Symposium on College Internship Research

Past Symposia

April 7, 2022

Exploring unpaid internships: Issues of access, equity, and learning – A free, online CCWT symposium

Symposium Flyer (PDF)

Recording of the Symposium

Report of the Symposium(PDF)

Join the growing national conversation on unpaid internships, and how higher education, employers, and policymakers can help ensure equitable access to high-quality, paid work-based learning experiences while in college. Registration info coming soon!

The 2022 symposium included researchers, career services professionals & analysts from across the nation who discussed timely on the prevalence of unpaid internships and the demographics of students taking them, challenges w/equity and access, & strategies for funding positions via employers, philanthropy, or campus-based initiatives.

The day-long discussion featured three themes:

  • New data on internships and compensation: recent data on the prevalence and impact of unpaid internships from the 2021 National Survey of College Internships (CCWT), the NACE Student Survey Report, and new studies on internship compensation
  • Working with employers: how to best engage employers in funding internships, considerations of non-profit and government internships, implications for HR/worker rights
  • Strategies for change: insights from the field on ways that philanthropy, post-secondary institutions, industry associations, and government can be involved in subsidizing or funding unpaid internships

The program prioritized panels and breakouts with shorter talks and moderated discussions that focused on practical, hands-on solutions.

Sponsored by: Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions (CCWT) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Co-sponsors: National Association for Colleges and Employers (NACE), the National Society for Experiential Education (NSEE), the Project on Workforce at Harvard, and Pay Our Interns.

October 23-24 2019

Alumni Lounge at the Pyle Center University of Wisconsin-Madison
“Internships & 21st century skills: Exploring issues of language, equity and quality.”

Symposium flyer (PDF)

Presentation Materials



College internships can be valuable experiential learning opportunities where students gain experience, professional contacts, and 21st century competencies. Yet few venues exist for scholars, practitioners, policymakers, employers and students to learn from the multi-disciplinary research community and from one another about these crucial topics.

Evidence is also growing that the quality of internship programs is mixed, that opportunities may be inaccessible to low-income and working students, and that some organizations lack the resources and expertise to implement high-quality programs. While internships have the potential to cultivate the so-called 21st century competencies – such as communication, teamwork, and problem-solving – few have examined whether this is in fact true and how programs should be designed in order to focus on these skills. Finally, an issue plaguing both research and practice is that of language, with competing definitions and cultural constructions of both internships and 21st century competencies.

We invite researchers, career services and student affairs professionals, employers, advocates, college students, and legislators to attend this year’s symposium. Come ready to learn and partner with your colleagues and:

  • Learn about the latest research on internships and their relationship to 21st century competencies from scholars in labor economics, sociology, higher education, vocational psychology, and other fields;
  • Hear about problems of practice and strategies to overcome them from practitioners in the field;
  • Develop new strategies and ideas about program design, implementation and evaluation for your own institution and student body;
  • Help shape and improve state and federal policies regarding internships and 21st century competencies; and,
  • Contribute your own ideas and experiences to a growing national movement to create equitable and meaningful internships and experiential learning opportunities for all students regardless of race, class, gender, major, or institutional affiliation.

The program will feature 3 tracks that run throughout the panels, breakouts, and workshops: Strategies for college-employer partnerships, Designing effective learning spaces for 21st skills, and Inequalities in the intern economy: Geography, major, and race/ethnicity.

Who should attend the symposium?

  • Researchers across the social sciences interested in work-based learning, skills development, and equity-related issues in higher education
  • Career services professionals interested in improving internship programs
  • Instructional designers, STEM educators, and faculty interested in integrating “21st century” skills into the postsecondary curriculum
  • Postsecondary leaders and advocates interested in equity and access issues in higher education

Speakers and Panelists include:

  • Keynote by Dr. April Kedrowicz, North Carolina State University, an expert on how to teach discipline-specific forms of communication;
  • Keynote by Ross Perlin, author of Intern Nation: How to Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy (2011);
  • Cindy Ann Kilgo, Assistant Professor of Higher Education Administration, University of Alabama
  • Alex Frenette, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Vanderbilt University
  • Darryl Ann Watkins, United Negro College Fund, Senior Program Manager, Career Pathways Initiative
  • Christian Corrales, University of Texas-El Paso, Employer & Community Relations Manager
  • More to come
Co-Sponsored by WISCAPE and UW System

The goals of the inaugural College Internship Symposium are as follows:

  • To convey and discuss the current state of empirical research on college internships.
  • To cultivate a community of scholars, practitioners, and policymakers involved in studying and implementing college internships in order to provide networking and collaborative opportunities.
  • To provide a venue for in-depth discussions regarding critical design, legal, and institutionalization issues related to college internships.
  • To catalyze changes in how colleges, universities, and employers design internships so that they are equitable and high-quality for all students.
  • To put student interests and welfare at the center of debates and policymaking regarding college internships.

Speakers who will be discussing findings from their recent research on internships include:

Carrie Shandra (Sociology, University of Stony Brook) – Implications of offering course credit for internships
John Nunley (Economics, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse) – Employer demand for internships
Patrick McHugh (Business and Management – George Washington University) – Comparative analysis of French and US internship characteristics and outcomes
Elizabeth Zachry Rutschow (Senior Associate – MDRC) – Evaluation of the Great Lakes Career Ready Internship Program
Janice Kenyatta (Internship Manager, Northampton Community College)

Panels at the Symposium will also highlight the voices of students and employers who have recently been involved with internship programs, the value of translational or applied research to make empirical findings actionable and useable, and recommendations for future research, policy, and practice.

Audience: We aim to reach a wide range of individuals and organizations that are engaged in designing, implementing, and supporting college internship programs that include:

  • Career services professionals in community colleges, universities, and high schools;
  • Internship program administrators/professionals;
  • Students interested in pursuing internship opportunities;
  • Employers interested in hosting internships;
  • Faculty/instructors interested in designing quality internship experiences for students; and,
  • Higher education administrators interested in institutionalizing quality internship programs.

Co-sponsors: Interdisciplinary Training Program in the Educational Sciences (ITP) at UW-Madison, WI Internship Initiative (WI DWD), SuccessWorks (UW-Madison, College of Letters & Sciences).