The Internship Program

Students interested in getting internship credit should read this entry before contacting the Internship Director: Professor D. Stephen Voss

The Political Science Department encourages undergraduates to learn about political science through hands-on experience.  Students often respond to this encouragement by volunteering or taking jobs with government agencies, political campaigns, law firms, and the like.  Others, seeking to learn about the conduct of actual PS research, will sign up to conduct research with professors in our department.  However, simply working at a job, even a professionally enriching job, does not necessarily contribute to a liberal-arts education.  On-site supervisors can teach the skills needed to carry out necessary tasks, but there’s no guarantee that supervisors will encourage interns to look beyond the job at hand and contemplate how it fits within the student's overall studies.

To integrate experiential education into a student's academic curriculum, the Political Science Department offers two sorts of internships, described in more detail below:

  • an internship course (PS 399) worth 1-6 credit hours offered every semester of the academic year and also in the second Summer session, and
  • the Kentucky Legislative Internship Program, worth 10-13 credit hours, offered every even-numbered Spring semester (i.e., Spring 2016, 2018, etc.)

PS 399   The Internship Course

Our internship course, PS 399 (syllabus available in pdf form), provides students with an opportunity to embed early work experiences within the liberal-arts education they are pursuing.  To earn credit, students not only must serve in a job with some connection to Political Science, they also must read a modest amount of social-science scholarship related to the internship.  They communicate regularly with the Internship Director or another academic advisor within the Political Science department – sometimes to seek advice or guidance, sometimes just to share their progress, but always with the expectation that they will show they are thinking abstractly or scientifically about the job and its techniques.  And at the end, they write a reflective paper connecting their job(s) to the scholarly readings.  Thus, in addition to exhibiting (1) the skills learned on the job and (2) the abstract knowledge gained about their job’s niche in society, the course has a third learning outcome, which is that students show that (3) as professionals, they can perform a job successfully yet still think critically about the work they are performing.

Step 1: Finding the Internship     The Political Science Department typically lacks the resources to find internships for undergraduates (aside from the research internships that students sometimes negotiate with our own faculty).  Students who wish to enroll in PS 399 first must line up work that will qualify under the program.  Discretion ultimately rests with the Internship Director, but in general the student’s employment must include substantial exposure to political, governmental, or legal institutions, and much of the work must involve some level of learning or individual discretion (rather than, for example, simply photocopying, stapling and/or delivering documents).  Students receiving internship credit usually take paid or unpaid employment with one of the following:

  1. government agencies (whether local, state, or federal, including legislative staff)
  2. political parties or campaign organizations
  3. interest groups or other policy-related organizations (e.g., non-profit research)
  4. judicial institutions (whether local, state, or federal)
  5. law firms and other legal organizations (e.g. county attorney’s office)
  6. the news media if primarily writing on government or politics
  7. a political scientist, whether professor or advanced grad student, performing research
Step 2: Getting the Internship Approved     Once students have secured position that might qualify for PS 399, and know what the internship will entail and the identity of the person who will be their supervisor on the job, they should collaborate with that individual to complete our Internship Approval Form (choose printable pdf or the MS Word form you can edit) and Memorandum of Agreement (choose printable pdf or MS Word form you can edit).  Note that intern supervisors will be asked to provide an evaluation for each student at the end of the semester, and students cannot pass the course without either (a) achieving a favorable evaluation or (b) receiving an official waiver from the Internship Director, which are extremely rare and only given in instances when the supervisor will not provide a fair and ethical assessment of the intern’s performance.  Those two documents should be submitted to the Internship Director no later than the day classes start (e.g., for Spring 2015, that's 14 January 2015), although the sooner the better.  Sometimes students will not be allowed to add PS 399 until they have submitted these two documents, depending on how the course was built in the Registrar's computer system.
 

Step 3: Signing Up for the Course     Students may earn up to six (6) credit hours in PS 399 during a given semester, for a total of no more than 12 credit hours of the 120 required to graduate.  The number of possible credits in a given semester depends on how many hours the student will be working at the internship, as well as on the scope of the academic work the student is willing to perform:

# of credits

Average hours/week

if 15 weeks

Hours per semester

# of weekly meetings or emails

Minimum Number of Books to Read

 

3 articles = 1 book

Minimum Length of Final Paper

1

4 hours

60 hours

1 per 3 weeks, or 5 total

1

4

2

7 hours

105 hours

1 per 3 weeks, or 5 total

1

4

3

10 hours

150 hours

1 per 2 weeks, or 7 total

1

5

4

14 hours

210 hours

1 per 2 weeks, or 7 total

2

5

5

17 hours

255 hours

1 per week, or 14 total

2

6

6

20 hours

300 hours

1 per week, or 14 total

2

6

Note that internships do not always accommodate the semester’s academic calendar.  As long as a majority of the hours on the job take place during the regularly scheduled semester, the Internship Director may count work performed in the weeks before the session starts when determining the number of credit hours for which a student is eligible.  (However, students perform work in advance hoping to receive internship credit do so at their own risk, because the Department only gives formal approval to the Learning Contract and planned course of study when the semester gets underway.)  Similarly, if the student can afford to take an "I"ncomplete grade at the end of the semester, the Internship Director has the discretion to count work hours completed after the official semester has ended.  Either way, the student still must complete the academic course requirements necessary to earn such credit before a grade may be entered.

Step 4: Selecting the Advisor     In addition to the internship supervisor (the person supervising the intern and who assesses on-the-job performance), students in PS 399 also must identify an academic advisor from among the PS faculty.  For a politics/government internship, usually the academic advisor will be the Internship Director, although students may have a different faculty member with whom they'd like to work or they may want to consider advisors who have special familiarity with the content of the internship.  For research internships, usually the supervisor and the advisor will be the same person: the faculty member leading the research.

Step 5: Submitting the Learning Contract      Students must negotiate a mutually agreeable Learning Contract Form (which you can download in MS Word or pdf formats) with the academic advisor, and submit it to the Internship Director either electronically or on paper (faculty mailboxes can be found in #1615 Patterson Office Tower).  That Contract, in addition to repeating some of the features from the prior paperwork, lays out the academic requirements for PS 399.  These may vary a bit depending on the approach of the academic advisor, but typically they will be broken down in this fashion:

  1. On-Going Communications: The student must contact the academic advisor periodically to provide updates on the progress of the internship.  The frequency of this required contact depends on the number of credit hours being earned (see above table).  Interns should not reveal confidential information about the work they are doing.  Instead, they must outline in general terms the kind of tasks they are performing.  They also must provide evidence that they are thinking critically about how their experiences fit into something bigger (e.g., ethical systems, social relations, professional norms, the political and legal system, etc.).  This reflection can come in the form of questions, generalizations, or specific observations.  Students usually meet this requirement through regularly scheduled electronic mail messages of a few paragraphs’ length, but some advisors may prefer that the written reflection be entered into a journal, and interns also have the option of requesting face-to-face meetings instead.
  1. Required Reading:  The student must read scholarship in social science related to the internship.  Ideally, the specific books and articles will be identified by the student and academic advisor in advance of submitting the Learning Contract to the Internship Director.  The minimum quantity of reading depends on the number of credit hours (see the above table).  Students are encouraged to discuss what they've been reading as part of their “on-going communications” with academic advisors.
  1. Final Paper: As the end of the internship approaches, the student must submit a final paper of at least 4-6 pages (see the above table), typewritten and double-spaced with one-inch margins and no more than a 12-point font.  The paper must connect the scholarly readings to the hands-on experience in some fashion.  For example, a student might (a) illustrate points made in the readings with personal examples, (b) criticize the readings by showing how they fail to characterize the internship experience, or (c) analyze as social scientists the organizational efforts in which they participated.  Students are welcome to discuss the paper with the academic advisor before the due date, but the final version of the paper must be received by the academic advisor no later than noon on the Friday of exam week.

The academic standards for a Pass/Fail course are not excessively difficult to satisfy.  However, students should not mistakenly assume that they will pass the internship course automatically as long as their supervisor is satisfied.  Interns will not pass the course if they (1) fail to communicate with the academic advisor on schedule and in the reflective fashion required, or (2) fail to turn in a final paper that exhibits adequate familiarity with the academic readings.

Kentucky Legislative Internship Program 

The UK Department of Political Science conducts a Kentucky Legislative Internship Program every Spring semester in even-numbered years, to take advantage of the Commonwealth's longer legislative sessions.  This comprehensive legislative boot camp can serve as the culminating experience of a PS major's studies, or it can be a great launching point for students earlier in their academic careers who intend to continue their study of the political process or to go on to additional political work on the national level (e.g., by building a direct relationship with congressional offices or applying to programs such as Wildcats in Washington run in the past by the Wildcat Interest Group).  Graduating Political Science majors, when asked the highlight of their academic experiences at UK, commonly single out the KLIP program as the most-enriching thing they've done.We encourage talented and ambitious Political Science majors to plan their studies so that they can fit the KLIP program into their curriculum.

What is it?     KLIP gives UK undergraduates a comprehensive experiential education related to legislative process, with a focus on Kentucky state politics, by combining extensive hands-on experience in the Kentucky assembly (assisting an individual legislator) with intensive academic exploration of the scholarly literature relevant to their internships (by enrolling simultaneously in relevant PS department courses).  The interns also periodically gather with the rest of their cohort in the program, sharing advice and experiences.   Students selected for the program take 10-13 credit hours within the program. All interns will be required to: 

  • enroll in a special seminar for interns (PS 492), worth 1 credit hour, taught either on campus or in Frankfort;
  • enroll in PS 476G Legislative Process, taught on campus MWF mornings and worth 3 credit hours (although students who have already taken the course may be allowed to participate anyway);
  • enroll in 6 credit hours of PS 399 Internship, which they must be able to fulfill in Frankfort all day on Tuesdays and Thursdays, as well as on Wednesday afternoons:
  • [optional] enroll in PS 557 Kentucky Government and Politics or PS 458 State & Local Government, taught on campus.

Students wishing for more than 13 credits may sign up for additional course work as long as as it does not conflict with the internship obligations.

Who can apply?     You must be a UK Political Science major or minor in good standing. You must have completed 9 hours of political science course work before the Spring semester in which you wish to intern.  Entrance into the program is competitive, and selection of Legislative Interns will be based on academic record, relevant experience, and perceived ability to perform as an intern.

When do you apply?     A Call for Applications goes out early in the Fall semester of an odd-numbered year, with a due date early enough that Fall so that assignments can be in place before students need to nail down their Spring curriculum.  The exact dates for the Spring 2016 KLIP will be announced only after the Department has identified the Internship Director for the 2015-2016 academic year.

Students seeking additional information about either internship program should contact:

D. Stephen Voss, Internship Director

1639 Patterson Office Tower
Department of Political Science
University of Kentucky
Lexington, KY 40506-0027

Phone: (859) 257-4313
Email: dsvoss@uky.edu

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