University Relations and Communications

Internship is eye-opening, life-affirming event for recent MSU Billings graduate

February 9, 2009



Mandy Brottem, Cooperative Education Specialist, 657-1717
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269


Current ConocoPhillips employee one of four honored for cooperative education work 


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — For years, Art Rensvold was used to turning out loans through his job at Wells Fargo bank. When he decided to take a new direction, he opted to turn out energy.


“I just wanted to do something with my hands,” he said.


So he reviewed his options, enrolled in the two-year process plant technology program program at the Montana State University College of Technology and buckled down for work on a new career.

Art RensvoldIt wasn’t until he got some real-world experience as an intern at the ConocoPhillips refinery in Billings, however, that his life-changing decision was fully affirmed.


“Nothing compares to actually being out there in that environment to understand what the job is,” said Rensvold.

As it turned out, that internship as a process plant technician through the Montana State University Billings cooperative education program was the assurance needed that he made the right choice.


It was confirmed again recently when Rensvold and three other MSU Billings students were honored as Cooperative Education Students of the Year. The students were recognized for their outstanding achievements, professionalism and contributions toward the host company’s goals during their internships. The students were nominated by the businesses and faculty who supervised them where they worked in 2008. 


Jim Hughs, process plant technology instructor at the MSU Billings COT, said that Rensvold was one of a dozen students who interned at ConocoPhillips in 2008 and one of two who were hired as full-time employees after graduation. His achievement was no surprise.

“Art set his goals far beyond that which was expected in completing his coursework, and as such achieved recognition from faculty, peers and area industrial leaders as well,” Hughs said. “It was no small surprise when Art was selected as a ‘first round draft choice’ by the premier petroleum refinery in Billings.”


After completing his internship last summer and graduating in December, Rensvold was hired as a full-time employee at the refinery.

The Office of Career Services handles about 70 cooperative education internships a semester that range from accounting businesses to nonprofits to oil refineries.  Co-op education internships create partnerships among the university, the business community and students.


Co-op ed allows students to earn academic credit while combining classroom learning with practical work experience.  And in some cases, the students are paid as well. In 2007-08, 245 students earned 893 credits, and 57 percent of all interns were paid an average wage of $10.83 per hour.


Hughs noted that the commitment from ConocoPhillips adds real-world value to his academic program in more ways than one. 

“If you go into the lab at the COT, you’ll see lots of equipment donated by Conoco,” he said. “Our program wouldn’t be the success it is without their support. The internships they offer makes a great program that much better.”


Others who were recognized this year by employers and faculty for internship work were:


Erica HelvikErica Helvik, a Business Management major, was nominated by Dr. Karen Heikel and Amy Bruce of the College of Professional Studies and Lifelong Learning. Their comments included, “Erica is an outstanding young woman who has contributed much to the organization.  Erica has excellent communication and writing skills.  She can navigate office ‘politics’ and gets her assignments done in a timely and quality manner.”  Helvik is from Billings and will graduate in May.



Nicole SalsberyNicole Salsbery, a Health Administration major, was nominated by Paula Miller of Glacier Bank and Dr. Diane Duin from the College of Allied Health Professionals. They noted that “Nicole did a phenomenal job with our Shape Up GBCI program in which she was the sole contact and coordinator.  With her wonderful personality and ability to persuade, Nicole was able to meet and exceed our goals for this program.  Nicole certainly set a high standard for what a healthcare administration internship should be.  It will be very difficult to place another intern in GBCI due to the ‘bar’ set by Nicole.”  Salsbery is from Malta and since her internship she has accepted a full-time position with Good Samaritan Society.  She graduated in May 2008.


Shawn ConradShawn Conrad, an Art major, was nominated by Dr. Patricia Vettel-Becker from the College of Arts and Sciences. Her comments included, “Shawn is an excellent worker.  He worked in so many different capacities that he became invaluable to YAM. At the end of the internship, the YAM director, Robyn Peterson, worked to keep him, and he has accepted a professional position in marketing.  He has been an asset to the Art Department and the University.  Now he will continue as an asset to the Billings art community.”  Conrad is from Billings and graduated in December 2008.


For additional information regarding the Cooperative Education program, contact, Mandy Brottem, Cooperative Education Specialist, at MSU Billings at (406) 657-1717 or via e-mail at


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