While many jobs in the past year have moved workers home and online, UNLV graduate student Kyle Petersen has mountain trails and a lake for an office. A second-year master’s in kinesiology student, Petersen applies his knowledge of health and movement to his position at the Lake Las Vegas Sports Club, where he leads hikes, gives informative talks, and helps club members reach their fitness goals.
Petersen works as a community internship graduate assistant (CIGA). CIGAs are positions funded by community partners in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors that allow organizations to support graduate students by providing them hands-on experience in the student’s field of study.
The Graduate College developed and oversees the CIGA program, a vital campus-community bridge that offers financial and career development support to UNLV graduate students. Since launching the CIGA program in 2020, seven graduate students have served as CIGAs.
Petersen says, “When I got to UNLV, I was really looking for a graduate assistantship for the work experience and to help with the funding of school. It's something I think most graduate students really want.”
For Petersen, an internship with the Lake Las Vegas Sports Club was a natural fit.
“I come from a cycling background, having raced all through high school and then college,” Petersen says. “The Sports Club was looking for someone who had an interest in cycling because there's a lot of really great cycling, both road and mountain biking, out here in Vegas and Henderson.”
Petersen learned about CIGAs from his mentor Dr. John Mercer, chair of the kinesiology and nutrition sciences department, who was integral in forming the relationship between UNLV and the Lake Las Vegas Sports Club.
Jackie Arcana, director of fitness at the club, recounts, “I was an instructor, teaching physical fitness and health personal training classes at UNLV, and Dr. Mercer was the acting chair. He had this vision of having more community outreach so people could understand more about kinesiology and what it's all about.”
When Arcana began her work with the Sports Club, the two realized it would be an ideal place for UNLV kinesiology students to bring their expertise while gaining funding and work experience.
“Because of the graduate students, we’re having more science-backed programming for the members,” Arcana says. “It’s a total win-win.”
Club members and CIGAs alike benefit from using the Sports Club’s state-of-the-art InBody Scale.
“One of the major things that I do with members is use the device to measure their body composition and then help interpret it for them,” says Petersen. “Body composition is a tricky thing. When you tell someone you have this much fat, this much muscle weight, this much water, they try to read into it more than maybe they should, so it's fun to discuss what it really means and how we can use body composition as a tool in achieving our exercise goals.”
“We really care about people and we care about having the best and the brightest in front of them. That's what we get from the students. They have all been great,” Arcana says.
Beyond Petersen’s scientific knowledge, he’s also brought his love of cycling to his internship.
“I ran a couple of mini triathlons for members last winter. We did them here at the Sports Club in the pool, and then on the spin bikes, and on the treadmills.”
Of CIGAs, Petersen says, “If the fit is right, you can really offer a lot to the host site.”
With his academic and athletic prowess, Petersen brings a wealth of knowledge and hands-on help to his internship site.
CIGAs work 20 hours per week under the supervision of their faculty advisor in collaboration with their placement site mentor who, in Petersen’s case, is Arcana. “It's a good fit for the people who have come out so far, and it has really benefited the Club and the students. It's a two-way street and a good community partnership,” Arcana reflects.
The graduate students have been such great fits that Arcana has even offered a past CIGA a full-time position with the club.
With the enviable work setting of a lakeside fitness club, Petersen is able to see his field of study, quite literally, in motion.
Community Internship Graduate Assistants and Community Graduate Research Assistants
The UNLV Graduate College established and oversees campus-community bridge programs as a way to financially and professionally support graduate students and their career development:
- Community Internship Graduate Assistant (CIGA) are funded by community partners in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. These partnerships allow organizations to support graduate students by providing them hands-on experience as interns at their site. CIGAs are supervised by their UNLV faculty advisor, with onsite mentorship from their site coordinator. Organizations looking to promote professional development opportunities can sponsor CIGAs.
- Community Graduate Research Assistant (CGRA) are funded by community partners in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. These partnerships allow organizations to support graduate students working on cutting-edge research, scholarship, and creative activities. CGRAs work with faculty members on campus. Sponsors can contact students for occasional updates and will have the opportunity to view the final product at an agreed-upon time. Organizations looking to accelerate research in their field can sponsor CGRAs.
Interested in establishing/funding a graduate assistant program?
Contact Graduate College Director of Development Liz Kahane at 702-895-3429 by email.