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ASU English boosts skills-based training through funded internships


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September 11, 2023

What do most employers want to see on a job application? The answer, of course, is “experience.” 

But for full-time students, being able to legitimately add that line to a resume can be tricky — sort of a chicken-and-egg situation — unless they participate in an internship.

Arizona State University English major Margaret LaCorte said that through her internships, one at a literary magazine and one as a class teaching assistant, she gained confidence in her abilities and learned how to put her “best foot forward.” LaCorte expects to graduate next spring and hopes to work in publishing or teaching.

Ruby Macksoud, an instructional professional who directs the internship program in the Department of English at ASU, said this is exactly the outcome students should see. 

“Internships are a valuable part of the student experience,” she said. “Doing an internship builds skills and competencies that transfer to the workplace and smooth the transition from college.”

Employers agree.

Portrait of ASU student Margaret LaCorte

ASU English major Margaret LaCorte has had an internship at a literary magazine and as a teaching assistant. Photo courtesy Margaret LaCorte

 A 2022 survey of hiring managers by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) reveals internship experience as the “most influential factor worth examining while making tough hiring decisions.” 

But what if you don’t have time in your schedule for an internship because you have to work? What if paying for additional internship credits breaks the bank?

Starting this fall, ASU English offers a boost to its students who are contemplating an internship but don’t think they can take time away from their job or who may struggle to pay the tuition associated with for-credit internships.

The Department of English Scholarship for Students with Unpaid Internships is for undergraduates majoring in Department of English programs: English; culture, technology and environment; and film and media studies. The scholarship awards up to $3,000 per student to support them on the path to career readiness. Unlike loans, scholarships never have to be repaid.

“The vast majority of our students in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences work — often 20 or more hours per week,” explained Dean of Humanities Jeffrey Cohen. “A career-enabling internship thus becomes a challenge since they will face a wage penalty. ... And that's why I love that ASU English has started this program.”

The committee expects to award five scholarships each fall, spring and summer semester. Deadlines are Oct. 1 for spring internships, Feb. 1 for summer internships and Mar. 1 for fall internships.

Demonstrating knowledge and skills

ASU’s Department of English has a robust career development program, with more than 300 internship partners. Students can choose from the number of credits, depending on the number of hours they want to complete each week. All students in the department, including online students, are eligible to participate.

Having an internship may be even more important for students in the humanities than it is for students in other disciplines. While employers value the writing, critical thinking and analytical skills that English, philosophy and language majors bring to the table, applicants who show they have completed work similar to the actual job for which they’re applying may have a proverbial leg up in the process.

Maya Noto, who graduated with her English degree in 2022 and now works in marketing for a nonprofit, completed a paid internship during her last semester as a student. She said that being able to quit her restaurant job and work fewer hours let her focus on her studies. It also introduced a new realm of possibility for life beyond college, as she interacted with people who became mentors: “It allowed me to take time to invest in myself.”

Portrait of ASU student Maya Noto

ASU English alum Maya Noto completed a paid internship during her last semester as a student and now works in marketing for a nonprofit. Photo courtesy Maya Noto

English chair Krista Ratcliffe said that offering scholarships for students who complete unpaid internships was a way of leveling the playing field. 

“While some internships are paid, many are not,” she said. “Because not all students have access to paid internships, our departmental scholarships are intended to encourage internships for majors who might otherwise pass on an internship experience."

Any internship context — remote or in person, domestic or international — is an acceptable choice for students applying to the new Department of English scholarship. Students can also select the internship partner that fits best with their career interests; nonprofit organizations, government agencies, corporate environments and ASU academic or research units are all good places to start.

The scholarships are made possible in part by gifts to the department's internship support fund.

“Internships directly benefit students by creating pathways to doing work that matters to them and to their communities,” said Macksoud. “I’d call that a win-win.”

For more information, please visit the scholarship page on the Department of English website.

Top photo: Maya Noto, an ASU graduate in English, works at Arizona Humanities, where she held an internship as a student. Photo by Meghan Finnerty/ASU

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