that directly create the academic and student environment that I participate in. When I discovered the SAIL program online, I knew right away that I was going to apply. This opportunity to work behind the scenes with Student Affairs departments is unparalleled on the University of Montana campus.

The application and interview, which asked several questions about my interests in student affairs, evoked new thoughts of campus and the services that have affected me, as well as an interest in a new career field.

Now that I have officially become immersed in the SAIL program, I understand that the Student Affairs department as a whole works very hard to provide the greatest student experience possible. This definitely includes the intern experience! This program is built to develop YOU as a person and professional and comes full circle to benefit the University community as well. All of the people that I have worked with have been completely supportive and active in building my professional skills and providing feedback to grow from.

Shadowing and working with directors and students in each department has been invaluable. My experiences have ranged from helping in the University gardens to going on high school admission visits, sitting in on planning and analysis meetings, and even assisting with Instagram and website projects. An extremely awesome experience in particular was shadowing the UM concessions manager during a large concert in the Adams Center. I was able to see the whole show!

Becoming a SAIL intern has truly been the highlight of my college career. The networking opportunities are unbelievable! I am now considering a career in student affairs – something that I had not even thought of before and that I can take anywhere in the world. Most important of all, I am treated as and feel like a valued employee of the University. I highly recommend any student from any field to apply for this program.

For additional information regarding the SAIL program and opportunities for 2014-15, please visit the Student Affairs website or contact coordinator Byron Drake at