Five University of Texas at Austin students from Brownsville are among 46 across the university who are doing internships in their hometowns this summer in UT Austin’s Home to Texas workforce development program.
Home to Texas is an effort to counteract the “brain drain” that often occurs in smaller communities where students go away to college but don’t return home to work after they’re finished.
“Workforce development is a significant problem for many small and remote communities,” Art Markman, director of UT’s IC² Institute, which sponsors the program, stated in a news release.
“Students go off to college in another city, and they never come back. With the Home to Texas program, these students are able to see first-hand that their skills and energy are valuable to their hometowns, that their community wants them to return after graduation and that these are places where they could create a desirable future for themselves and their community.”
The IC² Institute matches first-year undergraduate students from all majors with employers in their hometowns who are seeking students with fresh and informed perspectives.
Students are paid $5,000 for the summer internship, and since many live at home with their families during that time, it also gives them the opportunity to save money.
As part of the program, students are enrolled in a summer research course with the IC² Institute, where they are asked to interview community members to learn more about the inner workings of their towns.
Students interview members of their communities, distribute surveys, and prepare reports on the challenges and opportunities they discover. Participating students develop a greater appreciation of their hometown communities, increasing the chance they will consider returning after graduation, according to the IC² website.
The program also demonstrates the growing commitment of UT-Austin to engage with the entire state of Texas, solidifying UT’s relationship with alumni and regional and state leaders.
Bobby Fraga, who did a Home to Texas internship last summer, said the program opened his eyes about Brownsville.
He spent the summer working in the lab where the Brownsville Public Utilities Board makes sure the city’s water meets state standards. He said he got to work on-site because, pandemic or no pandemic, the city’s water supply has to be continually monitored to make sure it’s safe.
“Each day was something different,” he said, adding that a dependable water supply is something most people take for granted but that nevertheless requires constant attention.
“It also changed my perspective on working in a lab. I thought it would be boring but it was the opposite,” he said.
Fraga, who is from Harlingen, said he found out more about Brownsville’s deep cultural and historical roots. “Overall it was a great experience,” he said.
Original article published July 23, 2021