Employers see internships as an increasingly important component of a student’s undergraduate portfolio. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), an employer was far more likely to offer a job to a student prior to graduation if he or she had an internship. The gap in offer-rates between students with internship experience and those without such experience grew from 12.6 percent in 2011 to 20 percent in 2015. In addition, having had a paid internship yielded the highest median offer at $53,521, while the median offer for students who took unpaid internships was $34,375.
However, according to a 2018 survey, first-generation students, low income students, and students of color at Marquette University reported that they participated in internship experiences at a significantly lower rate than white students (64% vs 77%) while simultaneously reporting an increased rate of working on campus for pay (76% vs 69%). Further research determined that the main reason for the discrepancy was that most internships are unpaid and therefore not viable options for students in these groups.
With support from a two year, $300,000 grant from AVDF, Marquette is launching a comprehensive and inclusive internship program that will provide transformative high-impact opportunities for students in these three groups. Funding provided by this program will provide stipends to participating students, allowing them to receive financial support for credit-bearing internships that would otherwise be unpaid. The program will support internships for 140 juniors and seniors over a four semester period beginning in the fall of 2020.
Acting Dean Heather Hathaway emphasized the importance of the project. “Marquette will partner with Milwaukee-area civic, governmental, not-profit and for profit organizations to create a work and networking opportunity currently unavailable to these students,” Hathaway said. “We seek to level the playing field.”