When the summer began, senior politics major Jackson Ventrella wasn’t looking for an internship with butterflies. Nevertheless, the opportunity arose out of happenstance.
This past summer, Ventrella landed an internship at Entomology Solutions in Louisville, Kentucky. A far cry from the political arena, the company he worked for partners with Idlewild Butterfly Farm, the Louisville Zoo, and other companies to raise butterflies and conduct research on bugs and insects.
“I had just come out of the Washington-Hillsdale Internship Program, so I went to Louisville and worked at an impact investing firm,” he said. “Some of the other guys at my job this summer were going to do photography for Entomology Solutions, and the owner said she needed two people for the summer.”
He took advantage of the opportunity and ended up working at both the investing firm and Entomology Solutions from June to August.
Though he doesn’t plan on pursuing a career in entomology, Ventrella said the experience with butterflies at Idlewild was valuable nonetheless.
“As a non-science major, I helped run the store,” he said. “I worked the cash register, did upkeep in the yard for the plants and the butterflies, harvested eggs, and supervised tours.”
Blair Leano-Helvey, an entomologist and owner of Idlewild, said the company’s interns don’t need to come with knowledge about bugs.
“Our interns learn on the job,” she said. “All they need is interest in what we do.”
On a typical tour, Ventrella would take visitors to a rearing lab, where larvae are studied and collected, an insectarium, and a live butterfly flight house.
“The monarch butterflies usually attracted the most guests, in part due to it being the most well-known butterfly,” Ventrella said.
Visitors can study more than just butterflies at the insectarium.
“Because we are USDA certified, we can bring in exotic insects from all over the globe,” Leano-Helvey said. “The tarantulas and stick bugs are a huge attraction to our visitors.”
Idlewild offers numerous services for its guests besides tours. The store sells butterfly chrysalides and butterfly attractant plants. The farm organizes live butterfly releases and butterfly displays for special events such as weddings and memorials, among other ceremonies.
In addition to learning about and working with entomology first hand, Ventrella said the internship offered beneficial real-world experience.
“You get to meet and learn about people from all sorts of different backgrounds,” he said. “It helps you to learn new skills. I’ve never done this type of work before, so the work in general was new to me.”
Sophia Carr Donohoe ’13, an assistant director of career services, said that students who work in a field not related to their major aren’t as rare as one may think.
“It’s more common than students think to work in an industry outside of their major,” Donohoe said. “A lot of times organizations have jobs available where they need an outside perspective.”
She went on to describe how a liberal arts education is especially valuable for students who may study one field and end up working in another.
“A Hillsdale education is unique because we have a lot of students that might major in history and minor in business or biology,” Donohoe said. “When you are diverse in the liberal arts and you’ve taken classes from many different disciplines, you are going to be able to take jobs like Jackson’s.”
Besides expanding his skill set, Ventrella said, the internship offered an aesthetic appeal.
“One of the best things about the butterfly farm was in the simple beauty of the creatures themselves,” he said. “They’re so fragile and delicate and each one is unique.”