Internship policy creates hurdles

by Beacon Staff • October 18, 2011

strongJackie Tempera, Beacon Staff/strong

Emerson students clad in their best business casual flocked to the Fall Internship Fair at the Marriott Tremont Hotel Wednesday to scope out prospective employers.

Students like Janelle Caputo, a freshman writing, literature, and publishing major, arrived hoping to be more successful in their search for an internship for next semester. Caputo said she is having a difficult time locating an employer that does not require students to receive college credit for their work.

Being a freshman, Caputo has yet to complete the 64 credits Emerson College requires of internship-seeking students.This means she cannot use the four to eight credit opportunities the college offers students for intern work.

“I’m really hoping to find one so I can get experience,” said Caputo.

At the fair, Karen English, a representative from The Pohly Company, a marketing and publishing firm, explained her company’s requirement for credit-earning interns.

“We like the students to have a stake in it so we don’t ask for volunteers,” said English. “You have to show up, you have to do a good job, and in return we will make sure you have a great experience.”

English said The Pohly Company has used volunteers in the past, but their performance was sub par, so the credit requirement was put into place.

Many underclassmen at Emerson said they have had to navigate around the school’s internship policy and bargain with employers to work at the jobs they earn.

Megan Mitchell, a sophomore journalism major, found herself left in this position.

During April of her freshman year Mitchell said she won a spot as an MSNBC at NBC Universal intern in New York. The company’s website stated that interns must receive school credit for work. Mitchell said she was aware of the school policy and instead of trying to fight to use her internship credits, she decided she would find a way around it.

“I definitely needed the internship and decided the best way to do it would be going through another school,” said Mitchell.

Mitchell resolved to take the Internship Communications Course at Norwalk Community College, located a half hour from her home in Connecticut. She said the credits cost her $480.

“So in addition to doing an unpaid internship, I was also paying for a course at another college,” said Mitchell. She added that the credits she received for the internship will count toward a class credit, not toward the allocated Emerson internship credits.

Mitchell said she believes a new Emerson internship program would be beneficial to the underclassmen.

“When it comes to the actual internship part, a student is very limited. In all the other aspects of career building at Emerson, freshmen and sophomores are never excluded,” Mitchell said.

Phillip Glenn, a communication studies professor and the department’s internship coordinator, said he sees value in reserving interning for the juniors and seniors.

“The students should do them near the end of the career, because internships are designed to build on what you’ve been learning in classes. They can also act as a stepping-stone into a career after graduation,” said Glenn. “Younger internships won’t let those things happen.”

Senior Tori Bergland, a journalism major currently studying in the college’s Los Angeles program struggled to make this opportunity work for her. In her case, the eight credit cap also contributed  to her problem.

Bergland said in the summer after her freshman year emThe Colbert Report/em offered her an internship position. According to its website, the show requires students to receive credit for their work, which Bergland said created a problem for her since she wanted to participate in the L.A. program.

“I wanted to do the L.A. program, and I knew I couldn’t do an eight-credit internship in L.A. if I did an internship for credit elsewhere,” said Bergland.

Bergland said she tried to negotiate with the show to reimburse her travel expenses, but they denied the request.

Eventually, Bergland went through Westchester Community College’s internship program and paid $300 for a one-credit internship. This credit did not go toward the Emerson internship credits, but rather a class credit.

Bergland, who now interns at emThe Ellen DeGenerous Show/em, said she preferred to pay the money than the alternative of being forced to take on a four-credit internship in L.A. in addition to classes.

“I wanted to be able to work majority of the week. I’m here for the experience and am taking two classes only on Mondays. That leaves the rest of the week to work; that’s the whole point of the program,” she said. “If I could only get four credits, that would mean only working two days a week.”

Neighboring colleges, Boston University and Emmanuel College, have similar policies to Emerson, requiring full internship credit to be awarded once a student reaches junior status. However, both schools also allow students to apply for one-credit internships.

According to its website, students at Emmanuel College have two choices for internships, Academic or Level One.

For a Level One internship, students must take an introductory internship class the semester before beginning work. This class is only available to students who have taken 32 credits. Completing a Level One internship will earn a student one credit that will not count toward graduation.

Academic internships must be approved by faculty members. Faculty monitors the student’s progress throughout the semester. This internship can be used as an elective or major course credit.

At Boston University, underclassman with atleast 3.0 GPA can fill out a one-credit internship form available on the university’s website, enabling them to receive one credit that does not count toward graduation, but allows them to complete an internship with an employer that requires credit.

Mitchell said that offering underclassmen at Emerson one-credit internships would be a tremendous asset for the college.

“It would at least give you an internship where you could meet people to help orchestrate other internships in the future,” she said.