Rather than negotiating with academic departments, class deans, the Office of Academic Affairs, or the Career Resource Center (CRC) to gain credit for internships, students will soon be able to work with one office. Last week, the University announced the appointment of Government Professor Melanye Price to the new position of Internship Coordinator, housed in the Center for the Study of Public Life. As coordinator, Price will help students navigate a variety of new internship options starting next fall.
This new internship program, which Price is currently developing with staff from the CRC, will be aimed primarily at improving the process students go through to gain academic credit for internships completed over the summer or during the academic year.
“We would like to streamline the internship process so that it fits more sensibly into students’ academic life, especially if it’s directly related to their academic area of interest,” Price said.
In addition to rewarding students for their work in the field, the program will offer a number of new internship opportunities. According to Director of the CRC Mike Sciola, certain employers will not hire student interns unless the student’s university has already agreed to issue credit for the work. When the new program is established, he said, Wesleyan approval for credit may become much easier to receive.
“The CRC has been advocating for this kind of position, held by a faculty member, to deal with this piece of the internship puzzle,” Sciola said. “We’re extremely positive and enthusiastic about this.”
Although plans for the program remain in the developmental stages, Price said that the structure would likely be akin to that of the Study Abroad programs, offering certain University approved internships and an application process to apply for credit with other internships. Price is also researching other internship program models at peer institutions, such as Vassar College.
In addition to traditional summer internships, Price will be looking into employment opportunities that students can hold during the academic year in Middletown, Hartford, and New Haven.
“This program could really open up a whole other set of opportunities,” Sciola said. “Students interested in policy, for example, could intern at the State House during the year. I actually think that having Wesleyan students involved in these processes could change the dialogue at the State House.”
Once the program is launched, the CRC will continue to provide resources by arranging information sessions for students and establishing links with alumni for internship opportunities.
“[Sciola] and I are very clear that we don’t want to duplicate services,” Price said. “We want to figure out how we can make the services they already have connect to the academic side of students’ careers here at Wesleyan.”
In recent years, it has fallen upon students to independently seek out information about internship opportunities that offer University credit, such as Education in the Field.
“Currently, you can get credit for internships from Education in the Field and Independent Study, both of which require you to find a faculty member to supervise you and a department to count those credits,” Sciola said. “This has been an issue for students for a long time, and it hasn’t been easy for students to deal with credit for internships.”
Despite Education in the Field and Independent Study options in certain departments, others do not grant credit for internships.
“For departments, the fear has been that students will receive academic credit for making copies or getting coffee, which accounts for many internship opportunities,” Price said. “Instead, we want to ensure that students who chose this option are engaged in opportunities that allow for the practical application of the things they learn in the classroom.”
One of Price’s first tasks will be to discuss the new program with the academic departments, the Education Policy Committee (EPC), and the Board of Trustees. While Price and Sciola expressed the need to maintain careful scrutiny over the nature of internships, the new position will allow Price to advocate on the behalf of deserving students to various departments.
“There are internships where our students have been writing policy, doing research, and putting together financial models that get implemented in banks, companies and even countries,” Sciola said. “I think this innovation is a direct result of President Michael Roth’s intention to really look at how we distinguish a Wesleyan education as the premier liberal arts education in the country. This is a tangible answer to that question.”
Price, who returned from sabbatical in January after being denied tenure last May, will be setting up office hours once details regarding the new internship program are more complete. Students interested in receiving academic credit this semester should contact the CRC, their class dean, or the Office of Academic Affairs for advice on applying for Education in the Field.