Lutheran college kids getting career boost
AAL/LB offers unique internship program for young adults.
Says Kelly McGill, “I knew this was the right internship for me when my mother said, ‘Grandma would be proud of you.’” McGill, of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, is a former summer intern and now a communications specialist with the Greater Minneapolis Agency of AAL/LB, Golden Valley. Kelly’s grandmother, Beatrice Reistad, a Lutheran Brotherhood policyholder, had died a year before the beginning of Kelly’s first internship in summer 2000. Kelly herself had an LB contract at the age of six weeks.
“I gained such an appreciation for the culture of AAL/LB that I would contemplate working for them in another capacity some day,” says Luke Anderson, a senior at St. Olaf College, Northfield. Luke, who grew up as a member of Epiphany Lutheran Church, Denver, Colorado, attends St. Olaf with the aid of an LB scholarship. He was a summer 2001 AAL/LB intern in his home state.
For Kelly, the firm felt like family even before her initial interview. Her sister, Stacy, and her parents, Jim and Holly McGill, are policyholders too, Holly since the age of three months. When Kelly interviewed with general agent William Reichwald, “It was a comfortable experience,” she says. “There didn’t seem to be a separation between agents and interns.”
During summer 2000, Kelly worked alongside two AAL/LB district representatives in the Greater Minneapolis Agency, Linnea Sodergren and J.L. Johnson. With Linnea she marketed the firm’s Life Discoveries series of programs at Westwood Lutheran Church, St. Louis Park, Minnesota.
Kelly developed fliers, table tents, bulletin inserts, a newsletter article and a post card mailing for the series, which Linnea conducted at Westwood in September 2000 after Kelly had returned to classes at University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse. Back at school, Kelly used ideas from the Westwood campaign to build a marketing plan. She continued her internship during the academic year, making phone contacts for her other mentor, J.L. Johnson. Returning in summer 2001, she worked with district representative Gary Lutz, in addition to Johnson.
“We try to mentor our in-terns so that they have a positive experience,” says Bruce Dybvig, AAL/LB leader of university relations. “They get one-on-one attention. Our number one objective is to allow each intern to become immersed in what a district representative does for our company.”
Luke’s summer 2001 mentor was Dean Fritz, AAL/LB district representative in Denver. “Everyone’s experience was different,” Luke says. “I interned with one representative. He worked from his home and his wife was office manager. I got to know them on a personal level, spending many days in their home as an active listener in client meetings, learning what it would mean to serve as a financial planner.”
Luke contrasts this experience with a summer 2000 internship for another firm in a different setting. “I went from a high-rise building in Chicago one summer to a home office in Denver the next. I wanted to spend my final college summer living at home with my family in Colorado.”
Luke especially recalls one AAL/LB client who was almost too generous for her own good. “She was a divorced mother struggling to raise a child alone. She was such a generous donor to her church that it was impinging on her ability to stay afloat financially. Dean found a suitable financial plan that could allow her to give to her church and keep her bills paid. I was touched at her generosity. This was as much a religious lesson as a financial one.”
“We strongly encourage each intern to be involved in a weekly volunteer activity in a church, at a camp or community function,” Bruce Dybvig says. During summer 2001 orientation in the Twin Cities, Luke and his 130 fellow interns volunteered at a juvenile rehabilitation center in Anoka, helping lead outdoor worship, participating in games and fellowship.
Kelly and several other AAL/LB interns helped organize the Safe House open golf tournament at Edinburgh Golf Course in summer 2000, a benefit for Lutheran Social Service. During her second summer, 2001, Kelly spent Fridays in various volunteer activities, such as putting on a Carnival Day for Vacation Bible School at Cross View Lutheran Church, Edina, with games, prizes, popcorn and a life-sized inflatable castle. Another favorite volunteer activity was visiting, singing hymns and putting on a talent show for residents of Augus-tana home, Minneapolis.
“Another volunteer experience was packaging dry food to send to third-world countries in a program called Feed the Children. The man who organized it told us how God had worked in his own life and how he’s now working to help others.”
Interns spend the first part of their summer studying for licensure exams. “This was our first major hurdle,” says Luke, who spent three weeks preparing, first to become licensed for life and health insurance in the state of Colorado, and next to pass the series of exams qualifying him to handle mutual funds. He passed both on the first try.
When interns from the Lutheran private colleges met in a special session during orientation, one of the topics was an AAL/LB visit to each of their campuses for a workshop called, “Saving, Spending and Sharing,” aimed at teaching students to keep these three facets of life in harmony.
Five hundred students, approximately one-sixth of the student body, attended the St. Olaf event in fall 2001. “I was blown away at the attendance,” Luke says. Part of the attraction was a $500 door prize for the winner to save, to spend and to share. “One-third was set aside to be saved in an AAL/LB account, one-third was to spend, and one-third was for sharing with a charity,” he explains.
Kelly graduated from UW-LaCrosse with a marketing major and psychology minor in December 2001 and formally joined her agency January 7, 2002. Her current position as a communications specialist grows out of her internship activities, marketing and creating weekly and monthly newsletters. With Darcy Matz, recruiting specialist, Kelly is helping organize the summer 2002 internship program.
College students discover AAL/LB internships through different channels. Kelly no-ticed the program during an Internet search and discussed it with her family and their AAL/LB agent, Craig Nielsen. Luke had already seen a brochure about the internships when they were recommended to him by a St. Olaf professor. “Now entering our fifth year, we’ve seen explosive growth from nine interns in the first year to 130 in summer 2001,” says Bruce Dybvig, speaking specifically about the LB portion. “We offer internships in agencies across the nation, and the word is out, especially on our Lutheran campuses.”
As AAL/LB merger details are worked out, accommodation will be necessary. “In 2002 we’ll run on parallel tracks and beginning in 2003 we’ll introduce our new, redesigned internship program,” Dybvig says. LB has required licensing of its interns and AAL has not. LB’s program ran primarily in summer, while AAL’s operated through the year.
Luke graduated from St. Olaf in May with a triple major in mathematics, economics and philosophy and a minor in finance. He looks forward to a career in research and analysis of investments, most likely in the Twin Cities. After his internship he wrote an article, “Why a Job at AAL/LB is Right for Me,” that was printed in Imagine, a newsletter for the 2001 interns.
“AAL/LB is a company full of friendly people facing exciting times,” Luke writes. “And that’s probably what draws me to it — not only the great people, but also the serious potential to succeed in the company’s unscripted post-merger future. What more could you want in a job?”