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A Sept. 19 article in the Harvard Business Review is boldly headlined: “Yes, employers do value liberal arts degrees.”
As it turns out, employers also really, really like liberal arts grads with internships.
According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers Class of 2019 Student Survey, the job offer rate for the class of 2019 was “strongly tied” to internship experience. Other studies, such as the recent employer research by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, have borne out these trends, with 93% of executives and 94% of hiring managers saying they would be more likely to hire a recent graduate who has held an internship or apprenticeship.
“One way to robot-proof a career is for students to use their experiential learning internships to build additional skills and competencies,” confirmed Ruby Macksoud, who directs internships for the Department of English at Arizona State University. “Internships are a valuable bridge between academic training and professional work.”
The Department of English internship program, in concert with The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Futures Center, works to place its students in professional internships according to each student’s academic plan and career interests.
“The Futures Center is good for students who are looking for general career exploration and planning resources, and English’s internship program is good for students who are looking for customized, humanities/English-focused career exploration and planning resources," Macksoud said. "In this way, English majors can ‘pinball’ between the two of us for the best fit at different points on their academic and career paths.”
Nioni Broome, a Starbucks partner and online film and media studies student based in Montana, is a success story for a customized, local internship with personal mentoring. A former dental assistant, Broome decided to switch paths, needing something more in line with her creative interests. “Her love of working in the creative arts really came through in her internship work,” Macksoud said.
Broome completed two internships in her local area, one at ABC Fox Montana and one at Broken Life Media LLC. Her barista job actually opened doors in an unexpected way. “One of my regular customers is a news anchor for ABC Fox Montana, and one day I just asked her if they might want an intern at the station,” she explained. “She was so kind and referred me to the internship coordinator right there at the drive-thru window!”
After securing the spot, Broome sat in on creative meetings and attended client interviews with the news station. “I also got to dabble in writing copy, shooting, editing and doing VO (voice-over narration) for different commercials,” she said. “I basically wore many hats while I was there.”
At her other internship with the production company, Broome was ecstatic to hone her creative talents. “It was great because I got to work on treatments and scripts for potential TV shows. I really enjoyed doing the research and interviews. I loved talking to people about their passions and the things they were involved in, that they thought would make a good show. I met some really interesting and cool people.”
“I’m excited to apply what I have learned,” she said.
Paul Bukoskey, a film and media studies major in Tempe, interned in Los Angeles at Funny or Die, a comedy website and production company best-known for its awkward “Between Two Ferns” series hosted by Zach Galifianakis. Bukoskey’s internship featured the stereotypical coffee-and-errands assignments, but also incorporated a creative aspect nearly every day.
“Funny or Die does a great job of allowing their interns to get their feet wet in a variety of departments,” Bukoskey said. “I took away a lot of fantastic insight from great new connections, hands-on experience, (and) a multitude of brand new technical and soft skills.”
The culminating experience for Bukoskey, who describes himself as an aspiring comedy writer, was getting to pitch, write and produce a sketch with other interns. “I now know I want to make funny things with fun people for the rest of my life," he said.
Kelly Baur, a graduate student in linguistics and applied linguistics, completed an eye-opening internship doing language documentation work with a Native American tribe this past summer.
Under supervision of Tyler Peterson, an assistant professor in the Department of English, Baur helped with daily activities as support staff for the first annual San Carlos Apache Summer Institute that took place Aug. 12–23 in San Carlos, Arizona. Participants in the free pedagogical institute sponsored by the San Carlos Apache Tribe, ASU, and the Language Conservancy learned basic Apache sounds and vocabulary.
This wasn’t Baur’s first experience with indigenous languages — she had previously worked with indigenous Mapuche communities in Wallmapu, a Mapuche territory within Chile's national borders, as a documentary filmmaker — but it gave her a new appreciation for the variety of efforts already underway.
“Beginning to understand what language revitalization looks like in the United States made this an invaluable experience,” Baur said.
“There are complex relationships, power structures and legislation in place that make language revitalization an especially nuanced challenge for both community members and linguistic/language professionals. This internship gave me a wealth of knowledge and insight as to who is involved in this work and how it is being carried out in the U.S.”
Internships aren’t just for summer, and some experiences inspire students to give back. The Department of English last year awarded its inaugural High Impact Internship Awards to two students — Melovee Easley, an undergraduate, and Colleen Wilkowski, a graduate student, for academic year nonprofit work that “contributes to the greater social good.”
Melovee Easley produced a “Why I Love the Library” video as part of her internship. Easley can be seen around the 1:00 mark, photobombing from the top left corner and professing her library adoration.
Easley completed her “high-impact” internship as a student ambassador for ASU Library, where she worked with the communications team to connect with patrons through storytelling. Easley is an undergraduate in English’s writing, rhetorics and literacies program. She also fulfilled a minor in digital culture while studying art and design ecologies in the Netherlands.
“My communications experience with the library has shown me the importance of social ecology,” Easley said. “There is a conversation going on between people and their environments. The connections I made through experiential research with the library community and outreach has led me to apply for a library archives internship at the Phoenix Art Museum in search for more.”
“Interning at the communications department with ASU Libraries has opened new doors for me,” she said.
Wilkowski is a doctoral student in English (writing, rhetorics and literacies) who researches issues of social justice, especially related to the civil rights movement. She said that her semester-long experiences teaching writing to incarcerated students in Arizona prisons forever altered her perspectives on education.
“My internship through ASU Prison Education Programming has taught me more about myself and about the world around me than I could have imagined,” she said. “More than anything, it has reinforced my belief in the power of education to better the lives of others. It has also reinforced my faith in human beings.”
For more information about humanities internships, connect with The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Futures Center or the Department of English’s internship program.