The internship is one of many experiences that students have while pursuing a degree in Leadership Studies. It is an opportunity for students to get “real life / real time” experience in an organizational setting that is of interest to them. Students should select a site that gives them the opportunity to be challenged, and to learn as much as possible about their particular field of interest. The following outcomes are presented as guidelines to help the intern and his/her supervisors better understand the goals of the program.
1) Learn how to learn on the job as a form of action inquiry
One of the most difficult skills for many leaders and managers to understand is how to actively engage in their own learning. We often do not take the time, nor do many people have the requisite skills, to recognize learning opportunities as they occur in our work place on a daily basis. Thus, one of the goals of the internship is to help interns “learn” how to learn from the work experiences that they encounter. This is a difficult skill to develop. During the seminar, the university supervisor will provide opportunities for the interns to engage in action inquiry by reflecting on their actions, behaviors and outcomes of the decisions they make. This reflective process continues throughout the course of the semester.
2) Learn how to integrate classroom learning (theory) with professional practice (in the field)
One of the biggest challenges encountered by students and the faculty working with them is to integrate the theoretical components of an academic program with the practical aspects of an organizational setting. This has serious implications for students preparing for leadership and management positions. Most want to develop the skills, abilities, and relevant competencies to be successful in a life often removed from academic settings. In our program, we recognize the tension that exists between theory and practice, and we strive to create opportunities for students to learn how to connect classroom learning with real-world experience. The internship is an opportunity for students to learn to connect what they learn in the classroom to an organizational setting that is of interest to them.
3) Understand and learn from the complexities inherent in all organizations
Working as an intern often gives students an interesting vantage point to examine a wide range of organizational dynamics. Oftentimes, interns have opportunities to “shadow” high level administrators, or work on projects with employees from different areas of the organization. And since the role of the “intern” is one of learning, people in the organization are often very open to questions about their role, responsibilities, and other work related inquiries. If these opportunities for dialogue present themselves, it gives the intern another avenue of great learning. Additionally, interns engage with peers around challenges and other issues that arise during the internship, which provides another source of learning about a variety of organizational dynamics.
4) Develop technical skills in an organization that is aligned with ones’ career aspirations
Doing an internship is an excellent way for students to learn and develop the technical skills and competencies necessary for working in a specific organization. For example, an intern assigned to work in a student services area at a community college might learn how to utilize the student intake database, how best to communicate to students and faculty within the college, or how to collaborate with others outside of the college, to name a few. Interns might also gain valuable experience with written and oral communication; presentation and facilitation skills, depending on the placement.
5) Explore aspects of interpersonal behaviors that influence ones’ effectiveness
In the course LEAD 550/600: Leadership Theory, students gain valuable insights about working with groups, how to understand authority relationships, and the differences between adaptive and technical challenges. The internship is another opportunity to build upon the learning in this course and others. During the seminar course that coincides with the internship, students work closely with their peers and the university supervisor to critically examine and analyze a “critical incidence” that the intern brings to the seminar. Using a variety of instructional strategies in class, peers act as critical friends to help the intern view their incident from various perspectives. The intern may not agree with the various “consultations” she/he receives from the group, but many interns find that the feedback from others is one of the most meaningful learning opportunities made available to them.