New Internship Program Proposed

Gintautas Dumcius

UMass Boston has plans in the works to guarantee paid internships for every student Chancellor Jo Ann Gora announced in her outline of the university’s 2008 strategic plan before the UMass Board of Trustees last week.

A similar service was started by Gora at Virginia’s Old Dominion University where she was provost and vice president of academic affairs for nine years before coming to take the chancellorship at UMass Boston.

The Career Advantage Program at Old Dominion is “a comprehensive series of programs, services, professional seminars, appointments, and work assignments geared toward helping you determine your future career.”

CAP is able to “provide positions for every single major in the university,” says Tom F. Wunderlich, interim executive director of Old Dominion’s Career Management Center, adding that it has helped draw and retain students. “It is a very positive recruiting tool for the university.”

Administration officials say UMass Boston administration officials say the Old Dominion program, “is definitely the model”. They also said that the internships, which will be related to students’ majors, aren’t going to lead to co-ops like at Northeastern University.

Nor will the internship add six months to a year to students’ baccalaureate degrees. Officials note that they will be able to pursue an internship and a degree simultaneously.

At Old Dominion, a year and a half went into planning the program, which began in 1995 and managed to net companies like Bank of America to set aside internships for students. Other students have gotten internships at the Norfolk Southern Corporation and Fortune 500 companies and currently are offered a wide array of choices. Local school districts provide for those who want to go into education and local hospitals are there for medical students. Additionally, work-study students can do community service internships for non-profit companies.

Old Dominion students can log onto a virtual Career Management Center where they upload resumes (which they can develop with the help of a “Cyber Career Coach”) and search for jobs and internships. Employers post jobs and schedule interviews.

In a tight job market, Old Dominion students have the competitive advantage because of skills, abilities, and experience, says Wunderlich.

In an October 1999 article in the Virginian-Pilot, Gora said 12,000 placements were made in five years, all over the world. “We were able to identify alumni abroad who are willing to help place interns as well as provide housing for them for a semester,” Gora told the Pilot. “It’s really been a win-win situation for all. The student gets to try out a job in their field, and the employer gets to try out a potential employee.”

That fall, CAP was credited as one of several things that helped to increase enrollment at ODU to an all-time high of 18,879.

Wunderlich estimates that 6,000 placements were made this year alone.

UMass Boston is very interested in providing internship opportunities for students who attend the university says Theresa Mortimer, vice provost for academic support services. “We’re already providing significant opportunities to do internships.” Often, they are through several different ways; sometimes students find them on their own, sometimes faculty are contacted by people they know in business who are searching for students, and sometimes-prospective employers contact Career Services.

Mortimer says there are about 630 students working for agencies for class credit, which many like to do, or for pay. Over a hundred are working paid internships with no credit. “It’s important for students to have a variety of avenues for their professional development,” she said, citing the clinical rotational experiences at local hospitals afforded to nursing students, which happen at the graduate and undergraduate level.

Mortimer, echoing Gora’s comments to the Virginia-Pilot, called it a “win-win” situation for everybody. “It’s exciting to be working on some of these projects,” she said.