The world is your canvas: Van Go intern gives back through community art

Mike Thibodeau, Major: Psychology & Strategic Communication, Minor: Spanish


Hometown: Fairway, Ks

Majors and minor: Psychology and Strategic Communications, Spanish (minor)

Internship title and organization: volunteer, Van Go

What were your responsibilities during the internship?

My job was to help out the staff of Van Go by helping the apprentice artists wherever I could and helping the more senior staff with maintenance things like cleaning or making sure everyone had the supplies they need for work that day.

What was your favorite part(s) of the internship?

I really liked watching how the group all grew together over the semester. The kids were a bit quiet at first, but everyone found their niche in some way over the course of the program. By the end, Van Go had become a place where they could relax a bit and enjoy themselves with friends after school, while giving them a bit of drive at the same time.

What did you gain from the experience that will be valuable to you in the future?

"This experience showed me the benefit of giving people something they can be proud of. These kids were not the best students or brilliant artists, but they cared and they put in so much hard work, and at the end of the session, what they had created was amazing and it was their own creation."

Why did you choose your majors/minors? Did you always know what you wanted to study? Or was there a eureka moment?

I ended up stumbling upon Psychology after a really difficult sophomore year. I was in a major that was crushing me, so to help, I started turning towards some mindfulness practices. That started sparking my interest in psychology, and then going to the KU Career Center really helped steer me the rest of the way there. I just became really interested with how the human mind functions and works. The Strat Com double major is mainly to help learn to communicate successfully to groups. 

How had the classes you’d taken at KU prepared you for the internship?

I think they give you a bit of a sense of hope and drive for putting yourself into these kind of situations. I took this opportunity because I was interested in using psychology in a way that could help people. That drive was inspired by the classes I had started to take and it pushed me to take this opportunity.

What motivates you?

"There are a lot of people in this country who are born with so much potential, but are trapped in circumstances they cannot control. I think these people deserve a chance to experience their potential."


What do you plan to do after graduation?

I’d like to go to grad school and get a master’s in clinical social work, then work in the southwest helping get psychological services to non-English speakers.

Be like Mike, and explore internship opportunities to improve communities. Also, check out the Department of Psychology, the Department of Spanish & Portuguese, and Strategic Communication at the University of Kansas.