Our goal is to make sure every BSU student has access to an internship”
Internships can be transformative. But not if they are out of reach for some.
Ensuring that equity is infused throughout the internship program takes intention, effort and a commitment to every student who comes through the door.
Recently, the news on this front has been good.
“We’ve been making pretty good inroads,” said Diane Bell, vice president of the Division of Outreach and Engagement. She’s speaking of the growing diversity among students who come to her office to obtain an internship, be they Black, Brown or have disabilities.
Several years ago, BSU officials decided that all internships would be paid, underwritten if necessary, by the university. Also, students can apply for funds that they don’t have to repay – for transportation, lost wages from a job and for other costs associated with an internship experience. More than $5 million has been disbursed to date, and the average stipend awarded is $1,000.
Such measures have helped diversify BSU’s internship program. In 2013, the inaugural year of the newly formed Internship Program Office, 13 percent of internship participants were students of color. In the 2022-2023 academic year, participation for these students was at 21 percent.
This fall, the Career Services Office and the Internship Program Office merged, and the newly formed office is led by Dr. Gerald Tang as executive director. Dr. Tang serves as Director of Diversity and Inclusion on the Board (DEIB) for the Eastern Association of Colleges and Employers. His research interests include international students’ career development, transfer student career success, DEIB issues and technology integration in career services.
The recent changes, and initiatives below, will lead to even more diversity in the ranks of BSU interns, Ms. Bell believes.
Current programs include:
Semester in the City matches students with internships in social justice in Boston. Optional housing is offered in the city. The program runs both spring and fall and juniors and seniors receive credit for participating. The program has no minimum GPA requirement (though BSU requires a 2.5 GPA minimum for internship candidates).
Hack.Diversity offers Black and Latinx computer science students training, professional development and paid internships in Boston. This program spans the spring semester and extends into the summer.
MGH Aspire Works provides students with an autism spectrum disorder or related social profile with real-world work experience. Participants receive coaching, professional development and an internship in their field. Meanwhile, the companies’ staff also get trained on how to work with the students. “We have four or five students who have gone through the program and now have outstanding jobs,” Ms. Bell said.
Virtual International Internships places students in virtual internships around the world with organizations in 18 career fields. These internships are available during fall, spring and summer. This program has been invaluable for students without access to transportation or who have mobility issues.
The Washington Center places juniors and seniors from all majors in full-time internships during fall, spring and summer in Washington, DC. Students receive credit for participating, and housing is provided. This longstanding collaboration has been benefitting a growing number of students of color as of late, Ms. Bell said.
Equity has long been built into the internship program at BSU. It has always been open to all students. Some internships have no GPA requirement, some assignments can be done virtually or via a mix of in-person and virtual, and all students are encouraged to take advantage of available funding to support their participation in unpaid internships.
“Our goal is to make sure every BSU student has access to an internship,” Ms. Bell said.