[OP-ED] The Importance of Internships: An Opinion Editorial of SCOM Professors and Students’ views on Internships

Students in the School of Communication Studies at James Madison University should do an internship in order to become successful. SCOM advisors and professors encourage students to do an internship in preparation for the workforce.

“Participating in an internship allows students to put their knowledge into practice and to make sense of what they are learning,” explains Dr. Pete Bsumek, internship coordinator for Advocacy Studies in SCOM. “It is important for students to experience and learn in an organizational setting.”

SCOM offers internship programs for students looking to pursue a career in the field of communication studies. According to Dr. Toni Whitfield, Organizational and Health Communication internship coordinator in SCOM, “Students should do several internships if they can. Even if that means after graduation, you never know when an internship can turn into a job offer.” According to a Forbes article titled, Odds are your Internship will get you a Job, “If you are a college graduate and you are working at a paid internship, a new study shows 60% of the time, that internship will turn into a job offer.”

Students should participate in an internship program before they enter the workforce. According to University of California Berkeley, the top five reasons to intern is because students gain real world experience which helps them make more educated career choices, become more attracted to employers, connect their classroom experience to the the real world in order to enhance performance, develop professional contacts and get their foot in the door. Both Bsumek and Whitfield say that “along with developing experience, an internship program should also help students figure out if the selected field of interest is something they want to continue.”

In order to be eligible for an internship through SCOM, students are required to have at least a 2.5 overall grade point average, completed the SCOM core classes with a “C” or better, have at least 75 hours of course credit as well as a successful completion of the courses relevant to the planned internship. Bsumek added, “It is important for students to begin an internship with as much academic experience and relevant knowledge as possible.”

Besides Bsumek and Whitfield, SCOM offers two other internship coordinators. Dr. Rozanne Leppington is the supervisor for students interested in mediation and conflict and Dr. Michael Smilowitz advises all other communication students looking to participate in an SCOM internship. Another successful way to find internship opportunities in communication studies is through SCOM professors.

Internship coordinators and professors help students find internships locally. They also encourage and help them find internships back in their hometown or other cities where students wish to work. Dr. Frank Kalupa, a Public Relations professor in SCOM, works with members of the Public Relations Student Society of America chapter at JMU on creating networks and connections with alumni in big cities on the east coast. Several SCOM students have found year-long and summer internships through agency visits and alumni events that PRSSA has attended. Kalupa says that “many students participate in virtual internships through companies they are interested in. It is a great way for students to gain the same experience as if they were participating in a face-to-face internship; the only difference is that students are creating networks and connections through an organization that can possibly be their future job after graduating JMU.”

Students should always accept an internship offer even if it is not a paid one. A Daily Beast article titled, Why Students Shouldn’t Take Unpaid Internships, say that the rising cost of academic tuition is not worth unpaid labor and that “unpaid internships don’t do as much for you in the job market as paid ones do.”  What people do not understand is that students can do part-time internships while being able to work a paid job at the same time. Part-time internships are just as beneficial as full-time internships. It also does not matter if a student is doing a paid internship, unpaid internship or doing it for academic credit; Kalupa says that “an internship is about experience and working hands-on in an organizational setting.”

Along with learning hands-on, “As an intern, you learn how to understand people and why they do what they do,” describes senior SCOM major Cassie Lenski, who speaks of her internship experience through JMU Public Affairs.  She says that “Students who can find an internship with an organization that treats them as an actual intern will be prepared to step into any entry-level position at top-notch firms when they graduate.”

It does not matter what kind of internship a student participates in, it is how the selected internship benefits them and what they get out of it. If a student is looking to get a job outside of college they should do an internship.