For many students, an integral part of the college experience is an internship. Often unpaid, an internship is on-the-job training for a professional career. The majority of college students will do an internship during their undergraduate work.
“It’s not just that 75 percent of students do internships; it’s that about 90 percent of employers look for internship experience when you go out in search of employment,” said Carol McNamara, director of the Olene S. Walker Institute of Politics and Public Service at Weber State University.
The Walker Institute is one organization on campus that offers and helps students find public service internships. Its namesake and founder, Olene Walker, is a former governor of Utah.
“She wanted to create something on campus here that would create a hub for political discussion, and create a place that would create a robust internship program,” McNamara said. She mentioned that the offices of senators Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch and Congressman Rob Bishop had come to interview students for internships over the past two weeks.
The Walker Institute is part of the College of Social and Behavioral Science. However, McNamara pointed out that students in any major can apply. She said Hatch hires finance majors for the finance committee.
“We would like to be able to find internships for students across campus,” McNamara said.
The Walker Institute plans on involving student interns in the state government. According to McNamara, there could be seven or eight interns in the next Utah state legislative session. She said the institute plans on working with local government to involve students with internships for possible city and county government as well.
In addition to the Walker Institute, there are plenty of other ways for students to find internships on campus. Barry Flitton, who heads up internship development at WSU Career Services, said the first step is for students to contact their advisers.
“They (advisers) have a good handle on internships,” he said.
Flitton said he finds that internships can be used as tools to be sure a student will enjoy his or her selected field.
“He or she can go work that internship, and that gives them firsthand experience if that is the direction they want to go,” Flitton said. “That’s why it’s important to do it before graduation.”
McNamara said students can gain a lot from internships. “They provide the opportunities to make connections . . . they provide you with skills and they introduce you to the workplace.” She added that an internship improves postgraduate resumes as well.
India Neilsen, who currently serves as the College of Arts and Humanities senator at WSU, spent last summer doing an internship with a nonprofit health organization in Washington D.C.
“It was absolutely essential to my work now, as well my future career work,” Neilsen said. She added that her supervisors were great mentors to her and her roommates. “I would encourage everyone to do one. Every company wants interns, and it’s a really fabulous experience. You get to have the work experience and also the learning experience.”