University News

Pandemic Turns Internship into COVID-19 Planning Experience for WIU Student

August 4, 2020

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MACOMB, IL – Just as the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many programs on the Western Illinois University campus and around the world, University faculty and administrators have jumped in to help many students who were scheduled to begin internships that were erased by the coronavirus.

One of those students is Clint Ratkovich, a senior engineering technology student, of Crete, IL. Ratkovich, who is also a member of WIU's football team, was originally scheduled to complete his nine-week internship at LyondellBasell, but campus officials worked together to create an internship position for him with Facilities Management at WIU. LyondellBasell is a plastics, chemical and refining company.

Facilities Management Executive Director Troy Rhoads was contacted by WIU Department of Engineering and Technology Chair Rafael Obregon when Ratkovich's internship plans were interrupted. Rhoads then worked with Facilities Management Deputy Director Ted Renner to find projects to fit the needs of Ratkovich's skill set.

"As our reaction to the pandemic evolved, and we became aware of Clint's capabilities, he became an integral part of planning the classroom capacities, based on CDC guidance," said Rhoads. "This unfortunate cancellation became an opportunity for Clint to experience operational planning in action and the need to be able to adapt to a changing situation. Clint is looking to move into the manufacturing field, and having the experience, and the ability to adapt and overcome, will serve him well in the future."

During his internship, Ratkovich visited every one of WIU's classrooms with a tape measure to see if chairs can be placed more than six feet apart. He also looked for obstacles in the room that would change the maximum number of students in a classroom.

Renner said Ratkovich cleaned up the department's AutoCAD library, making sure room layouts and room numbers were correct. He also noted all of the fire extinguisher locations on the CAD prints to allow WIU's building service workers to know exactly where they are when it comes time for inspection and service.

Ratkovich said he couldn't have anticipated what a great experience he would have right on the campus he was already calling home.

"During the nine-week internship I was able to meet and work with so many great people. Almost every day of work was challenging, which made it very exciting to come in every day," said Ratkovich. "I am glad I was able to be an asset and contribute to the huge workload put on Facilities Management preparing for this school year. The unique experience working for Facilities Management this summer taught me so much and is truly an experience that I will never forget."

Obregon said the internships of several engineering technology students were cancelled because of the pandemic and Ratkovich and several others were able to complete their work in various departments on the WIU campus.

"Clint's case was unique," said Obregon. "He is a remarkable individual, student and athlete, but due to the crisis and his major, there seemed to be no adequate options locally for him. In a conversation with faculty, the idea to explore possibilities with Facilities Management came into the conversation."

WIU's Engineering Technology department and Facilities Management have a very long and constructive relationship and Obregon said they frequently cooperated and support each other in a variety of ways.

"There are even several department graduates who have worked, or are working for them," he said. "After contacting Troy, and receiving a very quick and positive response, I met virtually with Ted Renner (who has taught classes for the construction management major for years) and planned for Clint to contact them to explore possibilities. I knew Clint will impress them and the results speak for themselves. I am glad everything worked out for everyone, including WIU.

For more information about the WIU Department of Engineering Technology, visit

Posted By: Jodi Pospeschil (
Office of University Communications & Marketing