by Josiah VanWingerden
Several departments at Whitworth require an off-campus internship as a part of students’ undergraduate experience. It is common for students to fulfill that requirement during their junior or senior year. Some departments have a list of required credit hours and courses that students must take before being considered eligible to intern. However, other departments believe that it would be beneficial for the student to intern as early as possible.
The argument for students to intern sooner rather than later, particularly during their sophomore year, is that an internship can help students get past what is commonly known as “the sophomore slump.”
According to the Whitworth website, sophomore students are actually encouraged to attend the annual fall internship fair and the spring job fair, which are both hosted in the HUB. Students are also encouraged to go to the Career Services department to get help on resume building, interview preparation and exploring potential career options as the deadline to choose a major approaches. This will help students establish connections and exchange contact information with potential organizations that each student is interested in working for.
For most students, sophomore year is when they begin establishing relationships on a deeper more intimate level – not only with fellow students, but also with professors and in their communities. It is truly a crucial year. Students are allowed to apply for multiple leadership positions, volunteer for service projects, be a TA for professors and are encouraged to begin searching for potential majors and career interests.
Whitworth’s website argues the best way to combat the “sophomore slump” is to get involved around the community as much as possible. Internships provide a unique opportunity for students to do that. It makes sense why some departments encourage an early internship.
Some may say that students should not intern during sophomore year because they are unsure of what they want to pursue as a career. However, that’s exactly why they should intern! Students are beginning to explore the various options that Whitworth offers in terms of majors. The purpose of an internship is to provide the student with hands-on experience in a particular field of interest. A student could then assess whether she wants to continue down a career path after an internship experience, or switch before choosing a definite major to study. It could also relieve some stress that students have during their junior and senior years.
Mike Ingram, professor of communication studies, does not believe that students should intern in their second year. He is the internship coordinator for the department, and supports the department’s requirement for students to complete at least 18 credit hours in one of the three tracks offered before being eligible for an internship. He said that this requirement prepares the students to offer something to the place of the internship.
“It doesn’t make any sense for somebody who took Public Speaking, but not writing for Mass Media to get an internship at a newspaper,” Ingram said. “They’ve got to have some foundations there first.”
He would much rather see a student who is prepared, organized and responsible take on an internship, rather than someone just trying to get it over with. Because juniors and seniors have taken various upper division courses that they would have something to give the place where they intern because they know the field. This knowledge provides the best overall internship experience for both the student and place of the internship.
“Students who have taken Reporting [for Mass Media] with Dr. [Jim] McPherson and get a job at the Spokesman-Review newspaper get to see that Jim wasn’t just whistling Dixie,” Ingram said. “The process of thinking about stories, of interviewing people, asking legal questions in a particular way all really have value and cache.”
However, the value of an internship extends beyond helping students to choose their careers. Students can benefit and gain experience through an internship without having to take a required number classes. Internships present an opportunity for students to learn what a career field is like. Whitworth’s Career Services department refers to them as “test-drives” into potential careers. Juniors and seniors have to declare majors and are stuck to them. Sophomores are not bound to any major yet, which is why it is the perfect year to intern. Sophomores, get on board the internship!