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An Experiential Education Program Relating Experience to Academic Learning

An Overview of SOC SCI 1910

Junior and senior students (60+ credits, minimum 2.5 Q.P.A.) majoring in sociology may earn up to 12 credits for a full term's experience in an unpaid position in an approved outside setting appropriate to the student's course of study and field of interest. While many placements are made in social work/social service agencies, PLEASE NOTE that placements are NOT restricted to such agencies. Interns may be placed in almost any external setting (corporations, small businesses, the mass media, government, etc.) if there are sufficient possible benefits to the three vital components of the internship program, which are: the intern's host, the student-intern, and the academic program needs of the university.

The placement site is considered to be an applied extension of the classroom setting. The primary purpose of placement is to further encourage students to extend their analytical and interpretive skills by integrating aspects of their classroom training into a significant role in "the real world." Some important secondary benefits of such experiences include the ability to accumulate some actual, practical work experience prior to employment, to test various career possibilities, and (in a few fortunate cases) to serve as a sort of "trial" period possibly leading to employment at that very site sometime following graduation.

N.B.: Students who may transfer as undergraduates to other institutions ought to be aware that other campuses of the University of Pittsburgh and other colleges and universities may not readily transfer earned internship credits. If you know that you will be transferring to a different school, secure a written guarantee from the school you intend to transfer to that they will accept our internship credits before you enroll in an internship.

Each internship must be negotiated with a faculty sponsor in sociology who will coordinate the arrangements with the outside host and who will evaluate the student's overall performance throughout the term. The availability of internships varies from term to term depending, in part, upon individual faculty work loads in any specific term along with a host's ability to accept an intern at the time. Students who are thinking about an internship should meet with their faculty advisor for preliminary discussions well in advance of the registration period for the academic term in which they expect to enroll for the internship. The student's academic advisor need not be the internship sponsor; however, preliminary feasibility discussions should begin with the academic advisor inasmuch as that person is expected to be more aware of the student's overall plan of study and academic record. The academic advisor may also be helpful in suggesting who might be the best choice for a faculty sponsor and/or field setting.

Academic Credit for Internships:  Internships for sociology majors (and for all other majors in the Social Science Division) are offered under the auspices of the Social Science Division; hence, sociology students registered for an internship DO NOT EARN SOCIOLOGY ACADEMIC CREDIT. While internships are listed as Social Science credits, they will be counted only as elective credit and internships cannot be used to meet any distribution requirements in the Social Science Division or to fulfill the sociology distribution needs for declared sociology majors or minors. All Social Science internships are graded on a S/U (that is, on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory) basis and are not counted in computing the Q.P.A. While we ask on-site supervisors of interns to provide us with some brief evaluation of an intern's performance and ability, all grading matters are decided by the faculty sponsor.

Virtually all internships are taken for 12 credits, which means that the student will be involved full-time (38 - 40 hours at the internship site, usually daylight hours) at an external site for a full term. In some instances, it may be possible to register for fewer credits -- for example, half-time positions for 06 credits (18 - 20 hours a week at the internship site) or three-quarter-time positions for 09 credits (28 - 30 hours a week at the internship site). In order to maintain scheduled progress toward achieving graduation credit requirements, interns who register for 12 credits usually also register for one additional 03 credit course (most likely an evening course). Students who register for 06 or 09 internship credits usually also register for an additional 09 or 06 credits respectively for the same reason. 12 credits is full-time status.

The Analytical Journal:  Interns are required to maintain an analytical journal (or thoughtful log) throughout the term. The journal functions as a running record of events and analytical, thoughtful, personal reflections made throughout the internship. The main analytical task in writing the journal involves the attempt to relate what was learned in an academic setting to the field experience. The journal should also serve as a useful source at the end of the internship when writing the required internship paper.

The Internship Paper:  Interns are also required to submit a paper at the end of the term. The terminal internship paper should be negotiated with the faculty sponsor before the end of the term. It may take the form of an analysis and evaluation of the site/program in which the internship was experienced, or it may be in the form of an analysis of some problem (or set of problems) encountered in the internship which is somehow related to the academic frame of reference of the intern, or it may be in the more traditional term paper format relating theoretical and empirical reference materials to the internship setting.

Proposing a Placement Site:  All such arrangements must be handled in close cooperation with a faculty advisor and an internship faculty sponsor. DO NOT seek placements on your own unless you have been encouraged to do so after you have discussed your proposal with a faculty sponsor. The department frequently hears from people outside the university who are seeking an intern; therefore, always check with an advisor to see what external needs already exist. Note that most potential outside internship supervisors do not encourage students to approach them without an invitation to do so.

  • Established Social Science internships. There are a certain number of academic internships that are already established, i.e. Pitt-Johnstown has established a recurring relationship with selected agencies which in the past have accepts interns during the academic year or summer months. Usually these relationships are established by and with a specific faculty member who has worked out all the details of the internship experience and has experience working with the agency. However, such internships are not “on demand”, i.e. students may not simply walk in and say “I want one”. In the case of established internships, the student must first contact the supervising faculty member to see if an internship position is possible for an upcoming semester and if the faculty member is willing to supervise it. There is no guarantee a position is available at a given agency, even one which has taken interns before, and no guarantee the faculty member is available to supervise it.  An internship established with an agency under procedures described above needs to be approved only once.  Subsequent students desiring an internship with that agency need only find a willing faculty supervisor and propose the internship.  However, the original approval of an internship for a specific agency does not cover changes in the number of credits or significant changes in the nature of the duties or other characteristics of the internship experience at that agency.  Internships once approved shall be re-evaluated periodically to ensure that the original defining characteristics are being carried out, or if the internship has changed significantly from year to year or from student to student. 
  • New Social Science internships. A new internship position can be established by a faculty member, having been proposed after discussion with an agency and/or a current Pitt-Johnstown student majoring in one of the social sciences and in academic good standing. The procedure for a student who is proposing an internship requires that the student present a formal proposal to a full-time faculty member of the sociology department that he/she (the faculty member) establish, monitor, and review an internship experience for that student in a particular agency for an upcoming semester or year.  After the proposal has been agreed to by the supervising faculty member, it should then be presented to, and reviewed and approved by the Division Chair, including particularly the following aspects: 
    • The location of the internship experience, full name of the sponsoring agency, and the specific agency supervisor to whom the student will be responsible and who will supervise and oversee the student’s work on the internship;
    • The duration of the internship (the starting and finishing dates of work at the agency), the number of hours worked per day at the agency site, and the number of academic credits (3-12 credits) to be awarded for it;
    • A brief statement of the appropriateness of the internship experience to the student’s major and/or special field of interest;
    • A brief statement of the appropriateness of the faculty member chosen to establish, monitor and supervise this internship;
    • An enumeration of the specific duties the student would be expected to perform within the proposed internship experience; as negotiated by the faculty member with the agency and agency supervisor; and
    • Stipulation of evaluative criteria for successful completion of the internship and the granting of academic credit, as agreed to by the faculty member and the agency supervisor, and understood by the intern.  Remember (as mentioned above) that all Social Science internship experiences are graded on a pass/fail (S/U) basis only.  Also, remember that internship credits may not be used to fulfill General education or major requirements toward graduation, and may not be readily transferred to other campuses of the University of Pittsburgh or to other colleges which may not recognize pass/fail credits or internship credits toward their degree programs. 

A CLOSING COMMENT:  Internships can be a personally and professionally rewarding experience but they are not for all students. Students wishing to explore whether an internship is a good choice for them are encouraged to meet with their faculty advisor early in the process of considering the option. The Sociology Department reserves the right to deny an internship to students whose academic record does not indicate a probable successful experience. QUESTIONS? Contact your academic adviser.

IMPORTANT NOTICE:  Students should be aware that there are limits upon the availability of faculty time for monitoring internships. Internships are a privilege granted to a limited number of students, not a right guaranteed to all who request one. The Sociology Department may have to screen and select from internship aspirants in any given term.

October 2006

Last Reviewed: October 21, 2006