Technical Reports

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.

Hora, M.T., Colston, J., Chen, Z., & Pasqualone, A. (2021). National Survey of College Internships (NSCI) 2021 Report: Insights into the prevalence, quality, and equitable access to internships in higher education. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions. University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Summary: This report includes findings from the 17-campus pilot phase of the National Survey of College Internships (NSCI) project, which included survey responses from 12, 130 college students. Data include new insights on the prevalence of internship participation in these institutions (just 21.5%), intern demographics, the average distance traveled to an internship (315 miles), the quality of intern supervision, and the nature of obstacles preventing 67.3% of survey respondents from pursuing an internship.

Wolfgram, M., Vivona, B., Akram, T., Rodríguez S., J., Chen, Z., & Hora, M. T. (2021). Results from the 1-year longitudinal follow-up analysis for the College Internship Study at Northeastern Illinois University. University of Wisconsin-Madison, Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions.

Summary: The College Internship Study examines the long-term impacts of internships on students’ lives and careers. Here, we highlight the findings from 177 survey responses and twelve interviews with students at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU). They were conducted in the Fall of 2020 (Time 2 or T2), one year after the first round of data collection in 2019 (Time 1 or T1). This second round of the College Internship Study is guided by the following research question: What are the changes concerning students’ internship experiences and outcomes comparing longitudinal data at two points in time?


Wolfgram, M., Colston, J., Chen, Z., Akram, T., & Hora, M. T. (2021). Results from the College Internship Study at Georgia College. University of Wisconsin-Madison, Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions.

Summary: This report includes findings from the first round of data collection (Spring 2020) at Georgia College for The College Internship Study, which is a national mixed-methods longitudinal study of internship programs conducted bythe Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions (CCWT) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison). The findings are based on an interdisciplinary sample of students who took an online survey (n = 329), interviews with students who have and who have not had an internship experience (n = 25) and an interview with one educator (n = 1).

Wolfgram, M., Rodriguez S, J., Chen, Z., Ahrens, V., & Hora, M. (2021). Results from the College Internship Study at Great Lakes Technical College. University of Wisconsin-Madison, Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions.

Summary: This report includes findings from the first round of data collection (Spring 2020) at Great Lakes Technical College (GLTC) for The College Internship Study, which is a national mixed-methods longitudinal study of internship programs conducted by the Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions (CCWT) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison). The findings are based on an campus-wide sample of students who took an online survey (n = 431), phone interviews with students who have and who have not had an internship experience (n = 22) and with career advisors, faculty, and employers (n = 6). We would like to thank GLTC for allowing our research team to conduct this study with your students, faculty and community members, and hope that our findings are useful as you work towards improving internships and work-based learning for your students

Hora, M., Wolfgram, M., Rodriguez S., J., Colston, J., Chen, Z, Ahrens, V., & Wetherbee, L. (2021). Results from the 1-year longitudinal follow-up analysis for the College Internship Study at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. University of Wisconsin-Madison, Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions.

Summary: This report includes findings from the second round of data collection (Spring 2019 or T2) at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside for The College Internship Study. The data collected at T2 include follow-up interviews with nine students and a follow-up online survey of 198 students who participated in the first round of data collection (Spring 2018 or T1). These data are analyzed to provide faculty, staff, and leadership at UW-Parkside with evidence-based insights about the impacts of internship participation on students’ lives and careers. This second round of the College Internship Study at UW-Parkside is guided by the following research question: What are the changes concerning students’ internship experiences and outcomes comparing longitudinal data at two points in time?

Hora, M., Duenas, M., Rodriguez, J.M., Chen, Z., Wolfgram, M. (2021). Results from the 1-year longitudinal follow-up analysis for the College Internship Study at Texas College. University of Wisconsin-Madison, Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions.

Summary: This report includes findings from the second round of data collection (Fall 2020 or T2) at Texas College for The College Internship Study. The data collected at T2 include follow-up interviews with 6 students and a follow-up online survey of 110 students who participated in the first round of data collection (Fall 2019 or T1). These data are analyzed to provide faculty, staff, and leadership at Texas College with evidence-based insights about the impacts of internship participation on students’ lives and careers. This second round of the College Internship Study at Texas College is guided by the following research question: What are the changes concerning students’ internship experiences and outcomes comparing longitudinal data at two points in time?

Hora, M.T., Lee, C., Chen, Z., & Hernandez, A. (2021). Exploring online internships amidst the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020: Results from a mixed-methods study. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions.

Abstract: In this multi-site case study we collected survey and interview data from college students during this period, and our findings focus on three distinct cases: (1) two independent websites that provide online internship networking platforms (OINP) for students seeking online internships and employers seeking student interns (n=183 surveys, n=45 interviews), (2) 11 colleges and universities (n=9,964 surveys), and (3) a single employer-hosted online internship program at TreeHouse Foods, a multi-national firm engaged in manufacturing and distributing private label food and beverage products. In analyzing and interpreting our data, we used CCWT’s Internship Scorecard (Hora et al., 2020a) framework that provides a structured approach to studying internships, as well as insights from research on remote work and digital learning.

One of our primary conclusions is that while considerable variation exists within the world of internships writ large, an added layer of complexity exists for online positions with respect to IT, internet access, work-life boundaries, and challenges associated with online or remote work that many occupations have experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic. We argue that these additional concerns and factors make online internships—which are unlikely to disappear post-pandemic—a top priority for improvement, equitable access, and quality control in the field of higher education.

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Chen, Z., Wolfgram, M., Gopal, A., Rodriguez S., J., Dueñas, M., Colston, J., & Hora, M. (2021). Results from the 1-year longitudinal follow-up analysis for the College Internship Study at the University of Baltimore. University of Wisconsin-Madison, Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions.

Summary: This report includes findings from the second round of data collection (Spring 2020 or T2) at the University of Baltimore for The College Internship Study. The data collected at T2 include follow-up interviews with 13 students and a follow-up online survey of 131 students who participated in the first round of data collection (Spring 2019 or T1). These data are analyzed to provide faculty, staff, and leadership at the University of Baltimore with evidence-based insights about the impacts of internship participation on students’ lives and careers. This second round of the College Internship Study is guided by the following research question: What are the changes concerning students’ internship experiences and outcomes comparing longitudinal data at two points in time?

Wolfgram, M., Colston, J., Chen, Z., Dueñas, M., & Hora, M.T. (2021). Results from the one-year longitudinal follow-up analysis for the College Internship Study at University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions.

Summary: This report includes findings from the second round of data collection (Spring 2020 or T2) at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh (UW-Oshkosh) for The College Internship Study. The data collected at T2 include follow-up interviews with 11 students and a follow-up online survey of 149 students who participated in the first round of data collection (Spring 2019 or T1). These data are analyzed to provide faculty, staff, and leadership at UW-Oshkosh with evidence-based insights about the impacts of internship participation on students’ lives and careers. This second round of the College Internship Study at UW-Oshkosh is guided by the following research question: What are the changes concerning students’ internship experiences and outcomes comparing longitudinal data at two points in time?

Lewis, D. R., Fitzgerald, I., & Benbow, R. J. (2021). A student-led study of African American academic and career experiences at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater: Educational bridges, spaces, and safety in 2020. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions.

Summary: This report represents the findings from a student researcher-led project focused on the high school, college, and career preparation experiences of African American and Black college students at the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater (UWW), a predominantly White institution (PWI) in rural southeastern Wisconsin. With the goal of dismantling systemic barriers to equitable African American student college-to-career transitions, especially from PWIs, a team of three researchers designed and carried out a qualitative study to (1) collect African American student college and career narratives and (2) better understand African American students’ experiences at UWW. Key findings from the study include the elucidation of student perspectives on the strong connections between high school experiences, mostly in and around Milwaukee, and students’ college and career trajectories; the challenges involved in navigating campus spaces at a rural PWI; and the psychological, social, and educational effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is novel to 2020, and police racial profiling, which is not. The study also identifies key strategies for creating additional space for African American self-authorship, including through student organization advocacy and involvement, faculty and staff mentorships, and cross-campus and cross-community conversations.

Hora, M. T., Wolfgram, M., Chen, Z., Colston, J., Ahrens, V., Rodriguez S., J., & Wetherbee, l. (2020). Results from the 1-year longitudinal follow-up analysis for the College Internship Study at Madison College. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions.

Summary: This report includes findings from the second round of data collection (Spring 2019 or T2) at Madison College for The College Internship Study, which is a national mixed-methods longitudinal study of internship programs conducted by the Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions (CCWT) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison). The data collected at T2 of the study include follow-up interviews with 8 students and a follow-up online survey of 147 students who participated in the first round of data collection (Spring 2018 or T1). These data are analyzed to provide faculty, staff, and leadership at Madison College with evidence-based insights about the impacts of internship participation on students’ lives and careers. Thus, this second round of the College Internship Study at Madison College is guided by the following research question: What are the changes concerning students’ internship experiences and outcomes comparing longitudinal data at two time points?

Hora, M. T., Chen, Z., Wolfgram, M., Chen, Z., & Rogers, S. (2020). Results from the College Internship Study at Tennessee State University. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions.

Summary: This report includes findings from the first round of data collection (Spring 2020) at Tennessee State University (TSU) for The College Internship Study, which is a national mixed-methods longitudinal study of internship programs conducted by the Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions (CCWT) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison). The findings are based on an interdisciplinary sample of students who took an online survey (n = 252), interviews with students who have and who have not had an internship experience (n = 9), and interviews with career advisors, faculty, and employers (n = 7). We would like to thank TSU for allowing our research team to conduct this study with your students, faculty, and community members, and hope that our findings are useful as you work towards improving internships and work-based learning for your students. As our research moves into its second year, we will focus on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the students, faculty and staff at TSU and employer partners with respect to internships and students’ overall experiences with the pandemic and its impacts on their studies and career goals.

Four research questions guide our study: (1) How many students are participating in internship programs, and does participation vary by student demographics, academic status, or life/employment situation? (2) What barriers exist for students to participate in internship programs? (3) What is the structure and format of internship programs? And, (4) How, if at all, is program structure and format associated with student satisfaction with their internships and their estimation of the value of the internship for their career development? In addition, given the timing of our interviews (Spring 2020), we also were interested in understanding TSU students’ experiences related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Arman, L., Benbow, R., Chughtai, M., Deeb, R., Fitzgerald, I., Lee, L., Lewis, D, Moua, P., Pasqualone, A., Thao, A., Toms, O., Siddiqui, K., Smolarek, B., Vang, M., Vivona, B., Wolfgram, M., Xiong, O., Xiong, P., Xiong, Y., & Yang, L. (2020). Engaging college students of color in higher education policy studies and advocacy: Preliminary results from three college student-led community-based participatory action research studies. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions.

Abstract: This report describes the results from three college student-led community based participatory action research (CBPAR) studies. Each of the studies involved research partnerships between education mentors and college students of color, where students led the design and implementation of research about the college and career preparation experiences of their peers (fellow students of color at their own institution). The overall goal of the studies is for the student researchers to conduct research that could inform advocacy and policy change to benefit themselves and their fellow students. In this report, we present preliminary findings from the three ongoing studies on the college and career transitions experiences of (1) African American students at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, (2) Muslim American students at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, and (3) HMoob (also spelled “Hmong”) American students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The report details each study’s goals, significance, methods, and preliminary findings, followed by our conclusions and action items for postsecondary professionals and policymakers regarding the career-related experiences of college students of color.

Chen, Z., Hora, M.T., Wu, Z., Ahrens, V., Rogers, S., & Wolfgram, M. (2020). Results from the College Internship Study at Benedict College. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions. UW-Madison.

Abstract: This report includes preliminary findings from the first round of data collection for The College Internship Study, which is a mixed-methods longitudinal study of internship programs at Benedict College.

The study includes an online survey of students in the second half of their academic programs (n=114), focus groups with students who have and who have not had an internship experience (n=14), and interviews with career advisors and faculty (n=7). The research questions guiding this study focus on how stakeholders conceptualize and define the idea of internships, institutional capacity for administering internship programs, participation rates by certain student characteristics, and the relationship between internship program structure and student outcomes.

This report concludes with recommendations for specific steps that students, faculty and staff at Benedict College, and employers who supervise interns can take to increase participation rates, access, and program quality for internship programs.

Thompson, M., Chen, Z., Fetter, A., Chen, Z., Williams, K., Rodriguez, J., Hora, M.T., & Seabrooks, Y. (2020). Results from the College Internship Study at Morgan State University. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions.

Summary: This report includes findings from the first round of data collection at Morgan State University (MSU) for The College Internship Study, which is a national mixed-methods longitudinal study of internship programs conducted by the Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions.

(CCWT) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison). The findings are based on
an interdisciplinary sample of students who took an online survey (n = 308), individual phone interviews with students who have and who have not had an internship experience (n = 41), individual phone interviews with career specialists, faculty, and program directors (n = 7), and individual phone interviews with employers (n = 5).

We would like to thank MSU for their partnership with our research team and for allowing us to speak with your students, educators, and community members. We hope that our findings are useful as you work toward improving internships and work-based learning for your students. Four research questions guide our study: (1) How many students are participating in internship programs, and does participation vary by student demographics, academic status, or life/employment situation? (2) What barriers exist for students to participate in internship programs? (3) What is the structure and format of internship programs? And, (4) How, if at all, is program structure and format associated with student satisfaction with their internships and their estimation of the value of the internship for their career development? In addition, given the timing of our interviews (Spring 2020), we also were interested in understanding MSU students’ experiences related to the COVID-19 pandemic. As our research moves into its second year, we will focus on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the students, faculty and staff at MSU and employer partners with respect to internships and its impacts on their studies and career goals.

Thompson, M., Chen, Z., Fetter, A., Colston, J., Williams, K., Rogers, S., Hora, M.T., & McElveen, G. (2020). Results from the College Internship Study at a North Carolina University. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions. UW-Madison.

Abstract: This report includes preliminary findings from the first round of data collection for The College Internship Study, which is a mixed-methods longitudinal study of internship programs at a North Carolina University

The study includes an online survey of students in the second half of their academic programs (n=276), focus groups with students who have and who have not had an internship experience (n=20), and interviews with career coaches and faculty (n=5). The research questions guiding this study focus on how stakeholders conceptualize and define the idea of internships, institutional capacity for administering internship programs, participation rates by certain student characteristics, and the relationship between internship program structure and student outcomes.

This report concludes with recommendations for specific steps that students, faculty and staff at the North Carolina University, and employers who supervise interns can take to increase participation rates, access, and program quality for internship programs.

Chen, Z., Hora, M. T., Dueñas, M., Chen, Z. & Wolfgram, M. (2020). Results from the College Internship Study at a Texas College. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions.

Abstract: This report includes preliminary findings from the first round of data collection for The College Internship Study, which is a mixed-methods longitudinal study of internship programs at a Texas College.

The study includes an online survey of students in the second half of their academic programs (n=233), focus groups with students who have and who have not had an internship experience (n=13), and interviews with career advisors and faculty (n=6) and employers who host interns (n = 2). The research questions guiding this study focus on how stakeholders conceptualize and define the idea of internships, institutional capacity for administering internship programs, participation rates by certain student characteristics, and the relationship between internship program structure and student outcomes.

This report concludes with recommendations for specific steps that students, faculty and staff at the Texas College, and employers who supervise interns can take to increase participation rates, access, and program quality for internship programs.

Wolfgram, M., Chen, Z., Vivona, B., Rodríguez S., J., Akram, T., & Hora, M.T. (2020). Results from the College Internship Study at Northeastern Illinois University. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions. UW-Madison.

Abstract: This report includes preliminary findings from the first round of data collection for The College Internship Study, which is a mixed-methods longitudinal study of internship programs at Northeastern Illinois University.

The study includes an online survey of students in the second half of their academic programs (n=330), focus groups with students who have and who have not had an internship experience (n=24), and interviews with career coaches and faculty (n=6). The research questions guiding this study focus on how stakeholders conceptualize and define the idea of internships, institutional capacity for administering internship programs, participation rates by certain student characteristics, and the relationship between internship program structure and student outcomes. This report concludes with recommendations for specific steps that students, faculty and staff at Northeastern Illinois University, and employers who supervise interns can take to increase participation rates, access, and program quality for internship programs in Chicago, Illinois.

Hora, M.T. (2020). What to do about internships in light of the COVID-19 pandemic? A short guide to online internships for colleges, students and employers. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions. UW-Madison.

Abstract: This resource guide is intended for students, career services professionals, faculty and employers who were planning on engaging in traditional face-to-face internships in the Spring or Summer of 2020. With mandatory closures of many organizations, social distancing requirements, and “shelter in place” orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is unlikely that many interns will be able to complete their internships on-site as planned.

Wolfgram, M., Vivona, B., & Akram, T. (2020). On the intersectional amplification of barriers to college internships: A comparative case study analysis (WCER Working Paper No. 2020-4).

Abstract: Research shows that college internships yield academic, economic, and professional benefits. However, the ability to locate and participate in internships is not equitable across all student demographic and socioeconomic spectrums. There are multiple complex barriers to internship participation for students with low socioeconomic status, and for those who are minoritized by race, gender, or other factors. Contextual factors such as finances, work responsibilities, travel, and gendered familial obligations intersect to amplify the challenges to internship participation. In the research described in this paper, the research team conducted focus groups among 24 students from a comprehensive federally designated Hispanic-Serving Institution. The team explored the data using intersectionality theory and comparative case study analysis; and in this paper we present a comparative case study analysis of five students in our study. We determined that delineation of barriers into types, such as financial, social, and cultural, runs the risk of misconstruing students’ actual experience when they struggle to access internships and other educational opportunities.

Smolarek, B. B., Vang, M., & Wolfgram, M. (2019). HMoob American Undergraduate Students at University of Wisconsin’s 4-Year Comprehensive Colleges – Background, Enrollment Statistics, and Graduation Trends. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions, UW-Madison.

Summary: The Paj Ntaub Research Team is a collective of HMoob American student activists and scholars at the Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions (CCWT) housed within the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison). This report was compiled by members of the Paj Ntaub team and draws on institutional research data provided by the University of Wisconsin System Office of Policy Analysis and Research. We combine this data with U.S. Census and other demographic data reports to provide a profile of the basic higher educational statistics for HMoob American students in the UW System Universities.

The HMoob started arriving in Wisconsin shortly after the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 and continued to be resettled until about 2006, after the closing of the last refugee camp in Thailand. It was not until 2006, however, that UW-Madison, and in 2008 the rest of the UW System schools, began offering “Hmong” as an ethnic category on their application for admissions. Therefore, the data presented in the report only includes students who self-identified as “Hmong” since 2008. This report is the first time that disaggregated HMoob student data has been publicly reported as the UW system typically combines data on Hmong students with larger categories such as “Asian,” Southeast Asian,” or “Targeted Minority” when publishing publicly available data digests and other reports concerning students.

Zi Chen, Matthew Wolfgram, Pa Her & Matthew T. Hora (2019). Results from the College Internship Study at University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh

Abstract: This report includes preliminary findings from the first round of data collection for The College Internship Study, which is a mixed-methods longitudinal study of internship programs at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.

The study includes an online survey of students in the second half of their academic programs (n=221), focus groups with students who have and who have not had an internship experience (n=19), interviews with career advisors and faculty (n=11), and interviews with area employers involved in internship program administration (n=15). The research questions guiding this study focus on how stakeholders conceptualize and define the idea of internships, participation rates by certain demographic characteristics, and the relationship between internship program structure and student outcomes.

This report concludes with recommendations for specific steps that students, faculty and staff at UW-Oshkosh, and employers who supervise interns can take to increase participation rates, access, and program quality for internship programs in Oshkosh area in Wisconsin.

Chen, Z., Wolfgram, M., Her, P., & Hora, M.T. (2019). Results from the College Internship Study at the University of Baltimore. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions, UW-Madison.

Abstract: This report includes preliminary findings from the first round of data collection for The College Internship Study, which is a mixed-methods longitudinal study of internship programs at the University of Baltimore.

The study includes an online survey of students in the second half of their academic programs (n=228), focus groups with students who have and who have not had an internship experience (n=24), interviews with career coaches and faculty (n=8), and interviews with an area employer involved in internship program administration (n=1). The research questions guiding this study focus on how stakeholders conceptualize and define the idea of internships, participation rates by certain demographic characteristics, and the relationship between internship program structure and student outcomes.

This report concludes with recommendations for specific steps that students, faculty and staff at the University of Baltimore, and employers who supervise interns can take to increase participation rates, access, and program quality for internship programs in Baltimore area in Maryland.

Benbow, R. J., & Lee, C. (2019). How faculty develop teaching-focused social capital: Personal networks and 21st century skills instruction. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions, UW-Madison.

Abstract: While research shows that relationships or social ties give K12 teachers access to valuable information, knowledge, and advice that improves professional practice and student learning —resources conceptualized as “social capital”—few studies investigate how faculty develop the kinds of ties that help them better teach important 21st century skills like communication, teamwork, problem solving, and self-directed learning. Focusing on college faculty in one U. S. city, this mixed-methods study explores the association between science, technology, and medical (STM) instructor characteristics and personal social networks centered on discussing how to teach important skills. Survey responses (n=244) indicate that teaching experience, institution type, and teaching preparation time are correlated with network patterns linked to improved professional practice, while interview data (n=22) supplement these findings with instructor descriptions of how and why they developed teaching-focused social ties in their professional lives.

Matthew Hora, Zi Chen, Emily Parrott, and Pa Her. Problematizing College Internships: Exploring Issues with Access, Program Design, and Developmental Outcomes in three U.S. Colleges WCER Working Paper No. 2019-1 

Abstract: Internships for college students are widely promoted as a “high-impact” practice, yet the academic literature is limited by terminological imprecision, lack of data on intern demographics, and insufficient attention to the impacts of program format on student academic and developmental outcomes. In this mixed-methods study we analyze survey (n=1,129) and focus group (n=57) data from students in three diverse U.S. colleges by using inductive thematic analysis, chi-square, and hierarchical linear modeling to document intern characteristics, access-related problems, program structure, and impacts on student outcomes. Results indicate that internship participation varied significantly by race, institution, enrollment status, and academic program, and that 64% of students who did not take an internship had desired to do so but could not due to scheduling conflicts with work, insufficient pay, and lack of placements in their disciplines. Students also reported high degrees of supervisor support, supervisor mentoring, and relationship between internships and academic programs—all program features that were significant predictors of students’ satisfaction with internships and perceived value for their career development. Based on these results, we propose a processual model for studying internships, and we discuss implications for career advisors, faculty, and postsecondary leaders. Specifically, we urge employers, colleges and universities to ensure equitable access to internships for all students, to screen employer hosts for mentoring quality and capacity, and to recognize internships can be simultaneously a positive transformative experience for students and a vehicle for reproducing inequality.

Matthew T. Hora, Emily Parrott, Zi Chen, Mindi N Thompson, Jessica G. Perez-Chavez, Anna K. Fetter, Matías Scaglione, Matthew Wolfgram and Arun Kolar (2018). Results from the College Internship Study at Claflin University.

Abstract: This report includes preliminary findings from the first round of data collection for The College Internship Study, which is a mixed-methods longitudinal study of internship programs at Claflin University.

The study includes an online survey of students in the second half of their academic programs (n=207), focus groups with students who have and who have not had an internship experience (n=18), and one interview with an educator involved in internship program administration. The research questions guiding this study focus on how stakeholders conceptualize the idea of internships, participation rates by certain demographic characteristics, and the relationship between internship program structure and student outcomes.

This report concludes with recommendations for specific steps that students, faculty and staff at Claflin University, and employers who supervise interns can take to increase participation rates, access, and program quality for internship programs in the Orangeburg area in South Carolina. Full report.

Matthew Wolfgram, Isabella Vang, and Chelsea Blackburn Cohen (2018). Documenting Higher Education for Refugees in Wisconsin.

Abstract: This report presents preliminary findings from a study documenting the obstacles and pathways to higher education for refugees in Wisconsin. The study is based on interviews and observations with refugee resettlement service providers and educators who support the college goals and attainment of refugees.

The findings indicate:

  1. policy goals and constraints that complicate and obstruct efforts to support higher education for refugees, and
  2. obstacles and networks that present barriers to refugees in accessing and succeeding in higher education.

We discuss how resettlement services providers access various social networks to support refugees in overcoming such obstacles. The report concludes with a discussion of practical implications and future research directions to support higher education for refugees.

Matthew T. Hora, Matias Scaglione, Emily Parrott, Zi Chen, Matthew Wolfgram and Arun Kolar (2018). Results from the College Internship Study at University of Wisconsin-Parkside.

Abstract: This report includes preliminary findings from the first round of data collection for The College Internship Study, which is a mixed-methods longitudinal study of internship programs at University of Wisconsin-Parkside.

The study includes an online survey of students with junior standing or above (n=525), focus groups with students who have and who have not had an internship experience (n=25), and interviews with career advisors and faculty (n=6), and with one area employer involved in internship program administration. The research questions guiding this study focus on how stakeholders conceptualize the idea of internships, participation rates by certain demographic characteristics, and the relationship between internship program structure and student outcomes.

This report concludes with recommendations for specific steps that students, faculty and staff at UW-Parkside, and employers can take to increase participation rates, access, and program quality for internship programs in southeastern Wisconsin.

Matthew T. Hora, Matias Scaglione, Emily Parrott, Zi Chen, Matthew Wolfgram and Arun Kolar (2018). Results from the College Internship Study at Madison College.

Abstract: This report includes preliminary findings from the first round of data collection for The College Internship Study, which is a mixed-methods longitudinal study of internship programs at Madison College.

The study includes an online survey of students in the second half of their academic programs (n=395), focus groups with students who have and who have not had an internship experience (n=14), and interviews with career advisors and faculty (n=12), and area employers (n=18) involved in internship program administration. The research questions guiding this study focus on how stakeholders conceptualize the idea of internships, participation rates by certain demographic characteristics, and the relationship between internship program structure and student outcomes.

This report concludes with recommendations for specific steps that students, faculty and staff at Madison College, employers and policymakers can take to increase participation rates, access, and program quality for internship programs in the Madison area.

Bailey B. Smolarek, Matthew Wolfgram, Micayla Darrow, Cassandra Duernberger, Cassidy Hartzog, Kathryn Hendrickson Gagen, Ryan Mulrooney, David Singer, and Isabella Vang (2018). Documenting the Aims of Higher Education in Wisconsin.

Summary: This report presents a community-based participatory action research project conducted by a group of University of Wisconsin–Madison undergraduate students to document how Wisconsin residents view the aims of higher education in the state. While questions regarding the purposes of higher education have long been debated, recent reforms in Wisconsin regarding higher education funding, governance, and objectives have brought new attention to these issues. Namely, there is an increased emphasis among Wisconsin’s elected officials to restructure the state’s public higher education system to be more tightly aligned with business interests. These reforms have garnered considerable outcry from those who oppose them, which has contributed to the state’s deep political polarization. In the midst of this context, our research team developed a qualitative research study to better understand how Wisconsin residents currently view the aims of higher education, which we conceptualized as any schooling past high school. Our research team is unique in that the people arguably most affected by higher education policy—students—are the researchers. We contend that this model offers promising avenues for higher education policy research because of its capacity to include perspectives that are often excluded. After conducting in-depth interviews with a diverse sample of Wisconsin residents (N=40), our research team found that participants discussed an eclectic variety of aims rather than only one aim for higher education. The aims most commonly discussed included economic development and employment, civic and community engagement, social mobility, personal growth and enrichment, and critical thinking and interpersonal skills. Additionally, participants discussed concerns regarding obstacles that impede access to and achievement in higher education, such as affordability and institutional supports. Our study indicates that Wisconsin residents do not want higher education to be focused on a single aim. Rather, it demonstrates the need to value the multiple aims higher education serves and support higher education students.

Research Briefs

Turenne-Akram, T., Wolfgram, M., Collet-Klingenberg, L., & Yu, H. (2022). What can we learn from research about internships for students with disabilities? Preliminary results from the survey of the College Internship Study. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions (Research Brief #19). University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Abstract: Internships in higher education provide academic and career development opportunities during college and post-graduation. There have been many studies that focus on the benefits of participating in an internship. However, there are significant barriers to accessing internships that can arise as a result of the students’ socio-economic status, their limited time, family obligations, academic commitments (Hora, et al., 2019), as well as raced, classed, gendered and other intersectional identity-factors (Wolfgram et al., 2021). This brief uses the findings of the College Internship Study to understand internship participation for students with disabilities and discusses the lack of research on how disability-stigma impacts students’ access to internships.

Schalewski, L. (2021). The Role of Socioeconomic Status and Internships on Early Career Earnings: Evidence for Widening and Rerouting Pathways to Social Mobility. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions (Research Brief #18). University of Wisconsin–Madison, Wisconsin Center for Education Research.

Abstract: The research brief first summarizes findings on internships, a university structure, pulled from a study that more broadly examined how student engagement and high-impact practices relate to post-graduation outcomes among students from different SES backgrounds (Schalewski, 2020). First, results suggest internships have a mediating role between a student’s (SES) and early career earnings. Next, results show students from middle-SES backgrounds or those within quartiles two and three experience a significant effect from internship participation on early career earnings with non-significant findings for the lowest and highest quartiles. The brief concludes with implications for practice that aim to widen and reroute pathways to internships for lower- SES students to increase opportunities that lead to higher early career salaries and set trajectories for social mobility.

Bañuelos, N. (2021). Community Cultural Wealth Goes to College: A Review of the Literature for Career Services Professionals and Researchers. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions (Research Brief #17). University of Wisconsin–Madison, Wisconsin Center for Education Research.

Abstract: Created by LatCrit scholars in the mid-2000s, Community Cultural Wealth (CCW) is an anti-deficit framework for understanding educational inequality. Since its publication, Yosso’s (2005) seminal paper on the topic has been cited thousands of times by scholars in fields as distinct as engineering, K12 education, and public health. This report reviews the recent scholarship on college students’ experiences and outcomes that uses CCW as a guiding framework. Although the intended audience for this review is career services professionals in colleges and universities, my hope is it can also be helpful for scholars of career development who want to brush up on the CCW literature and consider future research questions the framework presents. The existing literature offers insights on the college-to-career transition: it reveals the centrality of familial capital in shaping students’ career pathways, the function of resistant capital in forming students’ career interests, the utility of students’ existing social capital in the job search process, and the role of counterspaces in activating CCW for career success. However, CCW scholarship typically focuses on college students’ matriculation, persistence, sources of support, and well-being, not on their career development—including the psychological, spiritual, sociocultural, political and economic factors influencing students’ career interests and the knowledge, relationships, and environmental contexts shaping their career choices (Duffy & Dik, 2009). This gap presents opportunities for researchers and career services professionals to partner in creating and evaluating programming with CCW in mind. There are also opportunities to increase the methodological diversity of CCW scholarship, to consider the ways in which students mix CCW with “dominant” forms of capital for career success, to collect data from employers, faculty, and other gatekeepers, and to account for the role of institutional context.

Hora, M.T., Huerta, A., Gopal, A., & Wolfgram, M. (2021). A review of the literature on internships for Latinx students at Hispanic-Serving Institutions: Toward a Latinx-serving internship experience. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions (Research Brief #16). University of Wisconsin–Madison, Wisconsin Center for Education Research.

Abstract: Internships are a widely promoted “high-impact practice” (HIP) across the postsecondary landscape, particularly among minority-serving institutions (MSIs) where they are seen as potentially transformative vehicles for students’ career success and social mobility. However, little research exists on if and how the design, implementation, and ultimate effects of college internships may (or should) vary according to the unique institutional contexts of MSIs such as Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) and students’ racial identities and cultural backgrounds. This idea is based on research demonstrating that a “one-size-fits-all” approach to classroom teaching, student advising, and broader approaches to student engagement ignores both historic and structural inequalities while also overlooking the unique needs, circumstances and potentials of a diverse student body. Consequently, our main goal in this paper is to review the literature on internships in HSIs and with Latinx college students to determine if internship program design, implementation and student experience varies based on the unique institutional contexts of HSIs and/or the racial and cultural attributes of Latinx college students.

To address this issue we conducted an integrative review of the literature on HIPs in general and internships in particular as they relate to Latinx students and HSIs. Our results indicate a small but growing body of empirical research on these topics, some that highlight how specific features of HSIs (e.g., institutional missions, “servingness”) and Latinx students (e.g., family capital, cultural perspectives on work) influence how HIPs and internships are designed and experienced. These insights underscore the importance of accounting for cultural, structural and historic factors when studying and designing internship programs. We conclude the paper with a review of existing theoretical frameworks for studying HSIs and a proposal for a new research agenda that pays close attention to the role of culture at individual, group, institutional and societal levels. Ultimately, we contend that while certain universal principles of internship design and implementation are likely to be applicable for HSIs and Latinx students, there are critical differences and opportunities for internships in these institutions and for these students that should be acknowledged and incorporated into HIPs-related policymaking and practice.

Lee, L., Xiong, P., Xiong, Y., Yang, L., Smolarek, B., Vang, M., Wolfgram, M., Moua, P., Thao, A. & Xiong, O. (2020). The Necessity of Ethnic Studies: Prioritizing Ethnic Studies During COVID 19 and Beyond. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions (Research Brief #16). University of Wisconsin–Madison, Wisconsin Center for Education Research.

Abstract: The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a devastating ripple effect on educational institutions—from budget cuts to health and safety concerns to changes in learning environments. In higher education specifically, Covid-19 is disrupting student lives by interrupting in-person learning, forcing students out of their living spaces, and causing students to suffer financially. The consequences of the pandemic have also led to financial crises for universities, causing administrators to make challenging budgetary decisions. Unfortunately, during times of budget scarcity, colleges and universities have historically opted—and continue to opt—for cuts that impact students of color profoundly, including deep cuts to diversity and inclusion efforts and ethnic studies programs, suspensions of ethnic studies faculty hiring, and even resulting in the termination of tenure-track faculty positions in ethnic studies (Bikales & Chen, 2020; Meyerhofer, 2020; Myers, 2014; Wang, 2016).

University administrators are currently having to make hard financial decisions which will have lasting impacts on students, staff, and their communities. Within this looming financial crisis, with multiple competing priorities and far less resources than in the past, in this report, we argue that ethnic studies programs must be prioritized for continued investment. Continued.

Fetter, A & Thompson, M. (2020). Understanding the Impacts of COVID-19 Pandemic for Undergraduate Students attending an HBCU: Insights from Student Voices. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions (Research Brief #14). University of Wisconsin–Madison, Wisconsin Center for Education Research.

Executive Summary: Limited attention has been paid to the impact of COVID-19 on college students who are attending minority-serving institutions, despite the disproportionate toll COVID-19 has on minoritized communities and the worsening of pre-existing inequity brought about by the pandemic (Kantamneni, 2020; Kimbrough, 2020; Strada, 2020). It is vital to understand experiences with COVID-19 among college students who are attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), which serve as primary educational pathways for Black students in the U.S. Themes from our interviews with 41 students attending an HBCU highlight that students are experiencing significant work-related, academic, financial, and socio-emotional challenges related to COVID-19. Stressors and concerns were viewed by students as interrelated and cumulative. In addition, themes from the interviews suggested that student stressors must be viewed within the contexts of the higher education institution, student life experiences and circumstances, and their positionality within large structural systems. Given the far-ranging and ongoing impacts of COVID-19 on higher education, this Research Brief concludes with recommendations to advocate for and support students.

Hora, M., Forbes, J., & Preston, D. (2020). What do we know about internships at HBCUs? A review of the literature and agenda for future research. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions (Research Brief #13). University of Wisconsin–Madison, Wisconsin Center for Education Research.

Abstract: Internships and other high-impact practices (HIPs) that feature experiential learning are being increasingly promoted at Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) as a way to support students’ career and academic success. In this paper we review the literature on what is known about HIPs and internships at HBCUs and how students’ racial identities have influenced interns’ experiences and outcomes. Our analysis finds little empirical research on internships at HBCUs and a general lack of in-depth and critical analysis on the ways that racial identity and the unique institutional cultures of HBCUs impact internships and Black student experiences. We then review contextual forces salient to Black interns’ experiences such as pervasive workplace discrimination, and theoretical frameworks that could inform future research on the ways that race, culture, institutional features and local “field effects” interact to shape student experiences and professional development. We conclude by outlining a research agenda for studying internships that foregrounds issues of racial justice, adopts elements of Bourdieu’s relational sociology, and investigates how the unique cultures of HBCUs influence how internships are designed, implemented and experienced.

Zhang, J., Chen, Z., Wu, Z., & Hora, M. (2020). An Introduction to Technical and Vocational Education in China: Implications for Comparative Research and Practice on Internships. Research Brief #12. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions. UW-Madison.

Abstract: Internship plays an important role in students’ career preparation and college-to-workforce transition. Although there are a large body of studies on college student internships, there were relatively fewer on that of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) students. Such a critical topic worth more attention and exploration. This report focuses on TVET system in China considering that China has the largest but under-developed TVET system in the world which prioritizes economic development and social mobility as its main missions. The aim of this report is to systematically introduce the TVET and its internship policies in China. The report presents the unique structure, the history, and development of China’s secondary and higher TVET. Notably, along with a downward trend of the secondary TVET since 2010, there had been an upward trend of the higher TVET since the late 1990s’ in contrast. Overall, issued policies largely influence the direction of Chinese TVET development, especially in regard to regulating internship activities in aspects of internship organization, management, assessment. Implications for research and policymaking for internships in China and the U.S. were discussed. This report provides insights to international scholars who are interested in conducting comparative studies on internship in TVET systems.

Moua, P., Thao, A., Xiong, O., Lee, L., Smolarek, B., Vang, M. N., Wolfgram, M., Xiong, P. K., Xiong, Y. Y., & Yang, L. (2020). Weaving the Paj Ntaub for future HMoob Students: A compiled collection of advice. Wisconsin Center for Education Research. University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Abstract: This report intends to share the knowledge and advice of current and former HMoob students who attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison. With their responses, the Paj Ntaub research team gleaned advice that these participants wished to pass along to current and future HMoob students. Through many of our interviews, participants shared advice on subjects that they themselves wished they had received during their time at UW-Madison.These responses came from 36 current students 31 former students with a total of 71 individuals and encompassed ideas around lack of familiarity with campus, making career decisions, experiences tied specifically to multidimensional identities, and stereotypes associated with attending UW-Madison. Students come to college with different experiences, goals, and expectations and this may lead to contradicting advice. In this report, we understand and want to shed light on these experiences by giving the space for each and every type of advice.

Hora, M.T., Wolfgram, M., Chen, Z., Zhang, J. & Fischer, J. (2020). A sociocultural analysis of internship supervision: Insights from a mixed-methods study at five postsecondary institutions. WCER Working Paper 2020-8. Wisconsin Center for Education Research. University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Abstract: Internships are widely promoted extra-curricular experiences that can have positive impacts on student outcomes, yet how specific elements of internships contribute to these outcomes and facilitate learning is understudied. In this sequential mixed-methods study, we use sociocultural learning theory to interpret data from surveys (n = 435) and focus groups (n = 52) with students at five postsecondary institutions. After stepwise linear regression analyses indicated that supervisor behaviors were significantly associated with intern satisfaction and career development, analyses of qualitative data revealed features of positive (clear communication, availability, feedback) and negative (unavailability, inattention to learning) aspects of supervision. These results highlight the value of legitimate peripheral participation in internships, and the need for colleges and employers to carefully design and monitor these pedagogic spaces.

Hora, M.T., Wolfgram, M., Brown, R., Colston, J., Zhang, J., Chen, Z., & Chen, Z. (2020). The Internship Scorecard: A new framework for evaluating college internships on the basis of purpose, quality and equitable access. Research Brief #11. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions. University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Executive Summary: While internships are widely praised and promoted as a “door opener” to opportunity, the impact of these work-based learning programs on students is complicated by the variability in how they are designed, implemented and experienced. Consequently, instead of assuming that participation unequivocally results in positive academic and labor market outcomes, the field needs conceptual tools to distinguish internship programs from one another and to evaluate their efficacy, quality and commitment to equity. In this report we first review various frameworks that distinguish different types of work-based learning and internship programs, and then describe a new framework for distinguishing internships on the basis of purpose, quality and equity – The Internship Scorecard.

This new framework is based on theory and evidence from cultural anthropology, the learning sciences and work-based learning, and is designed for higher education professionals, funders, policymakers and employers so that they can – with more nuance and precision than is currently available – make distinctions between program types and begin to “score” programs at the individual-level or in the aggregate for entire institutions. An example of how the Internship Scorecard can be used in practice is provided, along with next steps for the analysis and improvement of college internship programs.

Note: We are very interested to hear any feedback that you might have about The Internship Scorecard. We are especially interested in hearing your thoughts, critiques and suggestions for how the Scorecard can be used in practice to study and/or evaluate internships.

Please leave your comments here.

Hora, M.T., Vivona, B.,Chen, Z., Zhang, J., Thompson, M., & Brown, R. (2020). What do we know about online internships? A review of the academic and practitioner literatures. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions Research Brief #10. University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Abstract: Internships are one of the most widely promoted co-curricular experiences for college students, and the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shelter-in-place orders led to a substantial growth in the availability and popularity of online internships. However, little is known about the impacts of online internships on student outcomes. In this literature review we present key trends and findings from the academic and practitioner literatures on online internships. Relatively little empirical research exists on online internships, but researchers have found that pre-internship orientations, self-regulated learning, sufficient technology, and effective supervision are important for successful experiences. Our review also highlights that considerable variation exists among online internships, especially with respect to the host organization (i.e., employers or third-party vendors), compliance with standards for legitimate and high-quality internships, and duration. Ultimately, we conclude that standards articulated for “legitimate internships” by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) and for rigorous experiential learning programs by CCWT should also be applied to online and/or remote internship programs. We conclude our review with recommendations for students, postsecondary professionals, employers and higher education researchers.

Hora, M.T., & Lee, C. (2020). Industry in the college classroom: Does industry experience increase or enhance how faculty teach cognitive, inter- and intrapersonal skills? Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions. University of Wisconsin-Madison

Executive Summary: Competencies known variously as “soft” or “21st century skills” are increasingly linked to college students’ academic and career success, and faculty with industry experience are hypothesized to be uniquely qualified to teach these skills. Yet little research exists on this topic. In this paper, we report findings from a mixed methods study of the degree to which industry experience influences how STEMM faculty teach teamwork, oral and written communication, problem-solving, and self-directed learning skills in 2- and 4-year postsecondary institutions. Using inductive thematic and hierarchical linear modeling techniques to analyze survey (n=1,140) and interview (n=89) data, we find that faculty place relatively low emphasis on these skills, but that industry experience is significantly associated with teaching oral communication, teamwork, and problem-solving skills. Other factors including race and perceptions of departmental teaching norms also influenced skills-focused instruction. Industry experience also informed problem-based learning activities, knowledge of desired workplace skills, and a focus on divergent thinking. Given that industry experience is an important, but not the only influence on skills-focused instruction, policies aimed solely at hiring faculty with industry experience will be of limited utility without a corresponding focus on training in teaching and instructional design.

Authors (in alphabetical order): Lena Lee, Pangzoo Lee, Bailey B. Smolarek, Myxee Thao, Kia Vang, Matthew Wolfgram, Choua Xiong, Odyssey Xiong, Pa Kou Xiong, & Pheechai Xiong.  Our HMoob American College Paj Ntaub.

“Our HMoob American College Paj Ntuab” is a qualitative research study conducted by the Center for College-Workforce Transitions (CCWT) in partnership with the HMoob American Studies Committee (HMASC), a University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) student activist initiative, to examine the sociocultural and institutional factors influencing HMoob American college experiences at UW-Madison. We found that the HMoob American students who participated in our study often reported feeling unwelcome or excluded at UW-Madison. Participants stated that they felt the campus community did not have any knowledge of HMoob history and culture, which put HMoob American students in the position of educating their peers and professors on who the HMoob are. Additionally, participants reported experiencing macro- and/or micro-aggressions in classrooms, residence halls, and on the streets near campus. Our participants also reported feeling unwelcome in certain schools, buildings, and professional student organizations, which has significant implications on HMoob American students’ academic majors, future career plans, and professional social networks. In contrast, the spaces in which our participants stated that they felt most comfortable, safe, and welcome were student support programs, race-specific student organizations, and HMoob specific classes. Participants described these spaces as places where they were able to cultivate their ethnic identity and find mentorship and other support systems.

Hora, M.T., Wolfgram, M. & Chen, Z. (2019). Research Brief #8: Closing the doors of opportunity: How financial, sociocultural and institutional barriers inhibit access to college internships. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions. University of Wisconsin-Madison

Abstract: Internships are widely perceived as experiences that open the doors of opportunity, yet little is known about obstacles to participation. We report findings from surveys (n = 1,549) and focus groups (n= 100) with students at five postsecondary institutions. Results indicate that 64% of non-interns did not pursue one due to intersecting obstacles including the need to work, heavy course loads, and a lack of opportunities in their disciplines. First-generation students were more likely to report needing to work, Arts and Humanities students were more likely to report insufficient pay and heavy course loads, and full-time students were least likely to report insufficient pay. Colleges and universities must work to ensure that internships do not reproduce privilege and exacerbate inequality.

Hora, M.T., Parrott, E. & Her, P. (2019). Research Brief #7: How do students experience internships? Exploring student perspectives on college internships for more equitable and responsive program design. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions. University of Wisconsin-Madison

Abstract: At a time when colleges and universities are anxious to prove that their graduates are employable, internships are being increasingly touted as valuable “high-impact” practices. However, how students themselves conceptualize internships is poorly understood, which inhibits their inclusion in the employability discourse and their incorporation into program design. In this study we use the freelisting method from cultural anthropology to analyze data from students (n=57) in three U.S. colleges, using saliency analysis, thematic analysis, and social network analysis techniques. Results indicate that the most salient terms in the cultural domain of internships were: “experience,” “learning,” “paid,” and “connections.” Students discussed these words in utilitarian terms (e.g., something to “get” for one’s resume), as important aspects of career- and self-exploration, and to highlight the importance of compensation. Differences in the complexity of student accounts were evident between students who had taken an internship and those who had not. These findings highlight how common definitions of internships reflect a homogenous and aspirational perspective that is inconsistent with student accounts. We conclude that students’ insights about internships are important to consider to re-frame the employability debate to include student interests, to avoid one-size-fits-all approaches to internship design, and to facilitate student self-reflection.

Mun Yuk Chin (2018). Research Brief #6: Career Advisor Experiences in a 2-year College. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions. University of Wisconsin-Madison

Abstract: Technical and community colleges are increasingly scrutinized for their ability to generate positive job outcomes for their students. While some attention has been paid to understanding students’ experiences with their campus career services, there is limited research on career advisors’ experiences in supporting these students in today’s economy. In this brief report, we highlight the main themes identified by five career advisors in a 2-year college that illustrate their role and function, and the organizational and systemic constraints they face in their work.

Scaglione, M.D. (2018). Skilled Non-College Occupations in the U.S. WCER Working Paper No. 2018-7. Wisconsin Center for Education Research. University of Wisconsin-Madison

Abstract: This paper presents a new approach to the identification of relatively skilled occupations that do not typically require a bachelor’s degree for entry. I call this group of occupations Skilled Non-College Occupations (SNCOs). The proposed approach relies heavily on a new skills index based on data from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor. In contrast with studies that estimate that employment in so-called middle-skill jobs in the U.S. represents one third to nearly a half of total employment, this study estimates that the combined employment of SNCOs accounted for 16.2% of all jobs in 2016. Exploratory analysis shows that SNCOs (a) represent only one in five jobs that do not require a 4-year college degree for entry; (b) encompass a wide variety of occupations and industries, even though they are highly concentrated in a relatively small number of them; (c) usually pay above-average wages; (d) show a quite low correlation between wages and the skills scores; and (e) include a significant proportion of workers who are potentially underemployed in terms of their level of educational attainment.

For a shorter version of this paper see this research brief.

Mun Yuk Chin, Chelsea A. Blackburn Cohen, and Matthew T. Hora (2018). The Role of Career Services Programs and Sociocultural Factors in Student Career Development. WCER Working Paper No. 2018-8. Wisconsin Center for Education Research. University of Wisconsin-Madison

Abstract: Existing research on the effectiveness of college career services centers (CSCs) has primarily focused on students’ rates of utilization and their satisfaction with the programs and services offered. Based on survey (n = 372) and focus group data (n = 35) from undergraduate business students, we found that participants were most satisfied with the CSC’s provision of practical tools that enhanced employability and were least satisfied with the CSC’s integration of students’ backgrounds and interests during advising. Our qualitative analysis yielded three categories of contributors (i.e., sociocultural factors, independent activities, and institutional factors) to student career outcomes, which were psychological characteristics, career decisions, and social capital. Sociocultural factors were most prominently featured in students’ narratives of their experiences, in that they shaped how students leveraged institutional resources and how they engaged in independent activities as part of their career trajectories. Practical implications and future research directions are discussed.

For a shorter version of this paper see this research brief.

Hora, M.T. & Blackburn Cohen, C. (2018). Career services report: Midwestern State. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions. University of Wisconsin-Madison

Abstract: This study documented the experiences of a group of undergraduate students at Midwestern State, with the aim to provide findings and actionable recommendations to student affairs professionals at this campus. This study sought to document how college students make decisions regarding their careers, whose advice they are most likely to seek, and how adaptable, confident, and proactive they are in regard to career planning. Insights into these issues may illuminate how today’s students are thinking about the world of work, which can help to inform how educators, student affairs professionals, and institutional leaders design and implement academic and career-related programs. In particular, career services professionals and institutional leaders would benefit from insights regarding whether or not their advising services are meeting students’ needs, particularly for first-generation, underrepresented minority and international students whose goals, interests, and concerns may vary from upper-income white students.This report includes findings from an online survey and in-person focus groups conducted with a group of undergraduate student respondents from Midwestern State in the Spring of 2017, and is an example of the type of applied research that CCWT is conducting.

Hora, M.T., Wolfgram, M. & Thompson, S. (2017). Research Brief #2: What do we know about the impact of internships on student outcomes? Results from a preliminary review of the scholarly and practitioner literatures. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions. University of Wisconsin-Madison

Abstract: Internships and other forms of work-based learning are widely viewed as promising programs that can provide college students with valuable skills, knowledge and abilities that can help ease their transition to the workforce. However, while a considerable amount of empirical and practitioner research exists on internships, the literature is limited by terminological imprecision, incomparability across countries and disciplines, and a lack of rigorous field studies on student outcomes. The empirical evidence indicates that internships improve students’ employability, academic outcomes, and career crystallization, but the evidence is mixed regarding the effects of internships on employability over the long-term and little research exists about the effects of internship experiences on wages. The literature also indicates the importance of internship characteristics such as job-site mentoring, autonomy, pay, and meaningful tasks on outcomes such as student satisfaction and job pursuit, yet few studies examine the relationship between these design characteristics and student outcomes. Furthermore, the practitioner or “grey” literature highlights the importance of careful planning, institutional support systems, coordination between academic programs and job-site mentors, a large “stable” of employers willing and able to host interns, and careful attention to legal and ethical issues. States and institutions hoping to scale up internship programs should ensure adequate staff, funding, and willing participants are in place before creating internship programs at scale. The field also needs rigorous mixed methods longitudinal studies that examine the impacts of specific internship characteristics on a variety of student outcomes.

Hora, M.T. & Blackburn-Cohen, C. (2017). Research Brief #1: Cultural capital at work: How cognitive and non-cognitive skills are taught, trained and rewarded in a Chinese technical college. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions. University of Wisconsin-Madison

Abstract: The employability of college students is one of postsecondary education’s most pressing concerns in the United States and China. In response, policymakers are focusing on developing students’ human capital, in the form of credentials and cognitive skills acquired in technical colleges, so that higher education becomes more aligned with workforce needs. In this exploratory study we use a cultural capital framework to examine how a group of technical college educators and employers in a large eastern Chinese city conceptualize skills, cultivate them via teaching and training, and utilize them when making hiring decisions. Findings include a shared view that both cognitive and non-cognitive skills are essential, a cultural predisposition to lecturing but also a growing use of active learning techniques, and the importance of “cultural fit” during the hiring process. The data are used to advance a new cultural framework for conceptualizing college student employability, which indicates that improving students’ prospects in the labor market requires integrating non-cognitive skills development in technical college classrooms, and advising students about the cultural underpinnings of the job search process.

Full version

Policy Briefs

Hora, M.T. (2022). Unpaid internships and inequality: A review of the data and recommendations for research, policy, and practice. Policy Brief #2. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions. University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Abstract: Internships can be “door openers” to opportunity and social mobility for college students, but unpaid internships pose considerable legal, ethical, and practical challenges. In particular, low-income and first-generation students may be unable to pursue unpaid positions, thereby acting as a discriminatory gatekeeping function that exacerbates inequality. In this policy brief, CCWT co-Director Matthew Hora first reviews the evidence regarding the prevalence of unpaid internships and the demographics of students pursuing them, followed by existing policy solutions and recommendations for future research, policy, and educational practice.

Huerta, A.H., Rios-Aguilar, C., Ramirez, D. & Munoz, M. (2021). Like a Juggler, the experiences of racially minoritized student parents in a California community college. Center for Community College Leadership and Research. University of California-Davis.

Abstract: This brief provides an overview of findings from research conducted for Coastal City College* which sought to understand the collegiate experiences of student parents. This study utilized in-depth, one-on-one interviews and focus groups with racially minoritized student parents to explore how they navigated community college, received information, and made decisions about future careers during the 2018–2019 academic year.

We found that student parents maintain high educational aspirations and occupational goals despite the struggles and daily challenges they experience in pursuit of their community college education. Our findings suggest there was significant room at this college – and likely others – to adjust policies and practices to better serve student parents and their children, and to increase their chances to succeed academically and occupationally and gain social and economic stability. Importantly, this study revealed barriers that student parents faced in accessing campus space with their children.

Williams, K.M., Thompson, M., & Hora, M.T. (2020). Supporting Black Interns through Vicarious Racial Trauma: Policy Recommendations for Employers and Postsecondary Institutions. Policy Brief #1. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions. University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Abstract: In the wake of the 2020 protests demanding justice and equality for marginalized communities, Black undergraduates have continued to pursue and complete internships around the country. Recognizing the psychological tax that Black student interns must bear given the current political and racial climate, in addition to the unlikelihood of these protests being the last time students are forced to cope and heal while maintaining their academic and internship commitments, in the current brief we address this critical question: “What can host organizations do to support and protect Black student interns?” In this brief we specifically sought to (1) increase awareness of issues facing Black student interns, and (2) provide specific actions that employers and higher education professionals can take to support Black student interns. We review the prior literature on vicarious trauma and organizational practices that may best reduce the compound effects of vicarious racial trauma on Black student interns. Ultimately, with this brief we aim to stimulate further discussion and examination of racial disparities within internship programs and areas where internships may fall short in supporting the development of Black student interns.

Literature Reviews

Views and Suggestions on the Career Center based on the Perspective of Chinese Undergraduate Students in the UW-Madison School of Education (SoE)

Zhan Shi, Yimeng Sun, Magnolia Zhang                                                                                                                                Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions (CCWT)                                                                                          University of Wisconsin Madison

Literature Review #6                                                                                                                                                Globalization is a process at work in our present-day interconnected world, evident in advanced technology that enables easy cross-border communications, accessible and affordable transportation, and frequent international cooperation. Due to this, it also facilitates an increasing number of students who choose to study abroad. The substantial number of international students around the world demonstrates how higher education is a global enterprise. In fact, the number of students pursuing higher education degrees in foreign countries more than doubled between 2000 and 2017 to reach 5.3 million (Bound et al., 2021), and it is likely that this studying abroad trend will only flourish further. As Bohm, Davis, Meares, and Pearce (2002) recently argued, international students enrolled in institutions of higher education will probably exceed 7 million by 2025 (Cudmore, 2005).

Among international students who attend universities in the United States, a leading destination for foreign-born students, Chinese students constitute one of the largest groups (Yan and Berliner, 2011). The educational exchanges between the U.S. and China can be traced back to the late 1970s when the government of the People’s Republic of China promoted modernization by international scholarly and technological exchanges, which further facilitated US-China educational exchanges (Yan and Berliner, 2011). After additional agreements between the two countries on the international scholarly exchange programs, more Chinese students pursued their degrees in the U.S. In the academic year of 2008-2009, there were 98,510 students from China enrolled in higher education institutions in the U.S. (Yan and Berliner, 2011). In the 2019-2020 academic year, the number rose to 372,000, accounting for 35% of the total international student population in the world (McGregor, 2021). At the University of Wisconsin Madison (UW-Madison), in 2020-2021, the number of Chinese international undergraduates was 1,813, which accounted for 60 percent of total international undergraduates at the university. These data indicated that Chinese students represent the largest group of international undergraduates at UWMadison and thus deserve attention from the university.

Because international students enter a globalized world and face worldwide competition, they are focusing more on attention to their career development and employability to ensure their competitiveness in the labor market and to have sustainability in their long-term career development. In this paper, we define employability as the knowledge of labor markets and related academic fields, and the social relationships and resources related to career development that could help students gain employment and be successful in their chosen occupations. For international students, employability is the information and knowledge needed to compete in a global labor market and the social networks that they may be unable to access in their home countries and that they may lack in their place of study. International students start to find internships and part-time jobs as early as in their second and third years in universities, and after graduation, they will face choices of staying where they study or going back to their home countries. These factors and concerns about employability contribute to the need for career services at campuses like UWMadison to help international students with their career development.

On the website of the School of Education (SoE) Career Center at UW-Madison, the vision of the career center is described as, “Equipping all School of Education students to successfully launch and exceed their career expectations”, which reflects a goal of helping students develop career ideas and goals after graduations and enhance their employability.

Even though there are increasing amounts of international students in U.S. higher education institutions, especially those from China, little scholarly attention is given to Chinese international students’ experiences with campus career centers and whether they are helping to enhance their employability. Instead, more attention has been paid to local U.S. students. For example, Hart (2019) illuminates how employers in the career service offices in the U.S. midwestern public universities understand the value of their work and help students to increase their employability and address local American students with perspectives of staff in the career centers. Indeed, there are some studies where international students are the focus of campus career-related initiatives, such as Terzaroli and Oyekunle (2019) and Fakunle (2021) who examine the experiences of international students in career centers at universities in Nigeria and some European countries. Yet, few studies highlight the experiences of Chinese international students with career centers in U.S. universities. In this paper, we discuss the career development needs of Chinese international students’ perspectives that we hope will help to fill this gap in the literature.

Our paper aims to explore Chinese international students’ career development needs and whether the SoECareer Center at UW-Madison can help them with their needs. This project will first present interviews with seven undergraduate Chinese students in the School of Education at the UW-Madison in the U.S. that show their real experiences in the SoE Career Center. Next, relating students’ perceptions about their career pathways and the help they need to develop these pathways to their experiences in the SoE Career Center, this paper will then discuss limitations of the SoE Career Center’s approach to supporting Chinese international students’ career development needs. This article concludes with some specific suggestions to both the SoE Career Center and the SoE leadership based on feedback given by our interviewees, which might be useful for career advisors to improve their services. The suggestions could also allow SoE leadership to get a better understanding of the employability-related needs of Chinese students in the School of Education, which could advance the development of employability for Chinese students.

What can we learn from longitudinal studies on the impacts of college internships?

Fangjing Tu
Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions (CCWT)
University of Wisconsin Madison

Literature Review #5
Internships have been widely considered as co-curricular opportunities that benefit students with hands-on work experience, smooth transitions to the labor market, and potentially better compensation. Current studies on the impacts of internship participation are mostly cross-sectional. Only a few studies in the research literature employ longitudinal research methodologies. Longitudinal research can be used to measure and understand the long-term effects of internship participation for students. It also provides more robust evidence for causal interpretations of internship effects. This literature review summarizes the main findings and insights from 11 longitudinal studies on the impact of internship participation, aiming to contribute to the knowledge about the long-term benefits and causal processes of college internships.

Graduating during a recession: A literature review of the effects of recessions for college graduates

Javier Rodríguez S., Jared Colston, Zhixuan Wu, and Zi Chen
Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions (CCWT)
University of Wisconsin Madison

Literature Review #4
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a halt of the economy worldwide. The U.S. job market experienced an unprecedented downturn due to the pandemic-caused recession beginning in March 2020. As a consequence, thousands of jobs across industries now face wage cuts. The unemployment rate rose above 20% in April with a temporary layoff share close to 80% (Bartik, 2020; Cajner et al., 2020). The future of hundreds of thousands of college graduates transitioning from college to the labor market has thus become a matter of great concern for students, career advisors, higher education officials, and policy makers.

Research on the work trajectories of those who graduate during economic recessions can provide insights into how college graduates’ lives are affected by finishing school and starting their working lives in the middle of a weak economy. Additionally, available evidence about what has taken place in previous recessions can inform potential strategies for students, administrators, and policy makers to cope with the economic uncertainty and career search obstacles caused by the pandemic.

In this literature review, we present a summary of the main findings from this body of research, aiming to contribute to the conversation about what students can expect and do as they start their professional lives in these difficult times.

A document summary is also available: Highlights of the literature review on the effects of graduating during a recession for college graduates: main findings and practical implications

Psychosocial Factors and Outcomes of College Internships: An Integrative Review

Iseult Gillespie, Jiahong Zhang, and Matthew Wolfgram
Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions (CCWT)
University of Wisconsin Madison

Literature Review #3
This review identifies key features of psychosocial factors and outcomes associated with internship participation for college students. The review examined 42 studies, the majority being quantitative and cross-sectional in design. Results indicate that a) since 2010 there has been an increase in the number of empirical studies of the psychosocial factors and outcomes of college internships in the education research, psychology and career development fields; b) The studies commonly focused on internships in business, tourism, and sport management fields; c) The authors cite a broad range of theoretical frameworks, including career construction theory (Ocampo et al., 2020; Pan et al., 2018), social learning theory (Anjun, 2020) and the job characteristics model (Stansbie et al., 2013); d) This review of the research identified several student psychosocial characteristics that may influence internship experiences and outcomes, such as emotional intelligence, proactivity, self-efficacy, and conscientiousness; e) there were positive relationships between internship participation and a number of psychological outcomes. These included psychological outcome measures such as increases in self-perception, perception of surroundings, and mental health indicators, career development outcome measures such as professional development, career adaptability, career commitment, and career exploration, and learning outcome measures such as GPA and skill development. These findings indicate that internships have profound psychosocial ramifications that should be taken into account in their design and assessment. The review may be beneficial to researchers, educators and policy-makers seeking to optimize student internships from a psychosocial perspective. Recommendations for future research and practice are suggested.

Community-Based Participatory Action Research

Baily Smolarek & Matthew Wolfgram
Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions (CCWT)
University of Wisconsin Madison

Literature Review #2
The Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions is conducting three student-led Community-Based Participatory Action Research (CBPAR) projects which involve our staff mentoring students of color in the social science research process, to develop a research inquiry into how students of color experience college and the transition to work. One CBPAR projects is with African American students at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, another is with students with immigrant backgrounds at Madison College, and the third project is with HMoob American students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The studies at UW-Whitewater and Madison College are in their preliminary stages, whereas the study at UW-Madison with HMoob American students is concluding a round of data collection and starting analysis of the data. To illustrate how CBPAR works in action, in the following sections, we describe how we have used it at UW-Madison with HMoob American undergraduate students.

Workplace Training and Cognitive, Intra- and Inter-personal Skills: A Literature Review

Sophia Slocum & Matthew T. Hora
Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions (CCWT)
University of Wisconsin Madison

Literature Review #1
This summary of the research literature on workplace training activities focused on cognitive, inter- and intrapersonal skills is the first in a series of literature reviews published by the Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions (CCWT) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. These brief summaries of the empirical literatures are intended to provide scholars and professionals engaged in research, policymaking and practice on college-work issues with insights into the nature and scope of research on topics central to contemporary college-workforce debates and strategies.