High-Impact Internships


This resource is for instructors who want to make internship experiences “high-impact.” This could also be a part of a larger department discussion about intentionality and equity of internship experiences.


Internships are experiential learning opportunities for which students can receive course credit, but what these experiences look like from department to department is different. Here is an “official” definition from the National Association of Colleges and Employers:

An internship is a form of experiential learning that integrates knowledge and theory learned in the classroom with practical application and skills development in a professional setting. Internships give students the opportunity to gain valuable applied experience and make connections in professional fields they are considering for career paths; and give employers the opportunity to guide and evaluate talent.”[ref]“Position Statement: U.S. Internships,” July 2011. https://www.naceweb.org/about-us/advocacy/position-statements/position-statement-us-internships/.[/ref]

One way to increase equity and access to internship experiences is by creating a departmental list of expectations for 1 credit, 2 credit, and 3 credit internships. Internships should also be posted so that all students who are interested and eligible might be able to apply.

Some common road blocks for students not participating in internships are:

  • lack of clear departmental expectations
  • lack of clear internship-site expectations; the lack of rigor suggested in the internship description makes students feel like they’re doing work that is not purposeful
  • lack of transportation for off-campus internships
  • GPA requirements of the program prohibit students from applying to internships
  • either the pay is so low that they couldn’t afford to take an internship, or they cannot fit another three credits into their 18 credit allotment for financial aid to take the course for “credit.”
  • inflexible course schedules that are not conducive to leaving campus for an internship

Of this list, there are at least four that might be addressed by being intentional about setting consistent learning outcomes at the department level, as well as consistent expectations for students and the sites for which they are interning.


At the 2019 Instructional Development Institute at UW-Green Bay, Jennifer Ham, Ashley Heath, and Katia Levintova facilitated a workshop called “Internships as HIP Experiences: Creating Intentional Outcomes for All Students” where they unpacked why some students are not able to participate in internships on our campus. Part of this was in response to the Institute’s theme of High-Impact Experiences for All, but another consideration was the HIPS at Ten article that came out about in Change Magazine. The authors, Kuh, O’Donnell, and Geary Schneider responded to the claims that HIPs contribute to significant gains in retention rates and student success metrics for historically underrepresented student populations.[ref]Kuh, George, Ken O’Donnell, and Carol Geary Schneider. “HIPs at Ten.” Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning 49, no. 5 (2017): 8–16. https://doi.org/10.1080/00091383.2017.1366805.[/ref] Ham, Heath, and Levintova provided some strategies for departments to consider how their processes can change to increase equity and access to internship opportunities to better serve all of our students.


Depending on the departmental learning outcomes for internships, students might turn in a final project, paper, or work log from the internship. To better assess “the impact” of the internship, consider integrating authentic assessment into the discussion with your department.[ref]Vandervelde, Joan. “Rubrics and Assessment Resources.” University of Wisconsin – Stout, October 2, 2018. https://www.uwstout.edu/academics/online-professional-development/educational-resources-and-rubrics/rubrics-and-assessment-resources.[/ref]

Another resource for assessing high-impact experiences through student learning outcomes is the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ VALUE Rubrics.[ref]Rhodes, Terrel. Assessing Outcomes and Improving Achievement: Tips and Tools for Using Rubrics. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities. 2010. https://www.aacu.org/value-rubrics[/ref]


  • CATL is always happy to consult on pedagogical practice and to facilitate discussions of course design.

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.