Individualized Study
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

BIS 495 - Internship

Structured appropriately, internships provide an exceptional opportunity for "learning by doing". Students are expected to take an active role in establishing structure by developing a learning plan with the faculty mentor and the internship site supervisor. This learning plan--which becomes a formal Internship Contract after being approved and signed by the student, the faculty sponsor, site supervisor and BIS Director-should describe your academic objectives for the internship and the strategies or methods for accomplishing the objectives.

The Internship Contract is the most important document for your internship. It is your plan of action and your reference point for assessing how you are learning and growing during the internship. Thoughtful development of objectives forces you to think about why you have chosen this internship and what you hope or expect to learn. You will go to the internship with ideas, theories and plans, giving you a template against which to compare what actually happens.

Once the internship is underway, students often find that their objectives are changing-new tasks and unexpected opportunities often require adjustments or refinements to the objectives. That's okay. This revision process is part of the learning cycle and you can document the changes through your journal entries and other documents in your portfolio. Thus, even though you may have some uncertainty about exactly what objectives would be best for a site, go ahead and develop a plan to prepare yourself intellectually for the experiential learning ahead.

What are some examples of learning objectives and strategies?

Objectives should describe what you will learn, not what you will do. As you prepare your objectives, think about the reasons why you are doing the internship and what you want to gain from it intellectually and personally. Try to use concise, measurable words to describe these goals, e.g., identify, improve, define, compare, understand, apply, solve, write, contrast, initiate, develop, etc. Be creative in thinking about your own learning objectives for the internship. Think about theories or texts you have covered in courses, specific career or professional information you have wanted to acquire, or ask during your preliminary site interviews about what learning opportunities the organization can provide. In addition, it may be helpful to think about how the internship will be a culminating project as it specifically relates to your area of concentration.

Strategies should describe the specific processes or tasks that will help you meet your objectives. Will you undergo orientation or training of any kind? Will you have responsibility for a specific task or project? Will you attend any meetings? Can you interview professionals at the internship site? What kinds of daily tasks will you undertake? Will you do any professional reading at the site?

For each internship, a student should develop 3-6 objectives. The following examples are provided to spark, rather than limit your thinking:

Sample Objectives : 

  • To describe how public policy is developed and enacted in the state legislature
  • To develop a preliminary network with public relations professionals
  • To improve my theoretical and practical understanding of group communication Proposed Strategies
  • By following legislation, researching legislative histories, reviewing public policy text and articles, interviewing Assembly staff and lobbyists, observation in daily/weekly meetings
  • Develop data file of new contacts, conduct informational interviews with agency professionals and clients, attend professional conference, write follow-up thank-you letters
  • Observe interaction in project meetings for leadership styles; roles; critical and creative thinking techniques; decision making techniques; nonverbal communication; and kinds of group tasks

You may want to prepare a draft to take with you when discussing the Internship Contract with your supervisor. Asking for his or her assistance in finalizing your objectives gives you the opportunity to clarify what your goals are for the internship and to receive feedback from the site supervisor about how realistic you are being. Such a discussion may help your supervisor think of additional possibilities for you in terms of projects, meetings, conferences, training, etc.

The Internship Contract is a key document for assessing your learning. You should keep your copy to refer to throughout the internship and, ultimately, to place in the Internship Portfolio.

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