Learning through Hands-on Experience in the Workplace

We believe that each student needs the kind of extended work-based learning opportunity that is traditionally given to nursing and education students in their clinical and field placements. Therefore, students in every major at Alverno College do at least one internship during which they work at a site off-campus for 8 to 12 hours a week for a semester, or 120 to 180 hours during the summer. Students attend a seminar on campus concurrently with the internship and receive academic credit for successfully completing both the seminar and the internship.

Alverno’s internship program has been in existence for more than 40 years and is highly regarded throughout the country. It was recognized by the National Society for Experiential Education with the “Experiential Program of the Year” award in 2001, and has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report as a “Program that really works — Internships/Co-ops” in the publication’s rankings of America’s Best Colleges. Unlike many college internship programs, Alverno integrates internships into the curriculum. The internship is seen as a continuation of the experiential learning that takes place on campus.

The Alverno internship program includes several support systems to make sure that learning takes place:

  • First, the Internship Office is responsible for all credit-bearing internships. Two staff members act as liaisons between the work site, faculty, and students. They help each student identify sites that match her interests and abilities. After interviewing at several sites, the student makes a selection. Staff provide a training workshop for students prior to the start of their work at the site. Along with faculty who teach the accompanying seminar, staff monitor the student’s progress throughout her internship by collecting and reviewing required documentation and by visiting each site.
  • Second, individuals from the community agree to serve as on-site mentors. In that role, they give the student direction regarding her work goals at the site. They supervise the student, and evaluate her progress through oral and written feedback.
  • Finally, faculty help students transfer their learning from classroom to workplace, and offer professional guidance as needed. This is accomplished through a biweekly seminar or through individual meetings, which provide the student with support and challenge her to learn through reflection on her experience at her work site.

Alverno’s commitment to internships is based on the fact that invaluable learning takes place in a real work situation. Students also perform valuable service for their sites. The following are examples of some recent internships:

  • A business and management major worked with the foundation department of a world-renowned Milwaukee manufacturing company. She designed a new brochure to promote volunteer events to employees and coordinated numerous successful employee volunteer events such as a read-in event at an elementary school and a flower sale for a national nonprofit organization.
  • A biology major assisted a team doing human-genome research at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
  • An art and English double major had significant responsibility to mount a show at a local arts center. She interviewed the artists, wrote the catalogue, helped hang the art, and prepared publicity materials for the show.
  • A professional communication major assisted a media relations director in a major county government office by writing press releases, coordinating press conferences, cataloguing media clippings for the archives, and creating print proclamations for events.
  • A history major was responsible for researching and writing briefing papers and updating the website for a national nongovernmental organization (NGO) in Washington, D.C.
  • A psychology major facilitated weekly group meetings of clients struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.

Our students are able to handle this kind of work due to their prior experience in our highly interactive classrooms. Alverno’s emphasis on experiential learning throughout the curriculum prepares students to bridge the gap between the classroom and the workplace. In addition, the college’s emphasis on the eight abilities mirrors the skills that are most sought after by employers. Mentors consistently praise our student interns for high-quality work and professional behavior.

National and International Internship Opportunities

Alverno College is affiliated with many schools and programs across the United States and abroad, and students have the option of applying for a national or international internship. A student who wishes to do an international internship must work concurrently with the Internship Office and the Alverno International & Intercultural Center while making arrangements to go abroad.

The following is a sample of the college’s program affiliations:

  • The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars, Washington, D.C.
  • University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia
  • Beijing Institute of Asian Studies, University of Peking
  • National Science Foundation, Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU)
  • University of Chester, UK.