By Carrie Click

SUMMIT COUNTY – A successful student internship program coordinated through Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge is giving students valuable on-the-job experience – and, for Patricia Comcowich, helping to land her a great job.

Approximately 75 student interns have completed Associate Professor of Business Dr. Robert Cartelli’s year-round program since it began in 2011. During internships, students learn in the classroom and are also paired with businesses and organizations that have agreed to give them real-world experiences.

Students may choose one of three disciplines: business administration, outdoor studies or sustainability studies. After being matched with a community partner, students typically spend 15 weeks following personalized learning agreement plans, which involve onsite professional experiences, class time, mentorship interactions and assessments.

From last September through mid-November, Comcowich was matched with the human resources department at vacation ownership developer Breckenridge Grand Vacations. BGV is the parent company of several local resort properties including the Grand Colorado on Peak 8, Grand Lodge on Peak 7, Grand Timber Lodge and Gold Point Resort.

Its reputation as one of Colorado’s best employers is well established. Among BGV’s honors, the company’s website lists it as being named as one of the top 15 mid-sized workplaces in Colorado by The Denver Post in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

“The focus of the internship was to understand the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of BGV’s HR department,” said Comcowich. During her paid internship, part of her duties included helping with employee events such as the company’s Wellness Fair, serving as an English/Spanish translator and navigating BGV’s human resources software.

“I got a glimpse of all the different operations of the HR department,” she said.

‘An opportunity to start again’

Nearly 14 years ago, Comcowich moved from her native Peru to Summit County. Marriage and a baby followed, and the family went to Peru where Comcowich studied animal husbandry and, at Le Cordon Bleu, culinary arts. When the family moved back to Summit County, she worked as a restaurant chef.

“I liked it, but it was tough: the schedules, the stress,” she said, leading her to want to change careers again. Comcowich was 38 and she and her husband had two children when she enrolled in classes at Colorado Mountain College.

“For me, CMC was the opportunity to start again,” she said. While at the college, she even earned a scholarship to go to China through the International Scholar Laureate program and the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, of which she is a member.

Comcowich said enrolling in Colorado Mountain College was “the best decision I could have made.” She graduated with an Associate of Arts in August 2015 and received a Bachelor of Science in business administration this May.

“She’s one of the great success stories of CMC students that I know,” Cartelli said.

Comcowich’s internship, she said, opened doors into a new career. It not only gave her experiences in a new line of work, but led her to a job that she loves; the company offered her a coveted full-time human resources position after her internship.

“I couldn’t be happier,” Comcowich said. “I am still learning a lot about the different functions of the HR department. It is a challenging position in a very important department of the company, but it is a very solid team.”