Student Information (Internships)

"Experiential learning helps students both to bridge classroom study and life in the world and to transform inert knowledge into knowledge-in-use.  It provides a process whereby the learner interacts with the world and integrates new learning into old constructs" - Janet Eyler Liberal Education, Fall 2009

ABOUT INTERNSHIPS

There are a couple of key points Western students need to  consider when seeking an experiential opportunity:

1. ACADEMIC CONNECTION

Credit - Some academic programs at Western require students to complete field hours or an internship in order to graduate.  If you are unsure as to the requirements for your particular area of study, please refer to your DegreeWorks on your MyWestern and visit with your Faculty Advisor.  For an undergraduate student to receive academic credit, the student must obtain pre-approval from the appropriate faculty establishing internship learning objectives and academic requirements as established on the Registrar's Internship Form.  A formal evaluation process assesses the student's competencies as they pertain to academic goals.  The student's grade is then awarded based on student performance - each program is different; some are pass/fail, others offer a letter grade. The internship provider (supervisor), student, and Western faculty member are all included in the assessment process.  Students pay tuition for credit bearing internships and earn a final grade; tuition provides coverage under Western's workers' compensation policy for the semester in which the student is enrolled in the internship credits. Students earn credits based on the number of field hours they complete.

The credit allocation is based on the following:

Field (Internship) HoursCredit Hours
37.5 hours1 credit
75 hours2 credits
112.5 hours3 credits

Non-credit - Depending on the student, you may not be required to complete a credit bearing internship in order to graduate.  With that said, there are many students who are seeking experience and networking opportunities and are not as interested in the credit component.  With non-credit internships, there is no official paperwork that must be submitted by the internship provider or the student.  In fact, the institution is released from any connection with that experience.  Although there is no documented learning objectives with non-credit internships, it is advisable that students still be cognizant of what their overall goals are with the experience.

2. COMPENSATION

Paid or Unpaid - some internships offer stipends or even an hourly wage, whereas others are unpaid, where the student is essentially volunteering their time and skills.  When looking for an internship, keep in mind that if you are attaining academic credit for the internship, you will have to pay tuition on the experience.  Each student has a different financial situation so it is up to you on what types of internships you actively seek out.  Bear in mind that you might limit your experiential options if you only seek out paid opportunities.

Either option that you choose to apply for, you will want to verify that it is in accordance with the U.S. Department of Labor's Fair Labor Standards Act.

3. SCHEDULING

Credit bearing internships take place during one of the following time frames (click here for the most up-to-date academic calendar):

Fall Semester - late August through early/mid December

Spring Semester - mid-January through late April

Summer - May through August

Western students complete their hour allotment during one of the above listed terms.  The student must be enrolled for the credits during the term in which the work is initiated.  The course work is part of a student's academic load for that semester.  The student must be in direct communication with his/her faculty member verifying the dates will work for all parties.

Non-credit internships can be completed during a time frame that is both convenient for the internship provider and the student as it is not influenced by Western's academic calendar.

4. SEARCHING FOR AN INTERNSHIP

Western's Website: Western has two different avenues for you to look for openings: internship opportunities webpage and Western's own Purple Briefcase database.

Academic Department: Some departments have an internship posting board or a faculty member that keeps students updated on openings via email correspondence.

Networking: Reach out to people who are doing what you are seeking experience in.  Set up a LinkedIn account as a way to reach out on a professional level.

Organization Websites: If you know which field you want to pursue, research companies/organizations and see if their websites advertise internship openings.

 

HOW TO APPLY

1. Make an appointment with Mariah in the Career Services Office to discuss opportunities.

  • If seeking a credit bearing internship, you must have at least a 2.0 GPA and completion of at least 12 credits within the academic area of the internship.  Each individual internship application may also have their own application requirements.  Your Academic Advisor or the Career Services Coordinator will most likely provide you with the paperwork (Internship Form) that must be filled out for Western, the supplemental application materials for the internship itself must be acquired by you.
  • For Non-credit experiences, you must follow what the organization's requirements are.

2. Meet with the professor who will serve as your faculty sponsor so that you understand their academic requirements.

3. Update your resume and be prepared to submit a cover letter for the position(s) that interest you.  Then, prepare for an interview.

4. When you have obtained an internship, return to the Career Services Office with a position/internship description  and Western's paperwork filled out.  It is imperative that this is taken care of prior to the add/drop deadline for the semester.

5. The Career Services Office will coordinate getting the paperwork submitted to the appropriate offices and your faculty sponsor.  It will appear in your DegreeWorks and MyWestern account when confirmed by your faculty sponsor.

 

HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR INTERNSHIP

Congratulations on securing an internship!  Making the most of this opportunity requires careful planning and dedication on your part.  Here are suggestions from Career Services based on the experiences of previous interns:

Before You Start

Communicate with your internship supervisor about your goals and future career aspirations.  The more defined your goals are, the more likely it is that you will get what you want from the experience.  Before the first day, do a trial run to your internship site and time how long your commute might take (obviously, this is more of a concern outside of the Gunnison Valley).  Carry a small bag with the basics: money, pens, notepad, access to road maps, and a planner.

During the Internship

Do be punctual.  Arrive on time and don't go over on breaks.  Constant tardiness could eventually be held against you.

Don't be afraid to ask questions.  Everyone knows that you are an intern; so do not expect to know everything right away.  With that said, you also don't want to behave like a "know-it-all".

Don't forget to talk to your supervisor within the first week of your experience about the documentation that will be required if you are pursuing a credit bearing internship.

Do keep a daily journal or unofficial record of your assignment (for your eyes only), how you accomplished them, and what you learned.  This will be useful in writing reflections, personal assessment, as well as for future reference when writing your resume and cover letter(s).

Don't play on the computer or on your cell phone.  Be sure that your cell phone is off - it may just ring at the most inappropriate time.

Do try to engross yourself in the company material or information pertinent to current project.  Be alert and aware of new things that the company is trying to achieve and see if there is a way that you can be of assistance.

Do understand the company culture, dress, and appropriate behavior.  Some outfits or conversations may be inappropriate.  Identify someone within the organization whose style you admire, and use that as a guide to how you can present yourself.

Do steer clear from giving your opinion on politics and other sensitive issues.  Office politics can be sticky!

Don't complain or slack off on your assignments.  You might feel like you are doing unimportant tasks, but if you work with a good attitude, you might eventually get bigger opportunities.

Do take responsibility for your work, even if you make a mistake.  Learn from your mistakes and demonstrate that to the person who will be evaluating you.

Don't take things personally.  Assess the situation objectively.  Furthermore, if you receive criticism, don't get defensive.  Know when to speak and when to listen.

Do NETWORK.  Professionals in a field of your interest surround you.   Take initiative and try to learn as much about them as possible by asking or joining them for lunch.  talk to them about your interests and aspirations.  Find someone with the organization with whom you may want to conduction and Informational Interview with- you might find yourself a valuable mentor!

Do get feedback and take interest in projects around you.  This will help you understand how you are doing, and your interest might help you attain similar jobs.

Do remember that the Career Services Office is open during the summer and would be happy to assist you: 970-943-7122.

Self-Reflection

This is an important part of your internships experience - whether you are seeking a credit or non-credit based internship.  Halfway through the internship, you should be able to analyze whether you are attaining your goals, or if they have changed.  Use a journal to help yourself gain insight.  Be proactive about your learning and take the necessary steps that might make your experience better.  Also, feel free to talk to your supervisor about your concerns.

After the Internship

Talk to your supervisor about what you have achieved, and if possible, make a portfolio of the work you did so that you have concrete examples.  If you are unable to create a portfolio, at least update your master resume to reflect some of the bigger projects and skills you attained.

Send a thank you note to your sponsor and to other people at the organization who made a difference to your overall experience, and try to stay in touch with them on a regular basis (consider connecting with them on LinkedIn).  This will ensure your name does not fade away and it might come up for other job or networking opportunities.

Be sure to complete the final paperwork for your credit bearing internship, which will help you assess what you have learned.