Graduate Internship Program

In spring 2021, CLA launched a student internship program to offer doctoral and research-based master’s students the opportunity to gain experience in a workplace and profession outside of traditional faculty positions, explore how their academic training translates into various career options, and build skills that will translate across sectors and jobs.

Graduate Career Services Director Mackenzie Sullivan worked with a dozen students via a series of workshops and related activities on pursuing diverse career options. While the immediate goal has been to provide outside work experience for students via summer internships, the program also trained students in how to conduct a job search effectively so that they are prepared to do so upon graduation. The college provided fellowship funding to ensure that each student with an internship received the standard graduate researcher salary, regardless of the ability of the employer to pay. This funding also had the benefit of allowing students to apply for a full range of internships, including low-paid (or possibly unpaid) positions in areas relevant to their doctoral experience.

Interested in offering an internship or fellowship for graduate students?
Contact Mackenzie Sullivan, Director of Graduate Student Career Services, if you'd like to hire a doctoral or master's degree student.

Why Internships?

Internships address a number of pressing needs. Students see internships as a vital but underemphasized component of graduate education that gives them valuable experience outside of, but complementary to, their other training. Internships open doors to a range of careers, including the professoriate, but are seen as especially germane to non-faculty career paths. The Mellon Foundation notes that since “...the early 1970s, the average percentage of tenure track faculty positions in the United States has dropped from approximately 70 percent to 30 percent of the academic teaching force” (from What Can you do with a Phd?). At the same time, many organizations — government agencies, corporations, and community groups — face increasingly complex and pressing challenges. Innovation today requires not only higher-level thinking and problem-solving skills but also a more thoughtful and nuanced understanding of the interconnectedness of people and place. As a public land grant university, we have a responsibility to produce research and ideas that improve lives and advance the state’s economy. Tomorrow’s academic and industry leaders will get their start here. Pairing their needs with the needs of our community via internships will produce stronger outcomes for all.

How do we meet the twin goals of service to the community and enhancing graduate education?
By giving leading-edge thinkers, innovators, and problem-solvers opportunities to partner with government, nonprofit, and business leaders.

Structure and Goals

The College of Liberal Arts is piloting an internship program to offer graduate students the opportunity to gain experience in a workplace and profession outside of traditional faculty roles, explore how their academic training might translate into various career options, and build additional skills that will translate across sectors and jobs. The intention of this program is not only to provide outside work experience for students but also to train students in how to conduct a job search effectively so that they are prepared to do so upon graduation.

Workshops and homework assignments include:

  • Exploring career options, including informational interviews
  • Presenting your story to non-academic employers
  • Using online resources and social media for job searching
  • Resumes and LinkedIn profiles
  • Cover Letters and tailoring materials for specific employers
  • Interviewing practice and negotiations


If students complete the workshop series, all assignments, and secure an internship for the summer, they will receive funds that will support them during their internship. The program goal is for each student to complete an internship of ten weeks in duration at 20hrs/week for which they will be paid the standard CLA graduate researcher rate of about $5,000.

The employer will be asked to pay its normal internship rate, with the understanding that some employers may end up paying more than $5,000 and others may offer less than this amount. When the employer pays less, CLA will make up the difference. Students will work with the employer, in consultation with the director of career services, to determine the amount the employer is able to pay. Students will be eligible to have their summer health benefits covered by the college if they are not already receiving them.

This first year programming was funded from a variety of sources, including the generous gift of personal funds and award funds by CLA administrators and several other collegiate sources, including the office of Undergraduate Education and the Office of Research and Graduate Programs. Thanks to Dean John Coleman and Associate Deans Jane Blocker, Ascan Koerner, Howie Lavine, and Steven Manson for their support.