Changes to University Internship Program offer single-semester internships, reduced credit hours

The new program will be known as the Internship Placement Program

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The University Career Center says the University Internship has placed 8,000 students in internships around Charlottesville since 1976.

Christina Anton | Cavalier Daily

The Office of the Provost plans to alter the 42-year-old University Internship Program and rename it the Internship Placement Program starting next year. Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Archie Holmes said these changes are being made in hopes of making internships more accessible to students. 

The UIP provides work experience for University students in both the private sector and with non-profit organizations. The University Career Center says the program has placed 8,000 students in internships around Charlottesville since 1976. The program also provides internships outside of Virginia and the United States.

Holmes assembled an Academic Internship Task Force to suggest alterations to the UIP and used the commission’s suggestions to make his decision.

“Their main recommendation was that internships that bear graded academic credit should reside in the schools,” Holmes said in an email to The Cavalier Daily. “Since UIP does not reside within a school (it reports to me in my role in the provost office), I decided to make modifications to the program which I believe that both address this recommendation and will make these important experiential learning experiences more accessible to more students.”

The program has two components — the academic seminar and the supervised professional practice internship.

In the faculty-led academic seminar, interns discuss key issues in the field they are studying. They give presentations and write term papers on such topics. For Charlottesville-based internships, the seminars are taught on Grounds, while for international programs, such as in Dublin, the first meeting of the seminar is taught on Grounds before seminar supervisors check in with students via the internet and Collab when they are abroad.   

The supervised professional practice internship aims to prepare students for the workforce and postgraduate school, as well as help students learn about themselves and the cities where they work.

Students apply for the program each February and begin their internship the following August.

On completing the program with a grade of B- or higher, students obtain four academic credits for either PSYC 4910, PSYC 4920, SOC 4810 or SOC 4820. 

Although the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost will retain the structure of the UIP, Holmes plans to make the internships ungraded, to provide semester-long internships in addition to the year-long internships currently offered and to reduce the number of credit hours of the internship from four per term to one per term.

Some students said they like having the choice the new program will offer of internships lasting one semester or two semesters.

“I think it definitely makes it easier if you don’t really know if you want to do it all your whole year because of all the commitment,” first-year College student Ariana Pettis said. 

Some students said they are not sure whether they would want to commit to the internship for an entire year.

“The fact that you have the option of only doing it for only one semester is nice because there are always things happening in college and it’s hard to plan ahead, and having to commit yourself for 2 semesters is a pretty big commitment,” third-year College student Rachel McGill said.

Not all students like the change from graded internships to ungraded internships. McGill said she thought about applying for an internship through the program, but changed her mind when she heard there was no longer any grading.  

“Some of the benefits of taking it were reduced when I learned that is was no longer graded credit, because as an individual I needed graded credits,” McGill said.

Other students said they would still apply for an internship without graded academic credit, since they can put the internship experience on their resumes.

“If you’re still going to the seminar and you’re still learning about it, I think that’s still something to put on your resume,” Pettis said. “I’m not sure if grading is 100 percent necessary for that.”

However, an online petition has been initiated to request the University to stop any alterations to the existing program. At last count, the petition had amassed over 297 signatures of its 500 signature goal.

The petition was started under the name “Jefferson Ideal” and claims the program has been successful and should not be altered. The petition praises the combination of academic and vocational training and claims that the reduction of the seminar component will ruin the program.

“All alliances with the academic departments will also be severed,” the petition reads. “The program will be in effect unrecognizable, and the individuals implementing this plan of action have apparently done little to no empirical research on the qualities that have made the UIP a unique and successful academic (and pre-professional) experience for thousands of UVA students for the past 40 years.”

The petitioner blames both Holmes and Associate Dean for Undergraduate Academic Programs Rachel Most for the changes they claim will ruin the program — including a lack of transparency or input.

When asked about her involvement in the program’s cancellation, Most said the petitioner made a mistake and that she has had no involvement with the UIP. 

“I work in Arts & Sciences and have no oversight over this program,” Most said in an email to the Cavalier Daily. “I haven’t seen a petition and I don’t know who started it but, yes, it is an error.”

While the petition claims there was no student input, Holmes said he did consider student opinions when making the changes.

“Over time, I have heard from students and others who both support the current UIP program and have concerns,” Holmes said. 

Holmes said he heard concerns from students that having four credit hours per term was too many and strained students financially, so he reduced the credit hours to one per term. 

“I’m not super for the change but it does sound like he’s taken some account of student opinion, but definitely getting more student opinion would be good,” McGill said.

For 2018-19, the Internship Placement Program will have its first session beginning June 18. 

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