Senior interns with Kansas lieutenant governor, commerce secretary
Secretary of the Kansas Department of Commerce David Toland had just finished delivering the 2019 KU School of Business Chandler Lecture at Capitol Federal Hall when Katie Brown went up to introduce herself — and mentioned she would love to intern for him.
“He kind of hired me on the spot,” recalled Brown, now a senior majoring in business analytics and marketing.
Her internship officially kicked off in January 2020, but it quickly evolved as the pandemic hit the U.S. that spring. Suddenly, the Department of Commerce was distributing grants to small businesses. Brown helped the commerce team process applications, distribute grants and answer questions from Kansans via the commerce website’s chat feature, talking to hundreds of people a day. She also conducted benchmarking research, looking at other state tourism departments to gauge how Kansas could better position itself.
When Toland was named Kansas lieutenant governor in December 2020, Brown moved to the Kansas State Capitol with him and ran his office, organizing meetings and assisting him at events.
“One trip, we flew to Labette County,” she recalled. “When the pandemic hit, they lost their hospital, and they didn’t have a hospital anywhere nearby. He got grant dollars to build a new hospital, and I staffed him for a groundbreaking ceremony.”
Hearing directly from the people benefitting from the project turned out to be one of the highlights of the internship, Brown said. She also enjoyed collaborating with the state’s Office of Broadband Development, which works to ensure all Kansans have affordable, reliable access to broadband internet.
“I would call and interview these people in rural communities who had no internet access, and when the pandemic had hit, they couldn’t do school or work online because they didn’t have any way to do that. It was kind of a reality check — I’m really lucky that I get to have Wi-Fi. These people don’t.”
Brown’s experience spanned nearly two years, with the internship ending just before Thanksgiving 2021. She has now started a new internship working as the marketing coordinator for EuroTec Vertical Flight Solutions, where she leads a team of several other School of Business students.
Based on her own experiences, Brown recommended fellow students keep an open mind at the start of an internship and be willing to take on projects beyond the scope of her position. And, not surprisingly, she advocated speaking up for yourself.
“Tell people what you’re interested in,” she said. “All the internships that I’ve had, those supervisors and managers are always really passionate about getting you involved in the business, I feel like, and really want to see you succeed.”