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An internship convinced UW-Eau Claire student Emily Bindl to pursue a career as a federal probation officer.

While Emily Bindl has long been interested in criminal justice, the Richland Center native wasn’t sure there would be a place for her in what she describes as a male-dominated field.

However, after just one criminal justice class at UW-Eau Claire — taught by Ming-Li Hsieh — Bindl realized she had no reason to worry that her gender would limit her future career opportunities.

“I had initial hesitation about the major being a good fit for me,” says Bindl, a senior criminal justice and psychology major. “However, my first criminal justice class was with Dr. Hsieh. I admire the strength that she has and the way she carries herself in a male-dominated field.

“Dr. Hsieh and other strong female professors in the criminal justice department inspired me to go this far in the major, and they have helped me to be successful.”

Last summer, another group of accomplished women convinced her she had found the right niche within the criminal justice field.

As an intern with the United States Probation Office in Des Moines, Iowa, Bindl worked alongside federal probation officers, several of whom are women.

“All the female probation officers made a big impact on me,” Bindl says, noting that her internship supervisor also was a woman. “It could be intimidating for me as a female to work in such a field, so it was great to see how successful the women are at the U.S. Probation Office.

“I had the opportunity to sit in during office contacts with my supervisor. It was rewarding to see how much of an impact she had on her clients’ lives and how strong of a relationship she was able to build with them.”

A front-row seat

During her internship, Bindl shadowed federal probation officers and assisted them in their work, giving her a front-row seat during daily federal court proceedings and one-on-one meetings with clients, as well as opportunities to talk with district court judges.

“I was surprised by how hands-on my internship was,” Bindl says. “It was very beneficial for me to see almost every aspect of being a probation officer. There was never one day where I just sat at my desk doing paperwork.

“This challenged me to put myself out there and to get outside of my comfort zone. By the end of the summer, I had gained so much from the officers.”

The experience also has convinced her that she’s on the right path toward a career in criminal justice that will interest and challenge her, Bindl says.

When she graduates in spring 2020, she hopes to work as a probation officer, preferably at the federal level.

Bindl is one of many UW-Eau Claire students from academic programs across the campus who are gaining knowledge, experiences and confidence from internships, says Staci Heidtke, associate director of Career Services.

Internships often help students decide if a specific career or organization is or isn’t a good fit for them, she says, noting that nearly 60 percent of Blugolds complete at least one internship before they graduate.

“It’s a great way to test-drive a job, an area of interest or even a specific business or organization,” Heidtke says. “Like Emily, many students leave their internship even more certain about what they want to do after graduation and even more excited about their future.”