"One of the most difficult challenges facing professional programs"
Review of Winslow-Maxwell Summer Internship Program General Overview: One of the most difficult challenges facing professional programs such as business, communications and cinema, is striking the right balance between practical training and experience and theoretical and “class-room” learning. Companies actively search for students who are tops in their classes, but who have also “cut their teeth” in the real world, and have actual experience within their field. The challenge facing those who wish to pursue a career in the international arena is even more problematic as the number of “hands-on” international experiences are few and far between, and international studies programs often only offer students a glimpse of life in another country, as seen through the university lens. To address these issues, the Marshall School of Business created the Global Summer Internship Program (aka the Winslow-Maxwell Global Summer Internship Program). The aim of the program was to provide students with theoretical as well as practical experiences working and navigating within the international global environment. To date, the program is an unqualified success. Over the past 4 years, 151 students have completed the program, and for the most part, they have agreed that the program was an enriching experience. Although not all of the participants were happy with every aspect of the program (some found the housing lacking, or the opportunity to travel missing, or the placements inadequate, or had problems with the course). As is evident see from the post-program survey data, we averaged out to a 3.66 across all of the fields, with the lowest (2.88) being Content of Course, and the highest (4.50) being Valuable Learning Experience. The program scored very well in the Recommend to Others category, with a 4.49 score, as well as Valuable Learning Experience (4.50), and Overall Impression (4.39). And we are also pleased with the 4.11 score in Met Expectations, although we feel that we can do better in this category. History The initial program was proposed in the Summer of 2004, on the premise that with the ever shrinking global market, that persons with experience working abroad would be able to position themselves into enviable positions in terms of post-graduation job recruitment. In addition, business students are more likely to intern during their summer months as opposed to enroll in classes, so an international internship seems like a logical way to satisfy these conditions. The program was originally 8 weeks in length, with the first 9 days spent on the USC campus undergoing orientation, and attending class 3-hours per day. Upon arrival in London, the students underwent a 2-day orientation, and then began their internship on the following Monday. The internship was 5-weeks in length, with the 8th week being spent in class in London, where their final papers and projects were presented. We noticed quickly that this schedule was not beneficial to an excellent internship environment (see the section below on internship), and so the following year we extended the program by 2- weeks, by extending the internship to 7-weeks. We have since extended the program to 11-weeks, with an 8 week internship, 2-weeks of class prior to departure, and a 1-week on-site orientation. These changes have helped the program provide students with a far more beneficial internship experience. Below, we will provide an overview of the most important aspects of the program, as well as some of the student reactions to those areas, and our responses, some changes and improvements that have occurred in the past 4-years. Selection Process: When the program began, we required that students be of at least sophomore standing, have a GPA of 3.00 and it was recommended that they had taken BUAD 304 Organizational Behavior. Although the basic requirements have changed over time (BUAD 304 is no longer recommended, the GPA has been lowered to 2.75, and applicants must have at least 32 units prior to applying.) the selection process has not changed. Students are selected based upon their overall academic record (GPA, as well as course selection and performance in those courses), an application essay, and their extra-curricular activities. The essays were graded on clarity of position, quality of writing and expression of ideas, and grammar. The recommenders were asked to give a score to the students’ academic abilities, and their essays. The scores from all three judges were added together, and then averaged, with the top 45 averages being selected to be interviewed (short-list). The interviews are conducted by Marshall staff, who conducted the interview as a “job interview”, looking for professionalism, interest, as well as maturity. The interviewer will provide a score. The top 30 students will be selected to participate, and 5 additional students placed on a waiting list. Interviews will NOT be held if less than 35 applications are submitted. Our hope is to ensure that students are of the highest quality both academically as well personally. We have been pleased with the student body overall. We have had a good mix of academic levels, and although we would prefer more non-business students, we have been pleased with the number we had over the past 4 years (approximately 10%), considering this is a Business School program. Internship: After the selection process, the students are interviewed by a representative of EUSA, an organization affiliated with the Boston College, to assess the students’ interests in terms of their placements within the internships. The interviews lasted from 10-20 minutes in length. Upon completion of the interviews, the EUSA representative returned to the internship city to begin the placement process. Students are then notified 2-3 weeks prior to their departure abroad of the company they have been selected to intern for. Students have the option of “turning down” a company only IF they feel that the position (not the company) is not a good fit of what they are looking for. Based on the evaluations, and discussions with the students, we recognized that there has been a problem with the placement of a small number of students. A few of the placements were not appropriate for the student’s abilities, or interests, while others were with companies that were not as advertised. The vast majority (90%) find the internship rewarding, as is evidenced by the survey data. In order to address the issues raised in year one, we lengthened the internship interview process as well as the placement process. The interviews now take place in February, allowing the placement agency an extra month to look for appropriate placements. In addition, the last 30 minutes in length, held over a 3-day period. We also asked that EUSA thoroughly research each partner company to ensure the quality of each placement. We also recognized that it is necessary to better address the student expectations of the program as well. Students with little academic or work experience should not expect to be placed into a position of great power or responsibility. To this end, we now hold a preliminary orientation PRIOR to the internship interview process, which includes not just information on the program, but also attempts to temper students’ expectations, and ensure each student is aware of the limitations of the program. Similar language has been included in the information sheets as well. We also found that many of the more established companies were looking for students to have longer placements, as such, during the 2nd year, we extended the internship portion to eight weeks, in the hope that we can attract better companies with which to place students, and thus providing more beneficial placements. We also have changed the marketing of this course, focusing on 2nd and advanced 1st year students, as opposed to 3rd and 4th year. We instituted this change because we found that 3rd and 4th year students’ expectations for the internship were far greater than we could deliver at a rate that was acceptable. The employers, knowing that these are unpaid internships, are often unwilling to work the students too hard, something the students would expect from a 3 rd year summer internship in New York or San Francisco. As such, the students felt that although he international experience was enjoyable, the internship fell short. We have not experienced this problem with 2nd year students, as most have never held an internship before, and have more reasonable expectations. Course: The initial proposal was for students to hold internships in London, and to enroll in BUAD-499 International Management and Internship, a 4-unit course taught on the USC campus (2 weeks) and then continued abroad while the students were working the internship. Students would submit a paper and present a final project at the completion of their internship. The following year, with the addition of the Madrid program, we offered a distinct course for each program: MOR-495 International Management and Internship (4 units) for London, and BUCO 460: International Communication Management (4 units) for Madrid. What we found after the 2nd year was that the final presentations and projects coincided with the busiest time of the internships, as the students were finally gaining the confidence of their supervisors, and so were given more responsibilities. In addition, the overall reaction from the students to these courses was extremely negative- mainly because of the workload, as well as a feeling that they were forced to take a course that was not part of their studies, or had little bearing on their internship. Also, as the cost of the programs increased (longer program and declining dollar), the cost of a 4-unit course added an extra expense that some students were unable to meet. We also recognized that it was difficult for the Madrid program to meet the minimum enrollment requirement to allow for separate courses for each program. Given these responses, we decided to revise the program once again, and decided to offer a single 2-unit course for all of the locations. This would A) reduce the cost, B) provide a uniform class experience for all of the students, C) reduce the work-load as we “front-loaded” the course, placing most of the work at the beginning of the course, and D) allow for flexibility to add additional locations (such as Dublin and Paris, and potentially Shanghai and Mexico City in the near future), and not have to worry about meeting a minimum number for each program location. We believe that these changes have greatly improved the program quality as well as the overall experience. Facilities: Each student is guaranteed housing with the program. Either shared housing in flats, or home- stays. Overall, Students were impressed with the location and quality of the housing. Although in London, they were a little wary of the shared “flats” concept, the size and quality of the flats converted them. Each of the flats had ethernet access, which allowed those who brought laptops to access the Internet without problems. And finally students will also be informed that they may wish to bring laptops as well, and to utilize the Ethernet access within the flats. We also will be providing more detailed information about the facilities, as well as making it clear that these are shared facilities, and not individual rooms. Although some of the students felt “cramped”, as you can see form the survey results, satisfaction with the facilities ranked highest overall. Travel: The initial proposal had students working 5-days per week, in addition to meeting for class on Tuesday evenings. This definitely made travel around the region difficult. The following year, we changed the internship to a 4-day a week internship, with class meetings on Friday mornings, providing a slightly more travel time. With the class moving to on-line assignments while interning, students should have more than enough time to explore the region, as they will have 3- day weekends every week, and 2-3 four-day weekends throughout the period. Conclusion: All of the students and faculty involved agree that this was/is a unique opportunity for students to gain valuable work experience in an international setting, while also tempering that experience with a theoretical framework. Although we experienced a number of growing pains during the first 3 years, many of the minor problems that arose have been addressed by minor changes to the structure of the program, giving students a greater amount of flexibility, a greater sense of satisfaction, and ensuring the quality of the program Changes to the length of the program (from a 5-week internship, to 7-weeks to now 8-weeks), the course (from 4-units to 2-units, with most of the work at the beginning of the course before the students depart), as well as the extended orientation (from 1 day at USC and 1 day abroad, to 2 sessions at USC, and 4 days abroad), have helped address many of the major concerns that the students had regarding the program. Unfortunately, we still have not achieved a 100% approval rating, but we believe that a 4.5 out of 5 rating for Valuable Learning Experience is proof that we are moving in the right direction. We also have changed the marketing of this course, focusing on 2nd and advanced 1st year students, as opposed to 3rd and 4th year. We instituted this change because we found that 3rd and 4th year students’ expectations for the internship were far greater than we could deliver at a rate that was acceptable. As a testament to its success, The Winslow Maxwell Foundation has pledged $90,000 a year for the next five years ($450,000 total) to help partially cover the student expenses, as well as provide a number of $3000 scholarships to help cover tuition costs of the programs. All involved believe the program to be a huge success, and wish to see it continue. We hope you will agree.