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Internship Guide for Site Supervisors

Introduction

The SMCM Career Development Center (CDC) greatly appreciates the involvement of supervising organizations in our credit internship program. This page serves as a guide for staff from supervising organizations who are serving in the capacity of site supervisor and specifically addresses their role in the credit internship program. Please direct any questions that remain unaddressed to (240) 895-4203 or careercenter@smcm.edu.

What is an internship?

St. Mary’s College of Maryland describes a credit internship as an opportunity “designed to help students support their academic and career goals through supervised work experiences.” A more extended definition, from the National Society of Experiential Education, states that an internship is any carefully monitored work or service experience, generally of a one-time, short-term duration, in which a student has intentional learning goals and activities (objectives, observations, evaluations) and reflects actively on what she or he is learning throughout the experience.”

How do internships benefit employers?

  • Interns are highly motivated pre-professionals who bring can new perspectives to old problems. 
  • Interns increase workforce flexibility because they are cost-effective and do not require a long-term commitment; they are excellent candidates for temporary/seasonal positions and projects. 
  • Interns can provide permanent professional staff with the freedom to pursue more creative projects. 
  • Internships provide a very effective means for recruiting and evaluating potential employees. 
  • The visibility of your organization is increased on campus and in the larger community as you contribute your expertise to the educational enterprise. 

The success of an internship depends on an effective partnership between the site, the college, and the student. The three parties must agree to the conditions of the internship, the responsibilities of each party, and the reporting requirements. At St. Mary’s College of Maryland, the CDC is responsible for facilitating this communication, starting with the completion and approval of a formal Learning Agreement. Correspondence between the site and the CDC continues throughout the term.

How do internships benefit students?

 For students, an internship serves to link educational and career interests to a practical work setting. An internship also allows students to “test-drive” a career field of interest and to strengthen their resume and build a network of professional contacts. Gaining experience and confidence in an employment setting can boost students’ competitive edge when applying for jobs or admission to graduate school. Faculty often find that students enrolled in a credit internship make meaningful connections between their academic work and “real-world” situations, and contribute much to the classroom as a result.

Roles and Responsibilities

Participation in the credit internship process has advantages for both the intern and the organization. Among other things, earning credit for an internship enables the intern to connect their experience to their curriculum and increases accountability.

The site supervisor is responsible for developing an internship experience that includes substantive projects as well as opportunities for training, observation, and learning. He or she is charged with discussing work responsibilities with the intern (and describing them in the Learning Agreement), providing supervision and training necessary to support the intern’s experience, monitoring the intern’s hours on site, and possibly arranging for a site visit from the SMCM CDC. The supervisor must also complete an evaluation of the intern in sufficient time to allow for submission of a final grade before the end of the term.

Every credit intern at SMCM must also identify a faculty sponsor for their internship. The sponsor reviews the details provided by the site, works with the intern to develop learning objectives, reads the intern’s reflective work, supervises progress on an academic project, and submits a grade at the end of the internship.

The student intern should meet with the site supervisor and faculty sponsor prior to the internship to clarify expectations and responsibilities. After collaborative completion of the Learning Agreement, the intern must secure online approvals from their site supervisor, faculty sponsor, and the department from which they are seeking credit. In addition to working the required number of hours on site (with a minimum of 160 hours), the intern must submit reflective essays, complete an academic project, and submit a final evaluation of the experience. Interns are encouraged to seek advice and mentorship from their supervisor, sponsor, and the CDC throughout their experience.

Supervising and Evaluating Your Intern

As the site supervisor of an intern, you will use all the skills necessary in any effective supervisory relationship:

  • Providing leadership
  • Motivating 
  • Communicating 
  • Developing and training 
  • Delegating 
  • Evaluating 

Additionally, the students will look to you as a mentor who will assist their transition from the classroom to the work environment. Because the purpose of a credit internship is to extend the learning that occurs in the traditional classroom, you should expect to provide opportunities to bridge the two experiences. Encourage your intern to keep a portfolio of work completed during the experience. This will provide them with a sense of accomplishment and will give you a basis for discussing their professional growth.

We suggest that you meet with your intern regularly to provide feedback concerning their performance. During these meetings, the intern should have the opportunity to:

  • Report on the status of major projects 
  • Ask questions and share concerns 
  • Learn how their work is contributing to the organization 
  • Participate in an evaluation of their strengths 
  • Discuss areas needing growth and development 
  • Get a sense of the work that lies ahead 

In addition to spontaneous and informal meetings, you should evaluate your intern’s performance at the midpoint and end of the internship. We will provide you with an evaluation form that solicits ratings in such categories as work habits and problem solving, as well as comments on and professional strengths and weaknesses and progress toward objectives (available at www.smcm.edu/careercenter/internship_program.html). Though the final evaluation must be returned to our office (after discussion with the intern), the purpose of the midpoint evaluation is to provide3 structured feedback that will enable the intern to improve performance during the second half of the internship. Should any difficulties occur with the intern (attendance or punctuality problems, unsatisfactory work, personal conflicts, etc.), please let us know so that we might assist in identifying a solution. Also, please notify our office of any alternations in the condition of the internship, such as a change in supervisors, a major shift in responsibilities, unavailability of data/materials needed for a planned project, or other unanticipated changes.

Top Concerns of Interns

  1. Give us real work! Interns want to learn and work hard. An intern can help you complete a job that you would not have been able to complete on your own, so it makes sense to utilize them to their fullest potential. Be honest with your intern about what they can expect during their internship. If the job will require some “grunt work” (as most do), then make that clear. Balance the more menial tasks with substantive projects and help them understand how all activities contribute to the mission of the organization.
  2. A minute of your time please! It is essential for the intern to have a supervisor who will have time to interact and communicate with him or her. As newcomers to the world of work, interns may not speak up if they’re feeling ignored or uncomfortable. The burden of ensuring that internship goals are being met is on the supervisor. When interns are mentored by someone who truly enjoys teaching and mentoring others, the experience is mutually beneficial. If possible, regular meetings should be scheduled.
  3. Please explain! Make sure detailed explanations are provided with every new work assignment. Even if the work seems trivial and easy to you, the tasks may not be obvious or easy for someone who has never done them before. Taking more time at the beginning will result in high-quality, independent work with relatively little correction.
  4. We like feedback! Interns are students. For many, an internship is their first experience in a professional work setting. As a result, they may lack skills and experiences that you have come to take for granted. If your intern does something incorrectly (e.g., email etiquette), take a moment to kindly explain the mistake and how to handle similar situations in the future. Most often, they simply don’t know what they don’t know, and that is precisely what they are there to learn!
  5. We want to be included! Please include interns in the daily life of your workplace. Allow them to attend staff meetings or project meetings and ask them to join you for lunch. This involvement and perspective allows the intern to learn about the world of work and to feel invested in the organization. 
  6. Be prepared! Some interns have arrived on the first day of their internship only to learn that no one was expecting them, or that there is no place for them to work. Organizations sometimes take on interns without considering fact that they will need a desk, chair, phone and a computer in order to do the tasks assigned. The most valuable internships provide interns with all of the tools they will need to do the job. 

Please visit the employer page of the CDC website for additional resources and full program details!

Some portions of this content were adapted from resources provided by Michael True, Director of the Messiah College Internship Center