Summertime Stints Washington and Lee students utilize their summers through research, volunteer work and internship opportunities, both on campus and across the globe.
“We hope internship experiences underscore all the other courses, values and lessons students learn at a liberal arts college.”
~ Professor Pam Luecke
Every summer, Washington and Lee University students spend time gaining experiences in their professional fields through research, volunteer or internship opportunities. From global impact passion projects to part-time office work, students get to explore career options and immerse themselves in new environments, all while applying their theoretical knowledge and learning new skills.
Both academic and non-academic departments and programs at W&L promote summer opportunities and deem them a necessary part of the liberal arts education. They also provide access to resources, alumni networks and funding options to support student activities financially and otherwise.
“We’ve increased the number of programs over the years to make sure students can participate and afford summer experiences,” said Elizabeth Knapp, director of the Johnson Program in Leadership and Integrity, “and one of our number one priorities going forward with the strategic plan is to give equal opportunities to all W&L students.”
Every strategic communication, journalism or business journalism major must complete at least 300 hours interning in a relevant news or communications field before graduating. This requirement is unique to these major disciplines and is considered an essential component of their undergraduate education.
Students in these majors are given access to a database that records notable alumni and past internships they have held in organizations around the world. Professor Pam Luecke serves as internship coordinator, guiding students through the job search.
This summer, approximately 50 students are working at local, national and international companies such as Bloomberg, ESPN, Zillow, Bush Radio and Nike Communications, Luecke said.
“Internships also give students a chance to see if they really do like the field they are majoring in, and to make valuable connections for life after graduation,” she said. “We hope internship experiences underscore all the other courses, values and lessons students learn at a liberal arts college.”
The Shepherd Poverty Studies Program also has an internship requirement as part of their poverty and human capabilities studies minor. During the summer, students pursuing this minor work full-time in supervised agencies that engage impoverished persons and communities in industries like economic development, education, environmental advocacy, health care and social service. The interns work with organizations or individuals to better understand the multidimensional issues surrounding poverty in the U.S. and abroad.
Funding for these eight-week summer internships is provided by the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty and Johnson Opportunity Grants, in addition to scholarships from the International Education and Provost’s offices.
Another credit-worthy summer program that combines in-class learning with field work is the Cape Town Summer Internship Program, which is offered by the Business Administration and Politics departments.
Through this program, students from different major disciplines travel to Cape Town, South Africa, to learn more about its culture, business climate and history. Participating students work 30 hours a week in various fields that match their professional interests, such as advertising, education, finance, human rights and web development.
These internships, along with other site-based and classroom learning opportunities, foster a deeper understanding of South Africa’s post‐apartheid political system and societal landscape. Through class meetings, a paper, journaling, blogging and a final poster, the students engage their readings and field work to navigate their role in the larger global work force.
Outside of academic department initiatives, the Office of Career and Professional Development is committed to helping students through any part of the hiring process in order to find the perfect summer opportunity. From editing a resume to advising on salary negotiations, the staff ensures that students secure their ideal summer opportunities, irrespective of major disciplines and past experiences.
“If you are a student who knows exactly what kind of path you want,” said Director of Student Advising Molly Steele, “a summer internship is a great way to gain some experience and foundational skills that make you a competitive candidate when you are looking for a full-time opportunity.”
For those students who are still undecided, summer internships are a great way to explore specific interests — and, more importantly, figure out what they don’t like early on, said Steele. Her hope for students is to have summer experiences that not only look great on a resume but also fulfill other professional or personal goals.
Associate Provost Marcia France encourages students to explore many career possibilities during summers. One of the most accessible opportunities offered is the Summer Research Scholar program, which allows interested students to do collaborative research with faculty members and dig deeper into their fields of interest.
From analyzing spider silk glue to studying the effects of obesity in rat reproduction and from discovering oral histories of W&L to discovering genetic variations in crawfish, summer scholars go beyond the classroom learning and research into niche fields of the sciences and humanities.
Said France, “Any worthwhile endeavor will either push you out of your comfort zone or get you to think about the world or the field differently, or will pique your creativity.”
Find out more about students’ #wlusummer18 experiences on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — @wlunews.