One of the most effective ways for students in the Department of Political Science at Western Michigan University to get experience while in college is to intern in an office where people practice politics, policy making, law or international development. Internships provide valuable, hands-on experience that both give you an insight into a career path and provide you with an experiential component for your portfolio. In some cases, the Department of Political Science can assist you in finding an internship; in many others, you will have to do the investigative work yourself. In most cases, academic credit can be arranged (this must be arranged in advance). Acceptance to an internship is by no means automatic; in many ways, it's like applying for a job. Many internships require good academic performance and references.
Internships in Michigan
Our most extensive internship programs are in southwest Michigan and in Lansing. The latter, the Capital Internship program, has been underway for decades and has placed qualified interns in offices throughout the executive and legislative branches of Michigan government, as well as in the lobbying and non-profit sectors. In southwest Michigan, interns regularly serve in city and village managers' offices, in other local agencies, and in business development and nonprofit organizations.
Some students are able to directly convert an internship into a job upon graduation, while others are able to continue in their internships throughout the summer. Internships are always an excellent experience in regard to networking and on-the-job training.
Capital and local internship programs
An internship experience can be a highlight of your undergraduate education. The Department of Political Science sponsors two different internship programs in Michigan.
The Capital Intern Program (in Lansing)
For almost three decades, students have interned throughout state government and related organizations in Lansing. They have earned WMU credit while gaining valuable experience in law, policy making, lobbying, and the legislative process, and developing professional networks, career insights, and writing skills.
Students in the Capital Intern Program spend Tuesdays and Thursdays of the spring semester at their internships in Lansing (1-4 credits). They also attend the internship seminar (Mondays in the late afternoon, 3 credits). Many students have earned professional references and even future employment from their internship placements.
Review internship requirements and information for the Capital Intern Program.
Examples of placements in Lansing have included work with elected officials in the House and the Senate, departments including Attorney General, Civil Rights, Education, Community Health, Michigan Environmental Council, Michigan Education Association, and a number of nonprofit organizations.
Read the cover story feature on the Capital Intern Program (starting on page 10):
Local internship opportunities primarily based in southwestern Michigan
Students can arrange their own internship opportunity during any semester and receive credit hours for their placement. These stand-alone internships, or field work, vary and require a faculty sponsor. The faculty sponsor will specify the writing assignment requirements for the field work.
Students must initiate the internship on their own with individual faculty members. If you do not have a faculty adviser, stop by the political science office in 3308 Friedmann Hall and you will be directed to one. Have a resume available when you talk to a faculty member about internship and state your goals in it.
Examples of local placements have included more than 400 different internships in 59 geographical locations, mostly in southwestern Michigan. The types of these internships can be categorized as placement with general management, elected officials, health and human services, and miscellaneous local Kalamazoo internships such as the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo and Housing Resources Incorporated.
Internships in Washington, D.C.
The Department of Political Science and the Lee Honors College are working very hard to place students in internships in Washington, D.C. There are more than 1,000 WMU graduates living and working in the Washington, D.C., area. The Western Herald provides profiles on a number of these former students. It is suggested that these profiles be consulted to get an idea of the great variety of possible internships and jobs in the D.C. area.
The Washington Center may be useful in informing you about different types of internships and jobs in Washington, D.C.
In Washington, D.C., WMU’s political science students have interned with the lobbying firms, U.S. representatives and U.S. senators.
David G. Houghton Internship Endowment
The David G. Houghton Internship Endowment has been established to support the current internship program and expand its scope.
Although not always easy to arrange, international internships are a rewarding and effective way to get international experience. International internships fall into two categories:
- Those that take place in another country.
- Those that take place with an organization devoted to some aspect of international affairs but which are based in the U.S. There are many of these.
Students have served in internships in the German Bundestag, German state parliaments and development NGOs in India and South Africa.