November 9, 2012
Cooperative education experiences lead MSUB student to her passion
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269
MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Some students come to college to find themselves. Other students come to find a job.
Ashlee Rangitsch found her passion.
The Montana State University Billings senior from Roundup started her academic career with her eyes on a business degree. But thanks to some hands-on experience with group homes, the Billings Police Department, some probation and parole officer and the Yellowstone County Attorney’s Office, she changed course, changed majors and is now determined to change the lives of others.
“This is exactly what I wanted to do,” Rangitsch said during discussion with staff at the Yellowstone County Attorney’s Office. “I really wanted to get involved.”
The involvement goes back to personal connections Rangitsch made when she was a sophomore and junior with Mandy Brottem, cooperative education specialist in the Office of Career Services at MSU Billings.
When her interest in business seemed to fade, Rangitsch talked with Brottem about a different path. The conversation led the student to changing her major to Human Services and eventually led to a work at some group homes in Billings. Dipping her toe into the water of a human services job led to immediate hiring to fill relief spots.
“I knew that from day one at the group home that I was in the correct field,” she said.
Her experience there led her to another internship with Child Protective Services in Roundup and piqued her curiosity about the legal aspects of the field. She contacted Brottem again and got the opportunity to have more hands-on experience. She applied to be a part of the Volunteers for Justice Program at the Yellowstone County Attorney’s Office where she found a new perspective.
Stefani Williams, the victim witness coordinator for Yellowstone County, and Lynelle Amen, the Volunteers for Justice Program coordinator, said Rangitsch was a perfect fit for their cooperative education experience. Interns in the office, Amen said, are given important tasks organizing briefing books and court documents and need to be self-starters and trustworthy.
It was more than filing papers, they said. The work was a vital part of day-to-day legal proceedings and other office activities.
“We were able to turn her loose fairly easily,” Amen said. “She did everything we asked of her and took it a step further.”
Rangitsch took initiative to talk with sheriff’s deputies and Billings Police officers to find out more about their jobs. She rode along with them during shifts, spending time on nights and weekends getting to further understand the system. She found them to be accommodating and encouraging, urging her to continue her pursuits.
One of them was Officer Cory Kirkpatrick. A Ryegate native, Kirkpatrick has been an officer with the Billings Police Department for two years working night shift. He was able to show Rangitsch what new officers do on a daily basis and their role in the criminal justice system.
“The best part was finding out how everything is connected,” she said.
Those discussions and the experiences got her excited about law enforcement and she added another major: Criminal Justice.
Heading into her final year, Rangitsch is now working toward a double major, is active in the Circle K service organization, works on service projects with the Student United Way and is involved with the MSU Billings Student Activities Board.
Brottem said Rangitsch’s experience in a co-op education internship is similar to those by others. They get real-world experience in Montana’s largest city with professionals who are leaders in their fields. Because Billings has the largest healthcare, retail, energy and service sectors in the state, opportunities for students exist here that don’t in other places.
Excluding placements made for teaching experiences in the College of Education, MSU Billings had 241 cooperative education internships in the 2011-12 academic year, Brottem said. Of those 91 were paid positions.
Cooperative education internships not only put classroom theory into real-world practice, Brottem said, they help students in making important decisions about their futures. Typically, those internships confirm a student’s choice in a selected field of study. For Rangitsch, it ratified a new direction.
“I’ve known only one other student who was so completely wowed by the experience that they changed their major,” Brottem said.
It’s been about a year since Rangitsch started her cooperative education experiences and she is still in love with them. She is intrigued by the criminal justice aspect of her work in the county attorney’s office and with the human services aspects of probation, parole and community policing. She has learned the lingo of officers and has made many connections. This fall she started work at the Billings Police Department as a Police Support Specialist.
“My internships paid off,” she said. “Can you say networking works?!”
PHOTOS ABOVE: MSU Billings student Ashlee Rangitsch, center, stands with summer cooperative education supervisors Lynelle Amen, left, and Stefani Williams in the Yellowstone County Attorney’s Office. Through her cooperative education experiences, the Roundup senior found her passion is now on her way to a double major degree in criminal justice and human services. Below, Rangitsch stands with Billings Police Officer Cory Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick was one of officers in the department who provided his perspective on his job to the student during her internship this past summer.