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University of Minnesota, Morris
Office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean

Internships and Field Experiences

What are Internships and Field Experiences?
 
An internship or field experience consists of a professionally supervised activity in a professional setting. The kind of activity that counts toward an internship must teach the student something academically valuable about their major or minor.  Interns observe and assist with the professional activity that goes on around them, and they may themselves engage in professional activities under close supervision.
 
Each internship or field experience entails two supervisors.  First, there is the UMM faculty supervisor, who works out arrangements for the experience, instructs the student on specific requirements, and awards the grade.  Second, there is at least one field supervisor, a qualified professional in the field setting of the internship who supervisors the student's on site activities and, at the completion of the field activities, sends an evaluation of the student's performance to the faculty supervisor.
 
Purposes of Internships and Field Experiences
 
Internships and field experiences serve a number of purposes.  Their chief liberal-education purpose is to enrich students' learning.  They do this by providing concrete experiences with applying knowledge outside an academic context.  This enables the student to knit up their academic learning with quasiprofessional functioning.  They can try out principles they learned in the classroom, laboratory, and readings while these are still fresh in their minds.  The hope here is that students will make firm connections between their academic learning and their professional activity, that they will draw on what they learned academically to improve and think critically about their functioning as professionals, and that they draw on what they learned in the field setting to illustrate, dramatize, correct, and reorganize their academic learning.
 
Internships and field experiences do have other purposes. One is to give students a realistic day-to-day experience with life in a profession they are possibly thinking about entering. They will have a chance to try it out with minimal cost to their careers before committing themselves to a job in the field.  If they decide they would rather do something else, they have lost much less than by quitting or, worse still, keeping a job they dislike.
 
Internships and field experiences also introduce students into professional networks.  They may find a future job in their internship agency or in some other agency they contacted in the course of their internship, or the contacts they developed may help them find a job somewhere else.
 
Finally, interns' performance in the field setting provides the basis of a competency evaluation.  Interns and UMM can see whether they have acquired the knowledge and skills they are expected to acquire.
 
How to Arrange and Internship or Field Experience
 
There are two general ways to go about arranging an internship or field experience.  One is to locate a setting in which you wish to work, make your own inquiries about the possibilities there, and then enlist the help of a UMM faculty member to finalize the arrangement with the field agency and to set up a suitable set of course requirements for the student.  A second, more common route is to use UMM resources to locate a field setting and to work with UMM faculty and staff to make the necessary arrangements.  The UMM Career Center maintains information on internship possibilities.
 
Whichever path you take, be sure to allow plenty of time, generally about half a year, to make arrangements. This means, for instance, that if you wish to take your internship during the summer after your junior year, you should begin to make arrangements during the early part of the previous fall semester.
 
Paperwork
 
Registering for an internship in the IS 3996 series requires the following:
 
(1) an internship agreement form, which is available on our website, signed by the student and faculty supervisor and approved by the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs;
 
(2) an accompanying learning contract that spells out the proposed internship in considerable detail including the goals and objective, the types of activities to be undertaken during the field experience, the number of hours allocated to these activities, the total number of hours of learning activity in the internship, location of the internship and organization name, city and state;
 
(3) the academic experience should included a daily journal of his/her activities and a final paper, which will be required based on the reading that he/she did and from knowledge of what was gained from the internship experience. This paper will meet all of the criteria of a regular research paper and will be turned in by the dated required by the Faculty member. The student may also be required to read the equivalent number of scholarly books in the subject area and may be required to give an oral presentation of what was gained from the internship experience;
 
(4) notification will be sent from the field supervisor to the faculty supervisor indicating that the field supervisor approves the student's internship plans and will take responsibility for the student's supervision and evaluation in the field setting. Arrangements should be made to have a letter of evaluation sent from the internship supervisor to the faculty advisor upon conclusion of the internship.
 
Forms are available from the Career Center, and from the office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.
 
When to Take Your Internship
 
Since it is hard to take an internship and a full academic course load at the same time if the field setting is located away from Morris, most students take their internships during the summer following their junior year or the summer following their senior year.  In the latter case, if the internship is the only requirement left between you and graduation, you can generally arrange to take part in the commencement exercises before completing the internship.  The actual degree will be awarded upon completion of all work.
 
How to Calculate Number of Credits
 
The rule laid down by the University Senate states that each credit of course work should correspond to three hours of work per week of the semester, including exam week, or 48 total hours of effort per semester.  In an average four-credit course, for example, an average student is expected to devote about 192 hours to classes, labs, readings, papers, tests, and any other work in that course.  These are supposed to be hours of educational activity.
 
Calculating credits for internship and field experiences is more complicated than for on campus courses, because some time spent in the field is likely to be non-educational -- for instance, some routine admission procedures or clerical operations may cease to teach an intern anything new after the first few times they are performed.  Other activities may never cease to be learning experiences, no matter how often repeated.
 
Therefore, to calculate the number of credits an internship deserves, it is necessary to estimate the number of hours of internship activity that will be educational.  You then divide that number by 48 to arrive at the appropriate number of credits.  Or, conversely, to make sure that your internship is worth four credits, it is necessary to structure the internship to provide the requisite amount of learning time: 192 hours.  Your time estimates should include time spent on the required daily log, final paper and special readings described next.
 
What Will You Be Required to Do?

The specific requirements for your internship or field experience will depend on your faculty supervisor and on the kind of internship setting in which you will be working. However, most internships require the following:

1.  A specific plan for field supervision
2.  A daily log in which you record your main activities during that day and your thoughts about what you are doing
3.  A paper about your internship (see below for details)
4.  A satisfactory evaluation by your field supervisor

Note that you are not necessarily required to do new reading or to engage in research.  If you have not already acquired the necessary background for your field setting, you may be required to read background material. You are always encouraged to read, but a schedule of reading is not a standard part of the internship experience. The point of an internship is to gain experience by doing, not by reading. Nevertheless, credit is awarded for the intellectual and academic benefits that accrue to the student. Consequently, intellectual reflection on the activity is a core value of the internship. The doing of the work carries its own rewards. The reflection on the activity demonstrates the academic impact.
 
You are also welcome to conduct research in your field setting, provided you have the consent of the authorities at your field setting.
 
Instructions for Writing the Paper
 
At the end of the internship, you will be required to hand in a paper. The paper should contain two parts.
 
Part 1:  Describe the kinds of activities you engaged in during your internship and the approximate number of hours you spent on each kind of activity.  This part of the paper may be quite short -- one or two pages.
 
Part 2:  Describe the connections you were able to make between your internship experiences and your academic learning:  ways in which your academic learning was helpful or misleading to you as you worked, ways in which you were able to apply the principles of your academic discipline to particular tasks or challenges in the field setting, ways in which you found specific theories or evidence from your academic work to be consistent or inconsistent with particular internship experience, ways in which particular internship experiences illustrated or contradicted things you had learned in your courses, and so on.
 
One way to go about writing Part 2 is to review your notes and texts from your basic courses and match up topics with the various topics and activities that come up in your journal.  Then think about their relationships and write down your thoughts.  What is the point of making these connections?  They are intended to deepen and elaborate your academic learning.
 
While there need not be a direct relationship between the quality and value of written work and the length of that work, in general projects of greater scope and complexity should require longer essays. Consequently the following is a rough guideline on the length of paper to be produced following the internship:
 
1-6 credits                   15 pages
7-9 credits                   20 pages
10-12 credits               25 pages
13 or more credits       30 pages
 
Grading
 
All internship and field experiences are graded on the S-N system only.  To obtain a grade of S, all aspects of your work must be satisfactory -- your daily log, your paper, and your field supervisor's evaluation of your work.  Doing beautifully on one or more of these measures will not compensate for the failure of another.
 
The Field Supervisor's Role
 
Internships would be impossible without the conscientiousness and dedication of field supervisors, for whose efforts UMM is deeply grateful.  The field supervisor is a professional employed at the site of the internship who provides day-to-day supervision of the intern's activities.  Such supervision normally consists of frequent consultations between supervisor and intern.  In some instances, the official field supervisor may delegate part of the most direct daily supervision to another appropriately qualified professional working under her or his direction and provide less frequent (for example, weekly) feedback to the intern.  In those instances, the official field supervisor remains responsible for the educational quality of the internship experience for the intern.  At the end of the internship, the field supervisor supplies a written evaluation of the intern's performance to the faculty supervisor.
 
Field supervisors must be qualified professionals in the area of the internship.  "Qualified" here means having the academic credentials and experience that are generally recognized as necessary to qualify an individual to hold the supervisor's professional position. Generally, long, successful, supervised experience may substitute for academic credentials for purposes of undergraduate internships.
 
The field supervisor's final written evaluation of the intern's performance should address the basic question of how well the intern satisfied the supervisor's expectations, how well the intern performed her or his professional duties, compared to reasonable professional standards for individuals with the student's level of preparation. Field supervisors are encouraged but not required in this written evaluation to characterize the intern's performance as fully as possible, commenting on the intern's work style, including its particular strengths and weaknesses.