For Some Majors, Internship Credit No Easy Task
Filipa Calado, Class of 2011
September 23, 2011
Filed under Quill
I arrived breathless in the lobby of the Media Studies department. “Can I help you?” asked the receptionist. “Yes,” I answered, still slightly panting, “I would like to speak to one of the department heads about receiving academic credit for an internship.” “Oh!” her voice perked up. “Please, take a seat, I will be right with you.”
I slumped onto one of the chairs in front of her desk. I had been all over campus that day, visiting a total of three departments and one Dean. The physical exertions and anxieties of my pursuit left me dejected and desperate.
“What is your major?” The receptionist asked after a couple of moments. “English.” I replied flatly, knowing full well from experience what her response would be. “Oh…” The receptionist looked down and frowned sympathetically. “Well, the thing is…. We don’t really offer internship credit to non-majors.”
Disclaimer: if you are not a Media Studies, Politics, History, Spanish, Art or Management major, and plan one day to get an internship, there is something you should know—you will be denied academic credit for the internship. Most departments, like my own, do not offer the program to their students, period. It doesn’t exist. When I asked an English professor why the department doesn’t have an internship program he said, “How many internships are about literary analysis?” This response compels students like myself, who are not in the abovementioned majors, to make their suit elsewhere.
Senior English major Lauren Henderson had a similar experience, “I had been accepted for an internship on the stipulation that they could compensate me with academic credit. I sat with the receptionist from the English department while she called countless other departments, asking them if they could offer an English major academic credit. They all said no, and I lost the internship.”
The reason behind these responses is as synonymous as the refusals themselves—academic internships require a level of knowledge and coursework that non-majors just do not have. The result is inevitable—students who are not in the right majors are denied from receiving credit. The interdepartmental restrictions and red tape won’t allow it.
This is not the case with the nearby University of Maryland. Justin Cartagena, a senior English major at UM, had an internship for which he received academic credit from the English department. “There’s a weekly newsletter they email to all English majors that lists new internships, some for which we can receive academic credit. They mostly include publishing, media, and even business writing.”
Maria Calado, a senior accounting major who also goes to a state school, explains that her university has a general studies department just for this purpose. “If you want to get academic credit, and your department won’t allow it, you go to General Studies, and they are usually more than willing to help you out.”
However, it is important to remember that state schools have more resources than private ones. While the University of Maryland’s academic credit protocol may seem more accommodating than Catholic’s, there are certain advantages to having a smaller and more territorial department. There is a sense of familiarity and support that bigger schools like UM cannot viably offer to its students. I had very informative conversations with nearly every department head I meet with, particularly my own. Though they could not help me—the interdepartmental red tape barred them from doing so—they spoke with me at length, and I recognized genuine sympathy in their faces and words. Past their gentle encouragements I sensed the similar incapacity they all shared—there was nothing they could do. There was no “General Studies” department at Catholic. The end result was as frustrating as the Dean’s parting comment from our meeting: I’m not the first, and I certainly won’t be the last.