Experiential learning and the internship at Wesleyan

Wesleyan University views experiential learning as an important component of the liberal arts education it provides its students.  Experiential learning is privileged among the various strategies we encourage our students to adopt in pursuit of intercultural competency, in that it allows students to relate their academic studies to the world outside of the classroom, beyond graduation and, in many cases, beyond their borders.

Among the many experiential learning models that exist, the internship has become a primary means for making these connections. Our endorsement of this modality is founded on our understanding of internships, as defined by the National Association of Colleges and Employers:

An internship is a form of experiential learning that integrates knowledge and theory learned in the classroom with practical application and skills development in a professional setting. Internships give students the opportunity to gain valuable applied experience and make connections in professional fields they are considering for career paths; and give employers the opportunity to guide and evaluate talent. [For more information, please click here.]

Wesleyan takes great care to ensure that the internships for which we award credit adhere to this definition while meeting both our ethical and academic standards.  We adhere to the rules set out by U.S. Department of Labor in 2010, under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1947, designed to guard against the use of interns as a source of free labor and the possibility that unpaid internships might be substituted for entry-level jobs. These rules indicate that interns should derive benefits from unpaid internships similar to those they would receive in an educational setting. To guarantee that the internship is firmly situated within the pathway of learning leading from our students’ Wesleyan admittance to graduation and beyond, the Office of Fellowships, Internships, and Exchanges, in the Center for Global Studies, coordinates the relevant academic advising and assessment for students interested in a credit bearing internship. The Career Center sources, posts, and markets a wide variety of experiential learning opportunities, many of which are credit-eligible.

  • Why pursue an internship?

    Internships help focus career goals and prepare for life and a career after college. Through internships, students gain practical work experience and develop skills and an understanding of different work cultures. Students also develop valuable contacts or mentors and may potentially obtain offers of full-time employment upon graduation. When applying for full-time positions, employers often expect students to have gained experience from internships, part-time jobs, and campus activities. In addition, there are certain fields where it is essential to gain hands-on experience in order to be competitive in the job market.

  • How do I find an internship?

    Internships are available to students through a number of avenues. At Wesleyan University, students utilize the staff and resources available to them at the Gordon Career Center in identifying internships. Through the Gordon Career Center’s online career management system, students are able to access internships sourced by the Gordon Career Center, as well as those posted by peer institutions through the Liberal Arts Career Network (LACN). The Gordon Career Center also connects students with alumni, parents, and other Wesleyan-friendly employers across all fields and industries through its Cardinal Internship Program. Cardinal Internships provide students excellent opportunities for career exploration, skill building, mentorship, and networking.

    Students also identify internships through faculty recommendations, connections through family and friends, etc. Acquiring an internship process reflects the job search process for many students and prepares them to search successfully for employment upon graduation.

    Wesleyan students have participated in internships on campus, locally in Middletown, across the United States and abroad. Internship experiences and opportunities are limitless.

  • How do I fund or afford an internship?

    Internships can be paid or unpaid. In the event that internships are paid, students are paid directly by the organization or company that they are working with either as a stipend or pay check.

    If your internship is unpaid, there are a few options available to help fund your internship:

    1. The Gordon Career Center  advises students on scholarships and grants in a number of subject areas connected to professional interests:
      1. John W. Macy Summer Internship Grant
      2. Wesleyan University Summer Experience Grant
      3. Richard A. Miller Summer Experience Grant
      4. Nancy Campbell National Trust for Historic Preservation Summer Internship Grant
    2. The Patricelli Center has funding available for current students related to civic engagement and entrepreneurial pursuits.
    3. Occasionally centers and departments across campus have   limited funding available to support students to pursue an unpaid internship. For instance, the College of East Asian Studies posts information on funding sources specific to East Asian studies and languages.

    Please note that various grants and funding may have specific requirements limiting eligibility based on subject area, financial need, academic merit and more. Many of these grants also have corresponding deadlines and required materials for submission. Please carefully read and review the requirements and details for all grants. Furthermore, funding is limited.  It is therefore not  guaranteed and it is contingent upon application and review.

  • How do I make sure that my internship will meet Wesleyan’s criteria for accreditation?

    Students may be eligible to complete an internship for academic credit. In each of these variations, students are required to provide details about their internship, identify a supervisor and complete additional work outside of the internship to reflect upon their experience and connect to their academic studies.

    In advising students, the Gordon Career Center emphasizes that students are responsible for determining whether or not an opportunity is worthwhile and meets their personal academic and professional goals.

    In addition, if a student received a Wesleyan University Summer Experience Grant, they are required to provide a detailed proposal, budget and a final report. Please note that the Wesleyan University Summer Experience Grant is specific to student’s financial need. Applicants are required to submit a proposal and budget for consideration and review.

  • How do I receive credit for my internship?

    Interested students may request academic credit for an internship in 1 of 3 ways:

    Education in the Field (1 credit) 

    Students must receive academic department sponsorship prior to starting the experience. If you are interested in pursuing Education in the Field please see your class dean or faculty advisor to review the requirements and begin the process.

    Independent Study (1 credit) 

    Students work one-on-one with a faculty member on a research project. If you are interested in pursuing an independent study for academic credit, please see your class dean or faculty advisor to review the requirements and begin the process. 

    CSPL 493 (.25 credit) 

    Register for course and complete regular, internship-related assignments, including a final reflective essay.

  • How will my experience be assessed?

    With any internship it is important for students to consider personal, professional and academic goals. Students should be able to understand academic and career related outcomes as well as clearly identify learning goals and career development goals for an internship.

    For credit bearing internships, under CSPL 493, students are asked to reflect upon their experience. Additionally, for any academic course connected to an internship, students are able to complete a course assessment, offering further insight to the efficacy of integrating the internship experience into Wesleyan's academic curriculum.

    Students completing an internship may contribute to the Wesleyan Student Internship Reviews database so as to share their experiences with peers. Internship review and submission to the database is required by those receiving a Wesleyan University Summer Experience Grant.

  • What should I consider in seeking to identify an internship experience?

    Students interested in internships should be familiar with the U.S. guidelines regarding unpaid internships for for-profit entities. The U.S. Department of Labor has established a six-part test for “for-profit” organizations to determine whether a position qualifies as a Trainee/Learner position and may be unpaid.

    1. Although the intern supports the operation of the facilities of the employer the internship is comparable to training that would be given in an educational environment;
    2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
    3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
    4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern, and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
    5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
    6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.
  • How might I build on my internship upon returning to campus?

    Internships allow students to bring their academic interests and professional goals into sharper focus. Upon returning to campus, students are able to leverage the knowledge gained through an internship in applying practical concepts to academic theory and study. In applying an academic model through a student development portfolio, students will be able to incorporate an internship into their learning objectives as they grow and develop over the course of their time at Wesleyan University.

    After completing a credit bearing internships under CSPL 493, students are encouraged to meet with staff at the Gordon Career Center to discuss:

    • updating their resume;
    • evaluating potential career paths based on their internship experience;
    • participating in mock-interviews, career panels and industry presentations.

    They should also consult with the Office of Fellowships, Internships and Exchanges to see how they might apply their internship experience to academic pursuits and fellowships that are career-driven, research-based or academically oriented.