Becky Herrig, one of the heads of Clarke University’s Career Service Center, has been helping students pursue professional opportunities since 2011. Whether she be reviewing résumés, establishing contact with potential employers, or helping students build confidence as interviewees, Herrig is dedicated to the task of connecting students with internship experiences that will help prepare them for the working world.
Clarke University itself has heavily incorporated experiential opportunities into their curriculum over the past decade or so. Most majors offered at Clarke now require some type of internship experience as part of their programs. For students involved in those majors, it is common for them to register the actual credits under their general academic schedule, therefore making the work experience part of their class routine.
According to the Clarke website, “Credit for an Internship for Credit employment experience is based on the job description and the number of hours a student works.” Students are required to work 60 hours within a semester to acquire 1 credit hour on their transcript. Those registering an Internship for Credit are “billed the semester rate,” though if they happen to already be taking the maximum 18 credit hours within a semester, they will be billed for each internship credit hour above that limit. Additionally, they will be charged summer tuition to take an Internship for Credit during the break months.
Due to this intrinsic tie between internship experience and academia at Clarke, many students opt to take up internship positions on campus. The Marketing department at Clarke has been known to host interns, as has the Margaret Mann Academic Resource, though these are only a few examples of the many work opportunities on Clarke’s grounds. Additionally, according to Herrig, all work study positions on Clarke’s campus have the potential to be both paid and valid for credit.
That is, of course, if the position meets the proper criteria. When I had the opportunity to speak with Becky Herrig regarding Clarke and its encouragement of work experience, it was made clear that, regardless of location, an internship must provide real and valuable work experience in order for it to be considered for credit.
“We’re not just turning any job into an internship,” said Herrig. “There needs to be outcome based objectives in the student’s field attached to the position. It has to be a well-rounded learning process and experience.”
Throughout our discussion, Herrig was adamant about this component of the internship process. “We’re preparing students for the working world,” she stated. “Having experience is a big deal. Sometimes students say, ‘Becky, I did this internship and I just realized that I don’t want to pursue that,’ and I say, ‘That’s fine!’ It’s better that students get to know what they want to do now instead of later.”
And that’s the kicker with some internships. While many can be fruitful experiences that lead to realizations about professional goals and motivations, others can simply be a fulfillment of credit. Some internship opportunities might lead to future employment or a fulfilling career, while others might seem like a waste of a summer or semester. Herrig sees benefits either way.
“I tell students all the time to get off campus and get out of their comfort zone. It’s one thing to sit in a classroom, but it’s another to become a part of a business or a company with transferable skills.”
Max Kyte, a senior at Clarke University who is majoring in Communication, shares this perspective. “I think an internship is definitely useful for making contacts and getting a necessary insight into the area of work you’re interested in,” said Kyte during our brief discussion on internships and their place in the curriculum. “They can help show whether what you’re doing is something you actually want to be doing.”
Kyte completed an internship with Novelty Iron Works last semester and continues to work with them through this academic period. “My position there has given me lots of good insight into promotions, marketing, and analyzing audience reach and response. They really worked with my schedule to find the best time for both of us, which was definitely useful for me.”
Ashley Smith, also a senior Communication student, had a similar experience in her time at an unnamed print production company. “I worked as a graphic artist there, making t-shirts, designs, and a lot of other stuff. I definitely think the experience was beneficial, especially because I hope that they’ll hire me after my position ends.”
That’s what much of the encouragement towards internships is about, after all. Potential employment. According to Herrig, “A lot of times, one internship will turn into another, which will turn into an employment placement. Even if you don’t get employment in the institution you originally hire in, they can refer you somewhere else!”
However, what happens when you’re employed and feel confident enough in your abilities that the idea of an internship seems more unnecessary than beneficial? Dylan Marquez, a senior at Clarke University who is currently completing his CIS degree, stated that, while his major encouraged experiential opportunities, he feels prepared enough without that extra step.
“As far as job hunting and preparation go—in my capstone, we’ve been working on résumés and putting ourselves out there for jobs to find us. There’s been courses where we’ve worked on our LinkedIn pages and we’ve learned a pretty equal amount about technical and personal skills,” said Marquez in a brief interview.
Marquez’s Computer Information Systems major does not require an internship within its curriculum, though it is highly recommended by professors. Speaking to that, Marquez stated, “I like that they only suggest taking an internship and that it isn’t required. I felt prepared through my classes, and while I feel like taking an internship could help, I feel like I’ve been given the necessary skills to succeed as I am now. If an internship was required, I feel like that would be a huge additional stressor on my already heavy workload.”
What it all seems to boil down to is the idea of balance. In interviewing a number of students and the head of the Clarke Career Center, it’s become clear that Clarke’s view of work experience is revered and, at times, beneficial. However, the constant push and pull of academia versus experiential opportunities can be tiring.
I myself have completed a number of internships, from paid to unpaid, “for credit” and “not for credit.” Each has been valuable in some way, even the ones where I did nothing but copy and paste for eight hours a day, five days a week. These opportunities have provided me with some fantastic professional relationships that will, hopefully, aid in my job search post-graduation. In that same vein, I’ve also gotten the chance to better investigate what exactly I want to do for a living.
However, it was all under the veil of necessity. I’ll admit, there is definitely a benefit to having internships be required for course credit in certain majors. There’s a popular belief that students won’t do or complete anything unless there’s a grade attached to it, and while I don’t think that idea is 100% true, I do believe that the requirement of work experience adds an extra layer of motivation. That being said, there is the problem of internships becoming nothing more than an extra stressor for some students.
I myself am completing a major in Communication with a minor in Writing. Altogether, my programs require me to complete 6 internship credits. Taking into account Clarke’s hour/credit ratio, that means I’ll have to accomplish 360 hours of internship work in my time at Clarke. This, of course, is in addition to the 16 to 18 credit hours I’ll be taking each semester.
What I’m trying to get across is that there’s a line to be drawn when it comes to completing work experience while in an academic environment. Part of the appeal of university is that being a student becomes your fulltime job. So what happens when you take on a fulltime job…and then get another job? Some students are already working as a means of paying for their education, and the jobs they’re working aren’t necessarily ones that can be counted for internship credit. Where does this leave them in the grand scheme of things?
While there’s absolutely no harm in encouraging experiential opportunities, there can be harm caused when students become overwhelmed with the combination of work and academics. I can recall too many nights where I’ve put off homework to an unreasonable hour, trying to complete a spreadsheet for a supervisor of mine.
There should, I feel, be an iota of flexibility when it comes to Internship for Credit requirements. All in all, it should be a conversation between the students and the wonderful support system at the Career Center, along with the advisor and head of the program. Each student’s schedule (and life) is different, and a million things are viable to impact an individual’s ability to complete not only a degree, but an internship.
As it is now, students should look to the likes of Becky Herrig and their professors to learn more about what kinds of opportunities they can pursue to build their own professional repertoire. There are plenty of benefits in work experience, and there are tons of resources at Clarke University that can help in the process of finding and securing a professional position.
You can contact Becky Herrig at her Clarke email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to set up an appointment to discuss your options based on your program of study. For more resources, you can also explore Clarke’s Career & Internships page.
Regardless of whether your major requires internship credits, it’s a good idea to look into your options. Whether you want to take on a remote internship that only requires you to work two hours a week, or whether you want to throw yourself into a full-time position career style, what you’re ultimately working towards is building your own professionalism. Analyze what works best for you, and what you think you can handle. Talk to your advisors and your peers, and keep moving forward. After all, “success is no accident.”
by Mimi Ottavi, Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Clarke Crux