Year of Publication

2018

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Education

Department

Educational Policy Studies and Eval

First Advisor

Dr. Jeff Bieber

Abstract

Internships are increasingly popular in higher education (Coco, 2000; Divine et al., 2007). One reason for the increase is the benefits, both perceived and documented, associated with them (Divine et al., 2007). In addition to offering internships as electives, some programs have even begun requiring them of all students (Klein & Weiss, 2011). The policy change from elective to required internships has been evaluated very little, if at all, even though mandatory internships result in a substantial increase in cost and commitment for the departments that implement them (Divine et al., 2007).

This study analyzed survey and interview data from students (past and present) who participated in a required internship through an Equine Science and Management degree program at a major land grant institution that adopted a mandatory internship requirement in 2007. The intent of the study was to deepen the understanding of the effects of a mandatory internship policy in higher education from the students’ perspective. Specifically of interest were the benefits students gain from participating in mandatory internships, their perception of the mandatory internship policy, and whether the primary reason students participated in an internship influenced the experience. A mixed-methods approach was used to identify statistically significant results and provide an in-depth understanding of the results.

This study revealed that the vast majority of students who participated in a mandatory internship recognized a variety of benefits from it, viewed the experience as beneficial, and supported the policy of requiring internships. It was demonstrated that mandatory internships can empower students and aid in their professionalization. Participants also credited their internship more than their overall undergraduate experience for better preparing them at several important career skills including problem solving, job interviewing, networking, resume writing, oral presentation, interpersonal communication, and written communication. Furthermore, this study identified several statistically significant relationships between the primary reason students participated in an internship and how beneficially they view it, how much they believe it contributed to their current job, and how well it prepared them at specific career skills. The results of this study provide insight into the benefits of a mandatory internship policy from the students’ perspective.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

https://doi.org/10.13023/etd.2018.226

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