Internships in the community are an integral part of the work of the arts and social change course at Swarthmore College. Once students are enrolled for the course, they receive an email from the instructor detailing possible placements. They are asked to respond, ranking their first three choices and providing an explanation for that ranking. The instructor then contacts the community organization representatives and, in consultation with them, determines internship placements. Placements begin the second week of the term and continue through the end of classes (between 12 and 13 weeks). Placements are planned to take two to three hours per week and the schedule is arranged between the placement supervisor and the student. Once the schedule has been set, both student and supervisor sign an agreement a copy of which is kept by each of them as well as by the instructor.
Tasks for the placement vary widely according to the needs of the organization and the skills of the intern. Critical to the process is the continuity of the placement and the ways the student is able to bring that experience back into the classroom discussions. The placement experiences often provide the catalyst for some of the other course exercises as well as for further involvement in community-based arts work beyond the course of the term. Students keep journals that are shared with the instructor several times during the term. The instructor is also in touch with the placement supervisor half way through the term and at its conclusion. These 'check ins' are useful to all involved in maximizing the usefulness of the intern experience.
How to make a 'fit'and be a good partner
An internship offers a student a chance to link theory and practice, gain skills that can lead to future job/career paths and to networking possibilities, and help each student begin to understand the complexities and rewards possible when entering social change work. Work done at placements will also enrich in-class dialogues. In seeking to find what placements offer an appropriate fit, students are encouraged to ask themselves the questions below (among others):
- What skills do I have to offer?
- What skills would I like to learn?
- In what environment(s) do I work best (self-directed/scheduled, project oriented with clear outlines/directives, etc.)?
- How well do my current abilities match the stated requirements for this position (in terms of broad interest in the project, specific skill sets and time commitments)?
- What are my academic and career goals overall?
Students are requested to prepare and share with the instructor a one-page resume that includes their relevant background experience(s) and basic contact information, broad goals for the internship experience, and available times each week for internship activities. These resumes should be submitted via e-mail attachment one week prior to the deadline for sharing these materials with possible community partners.
Each student is expected to spend between two and five hours per week in her/his placement (including commuting time).