Internships & Research
Let Knowledge Serve the City!
The internship experience is a very popular aspect of the Honors Program at Portland State University. Each quarter, participating students spend 8 to 20 hours of their time each week gaining real world experience and exploring their academic and professional goals. The Portland area is bursting with excellent internship opportunities for students from all academic disciplines; past students have interned with Oregon Health & Science University, Mercy Corps, and even on the set of Portlandia. Students have also found internship positions in other cities, states, and countries!
Often referred to as "experiential learning", an internship is an opportunity to go outside the classroom to gain real-world experience in a professional work environment. Internships can be an important aspect of your career exploration and development, and can offer the opportunity to gain the professional experience your future employers what to see on a resume
It’s a chance to:
- explore, start and define your professional life
- gain experience for your resume
- earn money and/or credit for school
- develop a professional network
- apply classroom learning in the real world
- hone existing skills and develop new ones
- research or project at your internship could become the foundation for your senior Honors thesis.
Many students find that they are academically and professional ready to undertake an internship during their junior year. The only prerequisite for the internship experience is completion of the sophomore Honors requirements. Sophomores may enroll with prior approval from the Director of the Urban Honors Program. You may earn up to eight internship credits to help fulfill your Junior Year requirements.
Early! It may take time to find an internship that will fit in with your academic and professional goals. Honors Internships must include either a research component or a project that will significantly help to develop your professional expertise. You may also need time to update your resume and cover letter, develop interview skills, etc. Students should meet with the Honors Internship Coordinator, Jane Marie Ford, at least one term prior to applying for an Honors Internship.
Allowable credits are determined by the number of weekly hours you commits to the internship experience. To receive credit from the Honors program, you must work between 8 and 10 hours per week for the duration of the 10-week quarter to earn 4 credits, and at least 20 hours per week to earn 8 credits.
There is sometimes a fine line between an internship, a volunteer position, and unpaid labor. An internship should:
- involve training similar to that which you would find in an educational setting
- result in general experience that can be applied to any work opportunity within that field, rather than training for a specific position within that organization
- not entail job duties that would normally be carried out by a paid employee
- be directly related to your academic and professional goals.
Volunteer opportunities are also valuable for your personal and professional development, but unlike an intern, a volunteer is donating his or her time without expectation of receiving professional training or compensation.
To qualify for credit with the Urban Honors Program, an internship should involve the performance of meaningful tasks for the organization in which you have been placed. Typically, you are expected to perform some type of project, research, or administrative task that can be tied to your academic or professional goals. The host organization should include training and regular supervision to contribute to your learning experience. The Honors Program retains the right to determine the suitability of internship positions for course credit. If you are unsure if your proposed internship meets the definition of an acceptable internship, please contact the Honors Internship Coordinator.
Positions that are primarily clerical in nature are not acceptable internship experiences for the Urban Honors Program. While learning how a professional organization operates may be a valuable component of your internship experience, your position should not involve routine or repetitive administrative tasks, such as filing or copying paperwork, more than 30% of the time. You should not displace regular employees, or being the “on-site expert.”
Not sure where to start?
- Advising & Career Services provides workshops and classes to help you assess what careers might fit well with your personality, strengths, and interests.
- You might also check out, “What Can I Do With a Degree in…,” available on the Portland State University Careers website under “For Students.”
- You can visit Advising & Career Services’ drop-in hours or make an appointment to speak with an advisor.
- The Honors Internship Coordinator is available to help you brainstorm during office hours.
If you already have a career direction you’d like to explore, you may want to take some time to create a “vocational vision.” What are the skills that you are interested in developing? What would you like to learn about your potential future field of work? What strengths do you bring to the table, and what weaknesses would you like to address? This discernment process will be valuable later on when you develop your learning objectives for the internship proposal.
Once you have a better idea of what you’re looking for in an internship, here are nine resources available to aid in your search:
- Advising & Career Services maintains a list of internships available locally and around the world. Log into the Career Connect database to see current opportunities. This database is updated frequently.
- Advising & Career Services also hosts multiple Career and Internship fairs throughout the year, such as the annual pre-health and volunteer fairs. Dozens of businesses, organizations, and other schools participate in these events; keep an eye on the calendar for fairs that are relevant to your major, academic, and professional interests. Be sure to take advantage of the Advising & Career Services “How to Prepare for a Job Fair” workshops! Visit the Advising & Career Services website for more information.
- “What Can I Do With a Degree in…” also lists Professional Associations and organizations with a mission related to your specific field of interest. This is a great resource for making connections and reviewing organizations that might be willing to host you as an intern.
- Most of the schools and colleges at PSU have internship advisers to help advise you regarding opportunities specific to your field of interest. The School of Business, College of Urban and Public Affairs, and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences have internship advisers located in their department. Check with your school or college to find out what resources are available.
- Talk to your professors in your major department. They may be familiar with organizations or contacts for internship locations that would be a good fit for your field of interest.
- Portland’s thriving nonprofit world can offer opportunities to students in all fields, even if you eventually plan on working in the private sector. Idealist is a great search engine for organizations and internships locally and around the world, and Mac’s List is a similar resource for Portland-based opportunities.
- Your Network: talk to you friends, family, neighbors, etc. who might work at, or know someone who works at, an organization that fits with your interests. An introduction can be a great “in” to an organization!
- You may also consider looking at specific organizations directly for internship opportunities. If the organization doesn’t advertise internship positions online, you might contact them to see if they would be interested in taking on an intern.
- We are working on creating a new database of past internships organized by field of interest. Check back soon for reviews from your peers on their internship experiences!
Keep in mind that your internship search may require you to find and contact several organizations before you connect with the right internship opportunity. In your interactions with potential internship sites, be sure to communicate politely and professionally, acknowledge that you appreciate your contact’s time, and demonstrate your enthusiasm for the organization.
- Once you’ve found an internship opportunity you’d like to pursue, please schedule a meeting with the Honors Internship Coordinator to discuss your internship proposal. Please bring a draft of the learning objectives you would like to achieve from your internship experience so you can review and fine-tune these objectives together. This meeting is an important step in ensuring that you have the best internship experience possible. For more information on developing your learning objectives, please review the Honors Internship Guide. Please note that you are required to review the Internship Approval Form with the Honors Internship Coordinator prior to obtaining the signature of your Internship Supervisor.
- Download the Honors Internship Guide and fillable Internship Approval Form. Please note that handwritten applications will not be accepted.
- Submit your proposal to Dr. Fallon four weeks before the term of your internship.
Students registered for Honors 404 will also participate in an online course via D2L. Responsibilities may include participation in online discussions, submitting weekly hours, and reflection papers. Your internship supervisor will also submit a midterm and final evaluation f your performance. All assignments will be outlined in the course syllabus.
The Internship Supervisor is the member of the sponsoring organization who is responsible for supervising your work. He or she will provide you with day-to-day direction, and evaluate your work. At the beginning of the term, the Internship Supervisor will be asked to sign the Internship Approval Form, which outlines your expected responsibilities as an intern, as well as those of your Internship Supervisor. The Internship Supervisor will also be asked to complete a midterm and final evaluation of your performance.
As in any other type of job, you are expected to fulfill the expectations placed on them by their internship supervisor. The primary exception to this is if the supervisor strays from the original internship proposal, and/or uses a student solely for clerical work or in some other inappropriate manner. If any questions or concerns arise, please contact Leena Shrestha, Jane Marie Ford, or Dr. Fallon as soon as possible.
Students are expected to conduct themselves in a professional manner in their internship. This means that they arrive at their work when scheduled, they dress appropriately, they follow directions, and they interact with others in a positive manner. Moreover, students are expected to abide at all times by the ethical standards of the university and the organization in which they are placed. Students who conduct themselves in an unprofessional or unethical manner face a failing grade and/or appropriate disciplinary action. The PSU Student Code of Conduct is available here.
Students who are selected as interns enter into their positions as representatives of Portland State University and of the Honors Program. Internships are not only beneficial to students, but to the sponsoring organization as well. If a student proves incapable of performing his or her job at a certain level of competence and in a professional manner, it could lead to a situation in which the sponsoring organization refuses to accept future interns from the Honors Program. For these reasons, the Honors Program has instituted some restrictions on who is eligible to enter the internship program. This section explains the policies on eligibility and course credit.
Before you begin your internship, set personal and professional goals and objectives so you have a learning focus during your internship. Identify a mentor at your internship organization and check in with him or her on a regular basis. When you are finished with a task, ask what you can do next. Be sure to take notes when receiving instructions for assignments, and don’t hesitate to ask questions about an assignment you don’t understand. Stay positive and be a team player no matter what the task. Communicate in a professional manner, no matter how short the email or casual the topic. The Honors Internship Coordinator is available to meet with you if you’d like to discuss specific questions or challenges about your internship experience.
The Honors Program is available to…
- provide guidance on your resume and cover letter, or refer you to Advising & Career Services for additional assistance.
- equip you with resources and suggestions to guide your internship search.
- review and provide guidance on your internship proposal and learning outcomes.
- provide support and advice during the course of your internship experience.
The Honors Program does not…
- write your resume or cover letter for you.
- “place” you at an internship.
- write your learning outcomes.
Your draft Internship/Research Approval Form is due to the Honors Program by the following dates:
- Winter, 2014: Friday, November 22nd
- Spring 2014: Friday, March 7th
- Summer 2014: Friday, May 23rd
Please keep in mind that you are required to meet with the Honors Internship Coordinator to review your application before any parties can sign off on the agreement. Please contact the Honors Internship Coordinator via email to make arrangements. Please do not submit hard copies of the application to the Honors Building. After your internship application has been approved by the Honors Program, you will receive instructions for registration in the HON 404 course.
Best of luck in your internship endeavors!