Internship/Culminating Experience Policy
An internship or culminating experience is a structured work experience for academic credit which is typically scheduled in the last semester and is directed by an academic mentor/professor with the direct work experiences supervised by a qualified professional in a work environment. For the student, internships offer the potential for valuable learning opportunities outside the standard classroom setting. The internship can also serve as a bridge between the traditional academic setting and the professional world to which the student aspires. Internships offer the opportunity for the beginning of lifelong learning for students; therefore, attention to a student’s life after graduation should be considered in the course design.
Internships offer a rich array of opportunities for faculty development, positive town/gown relationships, and interaction with professional communities throughout the country and the world. Internship supervision may serve as a particularly fruitful means of faculty development, giving faculty face-to-face contact and exchange with the professional world most closely related to a faculty member’s academic expertise.
Internships offer an opportunity to contribute directly to the educational and developmental growth of participating students. The internship can also foster a useful relationship between the sponsoring organization and the academic institution in which both parties benefit through shared knowledge, resources and goals.
The Internship/Culminating Experience utilizes a shared-model format that includes the following elements: centralized coordination of policies, application procedures through the appropriate academic department/program, academic department/program control and evaluation over site approvals, completion of requisite documentation of site/agency supervision agreements, faculty monitoring of site processes and student work-related conduct, evaluation of student achievement (academic and work activities), and the awarding of credit.
The Internship/Culminating experience has stated roles indicative of a shared-model format. The shared-model format formalizes the practical and realistic involvement of the various players in the creation, development, monitoring, and evaluation of the internship or culminating experience. The roles include those of the Academic Department, faculty mentor, student, and experience site/agency.
Institutional support, a philosophical commitment evidenced by allocations of both financial and human resources, is required for internships to meet program goals of the department and academic units that offer them (e.g., interdisciplinary centers and cooperative education programs). Specific learning objectives, carefully defined by faculty, will dictate the role a given internship plays in the requirements for the major or program.
Academic departments and institutions that offer internships have a responsibility to assure the availability of adequate funding for regular internship site visits and/or other means of effective internship supervision. The institution must also identify a funding source for equitable compensation for appropriate faculty internship supervision. The faculty supervisor will be a full-time member of the department from which the internship is offered and will be qualified to
supervise the internship in the respective subject area. Some part-time or non-faculty supervisors may also serve effectively if they have academic qualifications, training, and experience equivalent to that of appropriate faculty supervisors. The department offering the internship, in consultation with the School Dean, must determine how many internships can be effectively supervised in a particular semester and how such supervision will affect faculty load.
- Site Selection
A good internship site will provide the student with practical experience in the student’s area of academic interest. The site’s personnel should provide mentoring and instruction to the student as part of the student’s internship. Students are responsible for completing an internship application and finding internship sites and site supervisors suitable to the student’s goals and the Department’s academic criteria; qualified faculty may assist students in determining if the students’ chosen sites are appropriate for the internship. There are several ways to locate acceptable internship sites:
- The faculty or Department Internship Coordinator may use professional contacts to solicit internships at appropriate sites.
- An agency may solicit the department for participation in the program. Agencies wishing to have an internship may be requested to submit a proposal describing their identity themselves, listing their credentials, and indicating the job requirements for the intern.
- Students take responsibility for researching, identifying, and finding possible internship opportunities. This activity will help students to identify their own career goals and the manner in which they may best be achieved, and it will also help students to learn career preparation skills that will be useful after graduation. Students may seek those internships through organizations already listed by the College as participating agencies or propose an agency found through faculty advice, professional acquaintance, or Internet research. All internship opportunities must be reviewed and approved by appropriate faculty prior to course registration.
Once a student is accepted at a site, the faculty mentor ensures that a fully executed, notarized, contractual agreement is in place. This agreement must be completed prior to the start of the student’s activity at the site. A copy of the contract will remain at both the internship site and SUNY Canton. Contractual details may vary by program and department within SUNY Canton.
Assistance to students looking for potential internship opportunities will be made available by providing a list of participating agencies through the student’s respective academic advisor for the program of study. The Career Services’ Office may also be a resource for faculty, internship program coordinators, and for students initiating their own proposals.
A site visit may be useful prior to accepting an agency’s participation in the internship program. While this is not always possible, new sites may be visited when faculty supervisors visit previously approved nearby sites.
- Student Eligibility and Preparation
To be eligible for an internship, students must meet all institutional and degree requirements. Specific course requirements, determined by the supervising academic department as well as by internship sites, may require students to have specific academic and professional skills. The department may require a minimum cumulative grade point average and grade point average in the major. Students and their parents should be informed that receiving credit for an internship requires payment of tuition, as with any other course.Student preparation for internship application should include development of such materials and skills as:
- Cover letters
- Mock interviews
- Research to acquire advance knowledge of each company or other internship site
- Student statement of learning goals
- Student statement of proposed internship duties
- Student statement of career goals
- Student Health Insurance and Financial Aid
Students serving internships should check with their health insurers to determine whether insurance coverage applies to the internship. Students should also check with their financial aid advisors to determine whether their eligibility for financial aid will be affected by the internship. Issues to consider include:
- Whether the internship activity or course receives credit.
- How much credit the internship activity or course will receive, including whether the student will be considered a full-time student during the internship.
- Whether the internship occurs on campus or off campus.
- Learning Agreement
A learning agreement is an arrangement between the College and the field site to identify the learning activities that will be part of the internship. A learning agreement will be completed between the department faculty or internship coordinator and the site representative prior to course registration and commencement of the internship.As with more traditional face-to-face methods of classroom instruction, the internship learning outcomes will be designed, supervised, and evaluated by appropriate and qualified faculty in the discipline. Faculty design of internship learning outcomes will include internship site selection, reporting of relevant activities during internship, and evaluation of student achievement. Internship activities will be designed to help accomplish stated learning outcomes. Appropriate and qualified faculty in the discipline will determine the amount of credit, required activities, and the grade. During the internship experience, both faculty and site supervisors will monitor the internship activities.Important elements to consider in the internship learning agreement include:
- Necessary course registration information (e.g., course title and number, number of credit hours, name of faculty supervisor, date and semester of participation).
- The required number of hours in the workplace.
- A clear description of both the site requirements and the required academic components (e.g., log, journal, paper, oral presentation).
- A clear description of intended learning outcomes and activities.
- A clear description of the responsibilities of the College, the student, and the site.
- Signatures by the appropriate parties, which must include a site representative and the appropriate departmental supervisors. Student signatures may also be required on this form to indicate understanding and acceptance of course requirements.
- To meet program objectives via applied experiences that complement academic learning.
- To facilitate successful partnerships that are mutually beneficial to the student, the participating organization, and SUNY Canton.
- To encourage students to interact, network, and collaborate.
- To develop creative and rewarding experiential learning activities.
- To enhance participating students’ “professional job skills.”
- To assist students in gaining experience with the supervisor-employee relationship, cooperation with co-workers, and communication skills.
- To create opportunities for the exchange of ideas, research, and expertise between students, faculty, and employers.
When drafting a learning agreement, the faculty member should be aware that internship sites are more likely to give significant time to internship training if the intern has made a significant commitment of time to the internship experience on site.
The definitions in New York State, Title 8, Chapter II §50.1 (n) and (o) of the Regulations of the Commissioner indicate the minimum time requirements for awarding credit:(n) “Credit means a unit of academic award applicable towards a degree offered by the institution.”(o) “Semester hour means a credit, point, or other unit granted for the satisfactory completion of a course which requires at least 15 hours (of 50 minutes each) of instruction and at least 30 hours of supplementary assignments, except as otherwise provided pursuant to section 52.2(c)(4) of this Subchapter. This basic measure shall be adjusted proportionately to translate the value of other academic calendars and formats of study in relation to the credit granted for study during the two semesters that comprise an academic year.”Credit
Because the academic institution awards the credit, it is important that the learning experience meet State Education Department and SUNY guidelines for (A) time and (B) achievement of learning objectives.
This is the New York State Education Department formula for calculating the minimum number of instructional and supplementary hours required for one credit in a course. Because this adds up to 45 hours of work, the minimum number of combined instructional and supplementary hours per credit for an internship is also 45. Since the State Education Department requirement is a minimum requirement, departments may require more than 45 combined instructional and supplementary hours of internship experience per credit earned.
The State University of New York recognizes these minimums in the June 30, 1976 Memorandum to Presidents titled “Credit/Contact Hour Relationship” (Vol. 76, No. 8). In Section 5 (“Experiential Learning”), the policy states, “When life or work experience is to be credited as a concurrent portion of an academic program design, as in an internship, one semester credit hour will be awarded for each 40-45 clock-hour week of supervised academic activity that provides the learning considered necessary to program study.” The SUNY Policy statement may be viewed at:
Consequently, SUNY Policy and the Commissioner’s regulations are in the same range regarding minimum internship experience hours required for one academic credit. Institutions that require 45 hours or more combined instructional and supplementary hours per credit are in compliance with both SUNY policy and the Commissioner’s regulations.
- Learning Objectives, Outcomes, and Activities
- In addition to the minimum amount of time required to earn an hour of credit, the quality of the learning must be college level. Thus, Title 8, Chapter II of the Regulations of the Commissioner, §52.2(c)(5) makes plain that internships must include specific learning outcomes: “The institution shall assure that credit is granted only to students who have achieved the stated objectives of each credit-bearing learning activity.”This criterion is especially relevant for internships where some time may be spent on routine activities. Therefore, faculty in the disciplinary field need to identify student learning outcomes for the internship in order for the faculty to supervise students’ progress and to evaluate the achievement of those learning outcomes by the end of the internship.
- The Middle States Commission on Higher Education’s Standards for Accreditation and Requirements of Affiliation (2015) and Characteristics of Excellence in Higher Education (2011) also advise that credit awarded for internships be based upon learning outcomes: “Procedures to assess learning for the award of academic credit should define college-level learning and state clearly that credit is awarded for demonstrated learning and not merely for experience” (53). In the same document, the Middle States Commission lists the following among its “Fundamental Elements for Experiential Learning”:
- “Credit awarded for experiential learning that is supported by evidence in the form of an evaluation of the level, quality, and quantity of that learning.”
- “Evaluators of experiential learning who are knowledge-able about the subject matter and about the institution’s criteria for the granting of college credit.” (54)
Learning objectives or outcomes for internships should reflect institutional goals as well as more discipline-specific goals at the departmental level. All departments that have internship programs should have outcomes relating to the communication, cognitive, and personal skills the faculty expect students to achieve. In addition to these general objectives, the concepts of the discipline will also determine a set of more specific outcomes.
Some institutions may wish to design a system for determining the amount of credit awarded that is more reflective of internship learning activities and outcomes than are the time-based methods of awarding credit used for the standard classroom. Examples of these methods of determining credit amounts would include:
- Basing the amount of credit upon successful completion of an academic component, such as a paper or other assignments, that may be included with or in addition to the State Education Department minimum requirement of 45 hours combined instructional and supplementary hours per credit.
- Basing the amount of credit on successful student completion of an appropriate number of learning outcomes, as well as the State Education Department minimum requirement of 45 combined instructional and supplementary hours per credit. All systems or formulae for awarding credit must comply with University policies and State regulations. New York State regulations set minimum standards: 15 (50-minute) instructional hours and 30 “supplementary” hours are required to earn one unit of academic credit, and the regulations require that credit be granted only to students who have achieved the stated objectives of each credit-bearing learning activity. Ultimately, faculty are responsible for evaluating the extent to which student activities achieve the curricular goals of the program.
- SupervisionInternships require a combined supervisory effort between the educational institution and the internship site.
- Internship supervision will be provided by appropriate full-time faculty from the department that offers the internship. Some part-time or non-faculty supervisors may also serve effectively if they have academic qualifications, training, and experience equivalent to that of appropriate faculty supervisors.
- An appropriately qualified individual from the agency will supervise the students placed at each site in consultation with the supervising faculty member from the department. The agency supervisor will provide training and mentoring that will benefit the student.
- In addition, campus administrative support and coordination may be provided by a central internship management office in support of the department.Effective faculty supervision has a direct effect on the quality of the student learning experience. Institutions offering internships must provide resources necessary for effective performance of that responsibility. To maintain effective internship supervision, class size should not exceed numbers that preclude adequate supervision, and consideration should be given to internship supervision in relation to faculty load.
- Roles and Responsibilities
Department/ProgramEach Department/Program provides specific policy for its role in the supervision and activities in academic oversight by:
- Documenting student work-site clock hours associated with required contact hours for the student-enrolled academic credit.
- Maintaining application for internship/culminating experience with department; student logs; course materials submitted by student; site-supervision evaluations; and faculty-supervisor, site/agency, and student evaluations.
- Assisting in the identification of potential work experience agencies as needed.
- Coordinating site contacts, visitations, and contact with work-site supervisors as appropriate and ensuring the degree and quality of on-site supervision.
- Maintaining articulation of purpose and process of academic goals and work-site experience as agreed upon in the Learning Plan.
- Determining evaluation processes of academic experience via supervision of site appropriateness, student progress, and faculty participation/supervision of the experience.
- Serving as liaison and facilitator of communication between students, faculty, and sites.
- Determining the number of credit hours awarded per internship.
- Ensuring the suitability of internship placements.
Supervising Faculty MemberEach supervising faculty member/mentor performs, completes, and maintains his/her role by maintaining:
- An internship/culminating experience log of contacts and documentation from the student and internship or culminating experience site (supervisor and agency managers) relative to the experience for each participating student.
- Timely and accurate completion of School and/or Department required assessment documents associated with the specific student as it provides for site evaluation/student evaluation.
- Documentation of student associated activities, process activities, and actions log that documents student supervision activities.
- Grading rubric per approved course outline.
- Grade submissions, including midterm and final grade.
Each Internship/Culminating Experience Site establishes and maintains its role by:
- Providing information via established documents to the assigned or designated faculty mentor regarding the student’s workplace, work assignments, and student’s responsibilities throughout the duration of the experience.
- Agreeing to the objectives of the student and faculty mentor as established in the Learning Plan and academic department prospectus.
- Providing ongoing supervision and performance evaluation of the student and directing those evaluations to the faculty mentor.
- Accommodating site evaluation, visitations, or other site assessment processes as required by the faculty or staff of the SUNY Canton department faculty.
Each student initiates the internship or culminating experience via the School or Academic Department according to their process and:
- Completes the required applications for the School or Department and the proposed experience site.
- Contacts the site “employers” and interviews for the internship or culminating experience opportunity.
- Negotiates the Learning Plan with site and faculty supervisor.
- Meets the commitments set forth in the Learning Plan and requirements of the Department/Program Internship/Culminating Experience policies.
- Provides necessary information and materials as required for the evaluation of the experience.
- Seeks assistance from the faculty mentor/supervisor and site supervisor to assist in realizing the learning/work experience expectations.
- Registers for the appropriate number of credit hours for the internship.
- Faculty-Student Communication During the Internship
The faculty supervisor and student intern will maintain regular contact regarding student progress during the entire course of the internship. Contact may be established through email and other electronic communication, telephone, faculty-student meetings, site visits, and/or hard-copy communications. While the frequency of contact may vary,
- Reciprocal communication at least once a week is recommended.
- At least one site visit is recommended where geographically feasible.
- Seminars or classroom meetings with interns may be considered in any combination of the following: prior to the commencement of the internship, during the course of the internship, or at the conclusion of the internship.Site visits are strongly recommended, although internship programs may be selective about which internships require on-site visits and which do not. Even when the supervisor knows the site and client very well, on-site visits give the student the opportunity to speak with the faculty supervisor about issues that may not have been addressed in classroom settings or in email communications during the internship. On-site visits also allow the internship site personnel to discuss the student’s progress toward achieving learning outcomes and to understand the importance the academic institution places on supervised and mentored work experiences. In cases where more than one visit per semester is required, a student may be asked to visit the supervisor on campus. In addition, meetings in which interns interact with each other in a group setting or classroom may be required. When geographic distance makes site visits difficult, other methods of faculty supervision may be used. Telephone calls and email correspondence provide direct communication between the faculty supervisor and the site supervisor. Visits can be conducted by other faculty, business professionals, or alumni located near the internship site. When any person other than the assigned faculty supervisor makes visits, the faculty supervisor will select and provide guidance to that individual relating to the visit. The faculty supervisor should also list the internship requirements and learning outcomes.
- Reports from the Internship Site
Communication should include written reports from both the site representative and the student. Faculty should be able to determine that desired learning outcomes can be or are being achieved in accordance with the original learning agreement and that academic standards are being maintained as the internship progresses.This may require departmental or faculty supervisors and site representatives to meet to discuss whether mutually agreed-upon objectives are being met. It is recommended that reports from the internship site supervisors be required at least once prior to the conclusion of the internship.
International internships involve the same policy decisions and academic rigor as domestic internships. A review of the College’s academic and student-life policies can identify some areas that might benefit from clarifying expectations about conduct, academic honesty, transfer of credit, etc. If assistance in internship placement or supervision is needed, other colleges can be helpful, and there are also agencies that place and supervise international interns. All agencies and educational institutions involved in a student’s international internship should reach clear understandings contained in written agreements regarding costs, internship supervision, and credit to be earned for the internship experience. Academic departments, campus offices of international education, continuing education, academic advisement, and the Registrar are among those that can be especially helpful when they work together as a team to ensure that proper internship registration has occurred and that credits or experience earned in an international experience can be applied to a student’s graduation requirements at the home campus. Of course, advisement must include the additional considerations of pre-departure arrangements, traveling abroad, cross-cultural understanding, and health concerns. Students may need help securing passports, visas, and health insurance. Advance planning about medical issues cannot avoid all emergencies, but it can help with foreseeable situations. If an international site wants the student to have insurance covering the acts or omissions of the student, it may be possible to get such affiliation insurance, but the cost is frequently prohibitive. Information about cultural differences, attitudes towards Americans, safety, and general travel suggestions can minimize culture shock and facilitate the adjustment process. Also, clarifying expectations for the student’s return to the College may help prepare for a smooth transition back into college work. Study-abroad offices can be of great assistance in this effort.
- EvaluationAs with all other courses, the faculty member is responsible for evaluating student work and determining the grade. Students’ grades should be based on satisfactory completion of requirements and assignments and the degree to which the learning objectives stated in the learning agreement have been achieved.
- The faculty mentor will assign the final grade utilizing the site-mentor evaluation, portfolio evaluation, and written assignments.
- At a minimum, the student will be evaluated by the site mentor at the midterm and again at the end of the internship/culminating experience. These evaluations will be utilized by the faculty mentor in assigning the final grade to the student. The site-mentor evaluation may contain skill components, as well as professional behavior components.
- Evaluation of the portfolio and other required written assignments completed as part of the internship/culminating experience will also be included in the evaluation criteria.
Each student will be required to submit a weekly log/journal. This may be a documentation of hours worked, tasks completed, or reflection and self-assessment regarding the work experiences of time frame.Each student completing a SUNY Canton internship/culminating experience will be required to submit a portfolio as a final “product” of the experience. While specific contents may vary by School/Department, the portfolio will contain, at a minimum:
- Weekly/daily logs.
- All written assignments completed as part of the internship/culminating experience.
- All evaluation forms completed during the internship/culminating experience.
- Student’s evaluation of the internship/culminating experience site.
- A presentation to an appropriate audience, if applicable.
Students in all programs will sign an Accountability agreement. Some programs may also require that the student sign a Confidentiality agreement.
- Program Assessment
The Department and Program Coordinator will engage in regular or periodic assessment of the internship program to determine its effectiveness and to find ways to improve the program. Some sources of information for such assessment might include reports from the internship site supervisor, surveys of alumni, or job statistics of graduates, if available. The student will submit regular reports during the internship that reveal the overall value of the internship experience, as well as more specific information about the site, faculty supervision, and accomplishment of learning outcomes. At the conclusion of the internship, students should submit a comprehensive evaluation of the internship experience. All evaluations will be reviewed by the faculty mentor. The results of any program review should be disseminated to all appropriate constituencies. This review should describe the most recent assessment of the program, what was learned from the assessment, and what improvements resulted. Feedback that links assessment to positive change is a regular component of effective-programmatic assessment. Such an overview/analysis should include a description of the planning processes, including those used to formulate and implement changes based on program review analysis.Assessment recommendations are based on principles set forth in the State University of New York University Faculty Senate Guide for the Evaluation of Undergraduate Academic Programs (revised 2001).Advisories
- Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
In general, companies that work with SUNY student interns want to be sure that the student cannot be classed as an “employee.” Where there is no employment relationship under the FLSA, the minimum wage and overtime pay provisions of the FLSA will not apply. (See 29 U.S.C. §213.)The Department of Labor, relying on U.S. Supreme Court decisions addressing the status of trainees under the FLSA (e.g., Walling v. Portland Terminal Co., 330 U.S. 148 (1947)), has developed a six-part test for assessing whether a trainee, intern, or student is covered as an employee under the FLSA.In general, internships are subject to the FLSA, and academic credit is not an alternative to minimum-wage compensation. There is, however, a “trainee” exception. In an advisory, the U.S. Department of Labor states that if all of the following criteria apply, students are not employees within the meaning of the FLSA.
- The training, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to that which would be given in a vocational school.
- The training is for the benefit of the trainees or students.
- The trainees or students do not displace regular employees, but work under their close observation.
- The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees or students, and on occasion, his operations may actually be impeded.
- The trainees or students are not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training period.
- The employer and trainees or students understand that the trainees or students are not entitled to wages for the time spent in the training.Academic credit will generally satisfy criterion A. Criteria C, E and F are especially important as well. The trainee exception can still apply without the awarding of course credit, but the evidentiary burden for proving the exception is higher. The first two criteria would have to be shown more strongly than if credit were earned. The law states that the FLSA applies to enterprises that engage in interstate commerce or handle goods moved or produced in interstate commerce, when the enterprise does more than $500,000 in annual dollar volume of business. However, some employers and employees are covered regardless of the value of business done. Also, some employees are exempt by virtue of their positions. Therefore, it is not possible to make general statements about what businesses or employees are or are not covered by the FLSA.
- Unemployment Insurance and Student Interns
Companies and individuals working with student interns will generally be aware of State Unemployment Insurance Regulations. §511(17) of NYS Labor Law, the section that includes a discussion of unemployment insurance, notes that for unemployment insurance issues, “employment” does not include service performed by an individual enrolled at a public, educational institution as a student in a full-time program taken for credit which combines academic instruction with work experience that is an integral part of the program.
- Student Compensation
An individual university, college, school, department, or program may have its own policies and standards regarding compensation for students serving internships.
- Liability Issues
The internship is considered to be a learning experience that includes opportunity for student success and the possibility of student error. Some corporations or other internship sites may require student liability insurance. Some campuses may also require liability insurance for certain fields. Student liability insurance is only available for certain fields of study, and a written affiliation agreement between the College and the site is required for such insurance coverage. The local campus business or legal office should be consulted in such circumstances. All legal contracts must be approved by the Office of the Vice President for Administration.