MSU Extension and Aquinas College partner to build community leadership

Internships for community-based work make an impact on students, state

For the past year, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension and Aquinas College’s Community Leadership Program have partnered to develop internship opportunities for students interested in community-based work.

Michael Williams is the director of Community Leadership Programs for Aquinas College. He says MSU Extension is a key partner because of its extensive programming and relationships with community-based organizations. Several Community Leadership students are interested in work on projects related to farmland preservation and strengthening urban neighborhoods.

“MSU Extension has the capacity to provide students with a multidisciplinary internship experience that will build students’ capacity to make a positive impact on our community,” says Williams.

As an Extension educator based in Grand Rapids, I worked with Williams on placing interns, and I believe MSU Extension can play an important role in engaging young people in community development efforts. More than 50% of our college graduates leave the state after graduation. Internship experiences can help engage students in our community and may even help them secure a job in Michigan right after graduation. On the other hand, our community-based organizations truly benefit from the enthusiasm and new ideas college interns can lend. Wills.

The Community Leadership Program at Aquinas was started in 1999 by Williams and Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell. Graduates of the program lead several social service programs, including Kids Food Basket, Local First and the Kent School Services Network. Williams serves as the primary instructor of the program, which enrolls approximately 40 majors at any given time. He has been a longtime supporter of MSU Extension programs. Williams has helped launch Extension’s United Growth for Kent County land use program as an independent organization and served a board president from 2007 to 2010.

MSU Extension has a long history of community leadership development. Many local and state organizations turn to MSU Extension for leadership training, strategic planning assistance and community planning initiatives. For more information about MSU Extension programs, visit

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