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Research Report

Hora M.T., Thompson M., Jang-Tucci K., Pasqualone A., Akram-Turenne T., Wolfgram M., Lee C. (2023). What are the longitudinal impacts of a college internship (during a pandemic)? Findings from the College Internship Study on program participation, quality, equitable access, and student outcomes. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions. University of Wisconsin–Madison, Division of Continuing Studies.

Image of report cover. Photo is of students of various identities speaking with employers at an internship fair.
Executive Summary

Abstract: The College Internship Study wrapped up its third and final wave of data collection in the Spring of 2022. This report provides a summary of key findings from the longitudinal analyses across eight institutions that participated in the third and final wave of data collection. As an excerpt of the extensive dataset, this summary addresses the most pressing issues in college internship research and practice, as suggested in the Internship Scorecard (Hora et al., 2020). Developed for assessing the purpose, quality, and equity of internship programs, the Internship Scorecard provides a framework for this report to address three main issues of college internships: (a) access and barriers to internships, (b) internship program features and quality, and (c) effects of internships on post-graduate outcomes. Each of these issues are examined in this report, with special considerations for how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted student experiences in college, life, and work.

Hora, M., Chen, Z., Wolfgram, M., Zhang, J., & John Fischer, J. (2022). Designing effective internships: A mixed-methods exploration of the sociocultural aspects of intern satisfaction and development. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions.  University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Summary: Internships are widely promoted high-impact practices that can have positive impacts on students’ academic and post-graduate success, yet how specific features facilitate these outcomes is understudied. Instead, internships are often studied in terms of mere participation, without recognizing that these experiences are
complex pedagogic spaces shaped by professional cultures and decisions about instructional design. In this sequential mixed-methods study we use sociocultural learning theory to interpret data from online surveys (n=435) and focus groups (n=52) with students at five institutions. Stepwise linear regression analyses of demographic and programmatic variables associated with intern satisfaction, developmental value, and career adaptability indicated that first-generation status, gender, race and income level, and supervisor behaviors were significantly associated with satisfaction and development. Analyses of qualitative data revealed that features of positive (clear communication, availability, feedback) and negative (unavailability, inattention to learning) supervision impacted student experiences. These findings reveal that internships should be designed with careful attention to task scaffolding, student autonomy and supervisor assistance, depending on the professional context and situation. These results highlight the need for colleges and employers to design internships as mentored and culturally shaped learning spaces, provide supervisor training, and consider the cultural backgrounds of students when matching them to internships.

Hora, M., Jang-Tucci, K., & Zhang, J. (2022). Gatekeeping at work: A multi-dimensional analysis of student, institutional, and employer characteristics associated with unpaid internships. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions.  University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Summary: While internships are recognized as a high-impact practice, concerns persist about their legality and exclusionary nature. Prior research indicates that participation varies by key variables (e.g., gender, major), but empirical work is limited. We draw on multi-actor models of personnel transfer and intersectionality to analyze survey (n=1,153) data from 13 institutions, nine of which are MSIs. A linear probability model reveals that major, MSI status, and employer characteristics predict participation in unpaid internships, with pairwise comparisons indicating differences based on racial groups within MSIs.We conclude with a strategy for eliminating unpaid internships as part of transformative social justice work.

Wolfgram, M., Chen, Z., Rodríguez S., J., Ahrens, V., & Hora, M. (2022). Results from the one-year longitudinal follow-up analysis for the College Internship Study at Great Lakes Technical College. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions.  University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Summary: This report includes findings from the second round of data collection (Spring 2021, T2) at Great Lakes Technical College (GLTC). The data collected at T2 of the study include an online survey of 205 students and 18 students’ follow-up interviews who participated in the first round of data collection (Spring 2020 or T1). These data are analyzed to provide faculty, staff, and leadership at GLTC with evidence based insights about the impacts of internship participation on students’ lives and careers.