In Part 1 of this series, we introduced two models described at the AAA 2013 roundtable entitled “Success in Anthropology: The Place of Internships and Practica.” In Part 2 we discuss two additional models and examine features associated with successful student experiences.
North Carolina State University Model
North Carolina State University (NCSU) offers internships to undergraduates. According to faculty member Tim Wallace, students take the class “Internship in Applied Anthropology.” They are responsible for identifying a partnership and developing a work contract that outlines internship goals and objectives. They then complete 180 hours of work. The faculty and agency partners typically meet with the student three times over the course of the semester for progress updates. Additionally, the student and faculty advisor meet weekly to review and discuss the students’ fieldwork journal notes and reports which relate their experiences to anthropology theory and methods. The final product is a 20 page report prepared for the department, as well as a final meeting where the internship supervisor discusses with the student strengths and areas for improvement.
Shane Pahl participated in this internship experience as an undergraduate at NCSU, and is now completing his MS at the University of North Texas (UNT). Interested in the private sector, Pahl first enrolled in an ethnographic field school focused on marketplace interactions in Thailand. Then he used Career Services to locate an internship with Wine & Design, an entertainment company. Pahl stressed the importance of ‘getting the contract right,’ to ensure that the intern gains appropriate skills. He believed the internship experience made him more competitive in his applications for graduate study and, combined with the practicum experience at UNT, better prepared for a full-time position in business anthropology once he completes his MA. Wallace observed that employment often follows for undergraduate interns at NCSU, in many cases with the organizations where they had interned.
The University of Arizona Model
The University of Arizona (UA) offers applied internships at both the undergraduate and MA level. UA Professor T J Ferguson reported that undergraduate internships are arranged through a highly structured, formal program. To qualify, students must have a minimum GPA of 3.25. Most placements occur through the university’s Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology (BARA). Students work in a variety of settings on issues ranging from food insecurity and urban farming to the creation of community libraries.
The MA program in applied archaeology, a fairly new but very successful program that has helped students build networks and expand their skills and knowledge, requires an internship. Because the majority of their MA students are self-funded and often have fulltime jobs, UA internships are limited to a total of 135 hours over the semester. While an agreement is written to ensure educational exchange, a final written report is not required. However, both the intern and organization supervisor evaluate the experience, and the university advisor conducts an exit interview with the intern.
Terry Majewski, Vice President at Statistical Research, Inc (SRI), reported very positive experiences with UA interns, largely because she and the staff create activities that fully expose the interns to the business of cultural resource management (CRM). From SRI’s perspective, CRM benefits in the long run, as students are better prepared to move into practicing positions post-graduation.
What Makes Practica and Internships Successful?
The post-presentation discussion centered on the above question, raised by several audience members, some of whom were students from institutions that do not offer internships.
Tim Bolding, who has supervised interns for over 25 years at United Housing, argued for approaching the internship as “an exchange:” both the intern and the agency give and gain from the experience. The students need exposure to real life problem-solving, grant-writing, active mentorship, and employment opportunities. What do agencies need? Bolding emphasized that multitalented and entrepreneurial students are the best fit for his line of work. He also noted that community-based organizations, such as his, need to foster strong relationships with universities to ensure future collaborators and future employees. Many of his old interns are now in important positions within his and other non-profits in Memphis.
Communication is also key to internship success. Doug Henry (UNT) emphasized the critical need for clear communication about expectations and deliverables to avoid potential for exploitation. Mary Odell Butler concurred, warning that students can get assigned tasks such as simple coding or data entry. An internship agreement is critical, a point reinforced by Majewski, who includes a clause to prevent intern exploitation in her agreements.
The issue of payment for services was also discussed. Bolding suggested that, ideally, the host should provide financial support; students should not be required to work for free. Furthermore, providing a stipend or hourly wage creates buy-in and accountability. However, Tim Wallace noted that it is not always possible for an organization or the university to come up with funding.
Finally, Bolding observed that some internships fail because the organization does not know how to use or supervise students. Majewski concurred: “you cannot just have them counting rocks,” as happens in some CRM firms. Bolding suggested that organizations be trained in how to best utilize an intern for all parties’ benefit.
In conclusion, regardless of their structure, the benefits of internships and practica are clear. They allow students to sample a career before completing their educational training; apply their anthropological skills in real-world settings; establish a network of professional contacts useful for the future; bring valuable insight to interdisciplinary research teams; and create space for more interns and employees who are anthropologists. With the vast majority of anthropology graduates working in practicing careers, they are essential to a complete and responsible educational experience. As Terry Majewski noted, “professors who do not care if their students get a job will be the downfall of social science.”
Keri Brondo is associate professor and graduate coordinator in anthropology and Linda Bennett is associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences and professor of anthropology at the University of Memphis. They served together on CoPAPIA and COPAA and have collaborated on numerous studies of careers in practicing anthropology.
Barbara Rylko-Bauer is contributing editor of Anthropology Works, the AN column of the AAA Committee on Practicing, Applied, and Public Interest Anthropology.