Community-Engaged Learning & Internships
An internship is a short-term arrangement (usually a semester or a summer) that greatly benefits both the intern and the organization offering the internship. The organization gets much-needed, inexpensive (or free) help; the intern gets practical experience and an opportunity to make the connection between theory and the real world.
During the academic year, there are many internship opportunities both at Vassar and beyond. Vassar internships are usually academic internships that compensate the intern with academic credit (but there are also paid internships). Most academic departments and programs have at least one academic intern, usually a junior or senior majoring in the department. Many faculty members (especially in the sciences and social sciences but also in the humanities) hire interns who work closely with them on their research. This can involve anything and everything from tracking down sources in the library to running subjects in a psychology experiment. About 300 students a year do academic internships.
Outside internships are coordinated through the Office of Community-Engaged Learning, which places about 500 students each year in community organizations, nonprofits, government agencies, human services organizations, and businesses. Most of these placements are in the Poughkeepsie area, but the office also places students in New York City (particularly students interested in publishing, the fashion industry, or entertainment) and Albany (particularly students interested in government and public policy). To get an idea of the types of placements, visit the Community-Engaged Learning website.
Every student participating in Community-Engaged Learning is supervised by a faculty member who evaluates the intellectual merit of the proposed community-engaged learning experience, determines the amount of credit to be given, and decides upon the academic requirements for the awarding of credit. Such requirements range from keeping a journal, to meeting regularly with the faculty member, to writing a final paper.
Both the Community-Engaged Learning Office and the Career Development Office offer multiple resources to help students secure summer internships. The Community-Engaged Learning Office’s Community Fellows Program places students each summer in Poughkeepsie-area human service agencies that promote social justice, ranging from the Spark Media Project, an intensive program in media activism for youth at risk, to Grace Smith House, a shelter for battered women and their children.