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General Internship Information

Authentic participation at a high level

HECUA programs are known for their rigorous project-based internships. HECUA guides students carefully and co-teaches with organizations. Every HECUA semester program has a credit-bearing internship component that is integral to the experiential learning HECUA designs at each program site. In a tight job market, HECUA internships give students credibility and competitive edge through professional experience and networking in their field of interest.

Where HECUA students intern

HECUA places students with mission-driven nonprofit organizations, educational initiatives, and governmental agencies. Many HECUA internships in U.S. programs provide learning opportunities in community grassroots organizing. HECUA selects internship sites where the mission of the organization closely complements the program curriculum. The alignment of student action and learning provides opportunities for students to apply, test, and connect what they learn in the classroom with what happens in the real world.

HECUA is in partnership with hundreds of internship placement opportunities worldwide. Many of these organizations operate within a local context, while others integrate a global focus. The opportunities are different each semester because organizations develop new projects and priorities, and HECUA regularly reaches out to new organizations. The pages describing specific HECUA programs on this web site list potential internship sites for that program. Each placement listed may not be available every year; the list indicates the kinds of organizations with which HECUA maintains partnerships, and the types of internship projects that have been available in past semesters.

What makes HECUA internships worthy of credit?

Students spend significant time at internships (160-200 hours per semester for most programs), and HECUA works closely and intentionally with the internship sites as partners and co-teachers, collaborating to design projects and tasks that address students' professional and educational goals. Classroom work guides students to draw connections between what they are doing in their internship and what they are learning from texts, visiting speakers, and class discussion. In assignments, students investigate the mission and history of their internship sites, and connect relevant policies and case studies to classroom work. Throughout the experience students receive constant guidance on how to contribute at the internship in order to best meet their own educational, professional, and personal goals and the goals and needs of the organization.

The internship placement process

HECUA programs in the United States typically place students at an internship site one to two months before a semester begins. In HECUA's programs abroad, students are introduced to options within the first or second week of the program. Students participating in U.S. programs meet with the Manager of Internships and Community Partnerships to discuss their interests and available internships. The Manager of Internships coaches students on how to prepare a résumé and interview. Though self-directed in many ways, students are encouraged and supported by HECUA staff throughout the process of finalizing a placement. In HECUA's programs abroad, the placement process similarly involves students preparing a résumé and interviewing with an organization, but in each location, the placement process is informed by local culture and by the central issues that animate each program. For example, in Northern Ireland, where students study the transformation to a post-conflict democracy, students engage in a negotiation process and come to consensus about which internship each will pursue.

The internship and integration work typically counts for one or two of the four credit-bearing components of the semester programs, depending on hours devoted to internship work. All students are graded on participation at their internship, reflection and analysis about their internship in class, and on analytical and creative written assignments.

Paid Summer Internships

Paid summer internships are often available to students through HECUA. Over the past decade, these placements were made possible by the generous funding of local foundations including the Otto Bremer Foundation, The Saint Paul Foundation, the Knight Foundation, the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative, and the F.R. Bigelow Foundation.

Many of these sought-after summer placements are reserved for students who have already participated in HECUA academic programs. HECUA alumni typically have an understanding of how to enter communities respectfully, have been trained to recognize multiple viewpoints on contentious issues, and have the adaptability and project management skills needed for community-based internships.

See our pages on HECUA's most recent summer program, the Central Corridor Internship Program (CCIP), which HECUA developed and ran from May 2010 to August 2013. The program supported internship projects focused on civic, environmental, social, and economic opportunities and impacts of a Light Rail Transit (LRT) infrastructure project on diverse communities in Saint Paul’s Central Corridor. The program was intended to strengthen the capacity of organizations to address the opportunities and impacts of the LRT on their core constituencies, foster opportunities for collaboration and shared dialogue, share project impacts and lessons with the broader public, and strengthen the capacity of community organizations to utilize summer interns.