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Jessica Ingram

Date: November 9, 2016


To: Dr. Raymond
From: Jessica Ingram
Subject: Recommendation Report for MSU English Department Internship Program

Attached is the report for my study Looking to the Future: A Recommendation Report for
Mississippi State Universitys English Department and Its Approach to Experiential Learning. I
completed the tasks described in my proposal of October 25, 2016 by assessing MSUs current
internship placement process, the benefits of internships, and ways to improve the English
departments relationship with internships.

I used both primary and secondary research for my study. I conducted an interview with the head
of the English department, Dr. Daniel Punday, interviewed two faculty members at MSUs
Career Center, and gathered data from scholarly articles that discuss the benefits and
implementation of internship programs. After collecting and analyzing this data, I wrote the
report.

My findings suggest that MSUs English department does not currently focus heavily on
internships for students. Moreover, experiential learning opportunities can be beneficial to both
students going into the work force and students planning on attending graduate school after
completing their undergraduate degrees.

On the basis of these discoveries, I recommend immediate revision to the English departments
outlook on internships, including more focus on internships in the classroom, by professors, and
through department connections.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact me at jni14@msstate.edu.


Looking to the Future:

A Recommendation Report for


Mississippi State Universitys
English Department
and Its Approach to Experiential Learning

By: Jessica Ingram

EN 3313
Dr. Richard Raymond

November 9, 2016

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Table of Contents

Executive Summary...5

Introduction6

Discussion6-9

1. MSUs Internship Placement Process..6-7

1.1 What Is An Internship? .6

1.2 Examples of Internship Programs..7

2. Elements of a Successful Experiential Learning Program...7-8

2.1 Professor Influences...7

2.2 Classroom Inspiration.7-8

2.3 Departmental Incentives... 8

3. The Benefits of Internships...8-9

Conclusion....10

Recommendation..10

Works Cited..11

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Abstract

Looking to the Future:


A Recommendation Report for
Mississippi State Universitys
English Department
and Its Approach to Experiential Learning

By: Jessica Ingram

Mississippi State Universitys Department of English caters to students with many


different goals and visions of the future. It is often assumed that English majors must be pursuing
one of two different careers: a career in academia, including graduate studies, and a career as an
English teacher. However, many English majors cannot be sorted into one of those two
categories. It is important that all students, whether they plan on attending graduate school,
professional school, or going straight into the workforce, have ample opportunity to gain
experience in their desired field before graduation. The universitys Career Center provides
opportunities for students of all majors to find the internship or co-op that is perfect for them and
their future goals. For English majors, however, this system seems to be lacking. As I will
discuss in this report, the lack of opportunities within the universitys placement system stems
from the English departments lack of focus on internships. Through a detailed overview of the
universitys internship placement process, a comprehensive discussion of internships and the
benefits they provide, and an example of a hugely successful relationship between the
engineering department and the Career Center, I will recommend that the English department
evaluate the way in which it currently fails to emphasize the importance of experiential learning
for all students no matter their career goals and consider how the department could expand and
become more impactful if students were exposed to experiential learning and made known its
importance on a consistent basis.

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Executive Summary

Internship programs exist to provide students with valuable workplace experience that
will help them determine the perfect career route for them and will give their resume that extra
boost. Internship opportunities are important for students of all majors, but on the Mississippi
State University campus there are some departments that have built successful internship-
centered programs and some departments that have yet to develop that focus. The MSU English
department is one of the departments in which there is a notable gap between internships and
curriculum. While programs such as communications and engineering have internship
coordinators, internship classes, and long-standing relationships with the Career Center and
potential employers, the English department focuses heavily on getting its students to graduate
and professional school, and tends to overlook the importance of internships for students,
especially those students who are not interested in any form of post-graduate education.

In this report, I will discuss the following in detail:


MSUs Internship Placement Process
The Elements of a Successful Experiential Learning Program
The Benefits of Internships

In order to present an informed discussion and a credible recommendation, I conducted


three interviews and consulted several scholarly articles. My first interviewee, Dr. Daniel
Punday, is the current head of the English department. This is Dr. Pundays first year at MSU
and my conversation with him provided me with valuable insight from an outsiders perspective.
My second interview was with Edie Irvin, a member of the Career Center faculty. As someone
who works daily with students that are seeking internships, she was able to explain how the
internship placement process works and give an opinion on why it appears that there are fewer
opportunities available for English majors. My final interview was with Lisa Gooden, another
member of the Career Center faculty. She works closely with the engineering department, as well
as English students pursing internships. She was able to give me insight on why the engineering
departments internship program is so successful, as well as ways that the English department
could place more focus on internships. In addition to these interviews, I consulted two print
sources: Janice Toveys Building Connections between Industry and University, and William
Kellys Academic Advice for Students About Internship Selection.

Upon the basis of this research, I submit that internships should be an integral part of all
university programs, providing students with opportunities to gain experience in the workforce
and understanding of what his or her future career could look like. Furthermore, I recommend
that the English department re-evaluate its current approach to internships, and consider
implementing classroom and departmental strategies, such as professional classes, internship
classes, and a departmental internship coordinator, that will bring more students to consider
experiential learning opportunities.

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Introduction

This report presents a discussion about Mississippi State Universitys internship


placement process and how, though it caters to all students in all degree programs, there seems to
be a lack of focus on and exposure to internship opportunities within the English department. In
order to understand how the internship placement process works and why the English department
struggles to engage in an effective internship program, this report provides an in-depth
discussion of the concept of experiential learning and demonstrates ways that it can be
incorporated into the departments curriculum and long-term goals. Following these detailed
discussions, I conclude that experiential learning is crucial to all students collegiate experience,
regardless of major or future plans, and that MSUs English department should expand its focus
to include professional experience. Finally, I recommend that the English department assess the
way in which it currently approaches experiential learning and consider how incorporating
professional experience and discussions of internships into the classroom will not only expand
the knowledge and outlook of the students, but will also expand the departments reach within
the university.

In the following sections of this report, I will expound upon the topics mentioned above
and support my discussion and final conclusion/recommendation with extensive research,
including interviews with three MSU faculty members directly connected to the English
department or the universitys Career Center, and several scholarly sources on internships. As
this report will demonstrate, bringing a larger focus on experiential learning into the program
will only improve the function of the English department and better prepare the students for
whatever post-graduate plans they have.

Discussion

1. MSUs Internship Placement Process

1.1 What Is An Internship? An intern is someone who is in training, who may be paid,
but who is a temporary employee (Tovey 226). Internships may also be interchangeably
referred to as cooperative education or experiential learning. The language is moving toward
experiential learning because the words internship and Co-op tend to have stigmas
attached to them (Gooden). At Mississippi State University, students that are looking for
internships have several options. Employers looking for interns will post opportunities to the
Career Center Connections website. The Career Center also provides links to other webpages
where students can find internships. More commonly, however, students find their own
internships. Ultimately, the Career Center exists to guide students because there is not an
internship for any particular major. It depends on what [that student] wants to do as a career.
Thats where the brainstorming, planning, and strategizing come in. We might have an English
major who wants to jump over and work in this industry and that is perfectly fine. They build the
experience and then their resume begins to reflect what they want to do (Irvin). The primary
goal of an internship is to provide real-life, workplace experience to those who are still building
their education and developing career goals.

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1.2 Examples of Internship Programs. In my interviews with the Career Center faculty,
we discussed several departments on campus that integrate internships into their curriculum. The
communications department has a faculty member that serves as an Internship Coordinator. One
of this persons jobs is too connect communications students with internships. They keep a
spreadsheet that lists all the places the students have gone for internships so they can use past
connections to create new opportunities. Edie Irvin, the Career Centers Senior Coordinator for
the Arts and Sciences, said that the departments practices really help make that network good.
It is a great example of how to start creating an atmosphere of internship among the students.
My interview with Lisa Gooden revealed similar practices within the engineering
department at Mississippi State University. The engineering department has partnered with the
Career Center to find opportunities for its students since 1955. For many years they have been
developing this system where students are highly encouraged to get learning experience and
accommodations are made for them if they want to do it (Gooden). The engineering Co-op
program has grown so large over the years, though it is not required for engineering students,
because it is highly encouraged by engineering administration, professors, advisers, and Career
Center faculty. In order to make the Co-op program successful within the engineering
department, it is imperative that academic advisers, faculty, employers, and students are
communicating with each other to assure the success of the Co-op. Though both of these
successful programs took time and cooperation to build, it is possible to implement these
practices and the other elements of successful internship programs, that I will discuss in in the
following section, in every academic department in order to further the internship opportunities
available for students.

2. The Elements of a Successful Experiential Learning Program

2.1 Professor Influences. Professors often become mentors to many of their students.
Hearing from faculty members that they admire can encourage students to explore internship
opportunities, the career options available to them, and all the different paths that they can take
to get where they want to be. Lisa Gooden, an English major herself, said, rarely did I ever hear
a professor talk about how they got where they were. If a culture were created where professors
were encouraged to talk in class about what they majored in, what the application process was
like, going to graduate school, how they choose their specialty, and how they became interested
in that field, then at least the students are being exposed to what it takes to get where they want
to be. This type of discussion is currently a part of the departments entry-level English class, but
expanding and making it a part of all classes throughout the major will heighten the influence
that it has on the students. Discovering the kinds of jobs and internships that professors had in
college will show students the importance of experiential learning for everyone, including those
going to graduate school. This doesnt apply just to professors. Everyone on campus must be
prepared to give sound advice to his or her students about internships (Kelly 41). Every faculty
member that comes in contact with students should be prepared and open to sharing his or her
journey up to this point with anyone that may need advice. Hearing stories from people who
have been in the same shoes as current students will be much more effective at encouraging
experiential learning than statistics and research from a website.

2.2 Classroom Inspiration. Before students can explore the experiential learning
opportunities available to them, they need to be exposed to the many different career paths and

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resources available to them. By incorporating more focus on internships into the classroom,
students can discover what kinds of internships there are, where to find those internships, and
how to get those internships. New English department head, Dr. Daniel Punday, sees the
importance of expanding the major and including workplace experience: Literature classes
teach really valuable skills but I think that you need a sprinkling of other classes that will
connect those skills to skills you might use in the workplace. I am hoping to hire someone in
professional writing who can teach classes on publishing, editing, and grant writing. These kinds
of classes will help students take skills that they already have and apply them in other contexts.
Educating students on how to go about finding those internships is also critical. Students
should know how to use the universitys job search resources, but thats not the only way for
students to find internships. Creating a class in which students design their own internships can
be the best way for students to focus on agencies in which they are really interested (Kelly 41).
If a student cannot find an internship that fits into his or her career goals through the universitys
resources, this type of class would serve as a gateway to get them plugged into an internship
experience that aligns with their interests. A class with this format might force students to think
about a town, most often their hometown, and different businesses in that town (Punday). The
idea is that students would find a business and consider the possibility of interning there. They
would have to consider what they could bring to that business. The class would also help
students perfect their resumes, cover letters, and personal statements. It could even involve
beginning to network within the field they hope to enter. A class like this is important for getting
students to begin thinking about internships, but it is also important for getting them to think past
internships and to their career goals as a whole. The core of an internship placement program is
getting students to think about their future career plans and mapping out what it will take to get
there.

2.3 Departmental Incentives. The final element of a successful program centers on


more than convincing students that internships are important. Students need to be given a way to
participate in these internships. If a student wants to go to New York City or Los Angeles for a
summer for a great internship opportunity, there needs to be a way for them to afford to do that.
Of course, this can get tricky because it involves more than encouraging faculty to share with the
students and reworking classes. It involves money. Though it is important, it is understandably
not feasible for all situations.
There are several ways to be able to offer financial support to students. The first is to
connect to businesses looking for interns and create competitive internships where [the
department] places three or four students a year (Punday). Another option is creating a
scholarship fund to help students be able to afford going off for an internship. Instead of
investing a large sum of money in three or four students a year, a scholarship fund would allow
the department to help more students going away for internships pay for the expenses of their
out-of-town internship. This would likely cause the students to receive less money from the
department, but it would allow more students to have the opportunity to participate in internship
experiences.

3. The Benefits of Internships

When beginning to develop an internship placement program, it is imperative that


everyone understands how important internships are for students and the benefits that they offer.

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Internships, at the most basic level, make students applications for graduate school, professional
school, or entry-level jobs more competitive. However, internships provide students with much,
much more. Internship supervisors can serve as mentors who can offer meaningful feedback
about the students work. Internships can provide universities with a strong network of
individuals that support [the school] by offering job and internship opportunities to students
(Tovey 238). Internships can aid students in identifying exactly what it is that they want to do.
Some companies even use internships as a means of selecting their future employees. The
importance of internships on post-graduate job searches is illustrated by the figure below:

Past all the surface-level benefits, internships offer students experiences that they could
never get in the classroom. These types of benefits are what make internships so important for
the development of students skills, abilities, and knowledge. Classroom projects can attempt to
replicate the workplace environment but what they can never incorporate are the obstacles and
individual factors of a workplace experience. Internships allow students to put concrete
experience to the abstract concepts they have been taught. Such practical experiences as meeting
deadlines, managing projects, working in teams with others, and negotiating through the maze of
conflicts and reviews in the workplace are quite different from those experiences we attempt to
replicate in the classroom (Tovey 230). Internships and experiential learning are crucial for
students development of habits and skills that are necessary to success in the workforce, no
matter whether that work is in academia or a professional field. Finally, internships do not just
offer valuable experience for students; they also provide increased exposure for faculty and
their academic programs as well as research potential, and introduce new talent into the
workplace (Tovey 238). While the majority of the benefits of internships are focused on
students, internships can also provide the university and the department with relationships with
businesses that could continue for years. Everyone who is involved in the internship process, the
students, the workplace supervisors, and the faculty, are likely to find it rewarding personally,
academically, and professionally.

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Conclusions

Upon consideration of what an internship is, the elements of a successful internship


program, and what the benefits of internships are, I conclude that MSUs English department has
yet to develop its internship program to the level of success that it has the potential to reach.
Furthermore, I conclude that incorporating aspects of internships into the classroom is an
important approach that will enhance students motivation to participate in internships and open
students minds to the unlimited array of careers that English majors can have.

Recommendation

I recommend that MSUs English department use the elements presented in the
discussion of The Elements of Successful Experiential Learning Program to evaluate its
current attitude toward internships and question whether the students are being presented with
everything that they need to be able to understand and search for internships. Furthermore, I
recommend that the English department work closely with the universitys Career Center to
begin building a partnership and internship placement system that, over the years, can grow into
a process that is consistently placing students into experiential learning environments that will
provide them with experiences that could never be matched in the classroom.

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Works Cited

Gooden, Lisa. Personal interview. 21 October 2016.

Irvin, Edie. Personal interview. 18 October 2016.

Kelly, William E. "Academic Advice For Students About Internship Selection." Journal Of The

Alabama Academy Of Science 83.1 (2012): 37-42. Academic Search Complete. Web. 20 Oct.

2016.

Punday, Daniel. Personal interview. 11 October 2016.

Tovey, Janice. "Building Connections Between Industry And University: Implementing An

Internship Program At A Regional University." Technical Communication Quarterly 10.2

(2001): 225-239. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.

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