Michigan Internship FAQ
The Department of Political Science sponsors two different internship programs in Michigan:
- The Capital Intern Program (in Lansing)
- A local intern program that is primarily based in southwestern Michigan.
An internship experience can be a highlight of your undergraduate education.
Examples of placements in Lansing have included work with elected officials in the House, the Senate, Governor’s Office, Supreme Court; Departments including Attorney General, Civil Rights, Consumer and Industry Services, Education, Corrections, Community Health, National Resources, Treasury; some legislative placements have included House Democratic Policy Staff, House Republican Programs and Research, Legislative Research Division of the Legislative Service Bureau, Senate Majority Policy Office, House Fiscal Agency; lobbying firms such as Capitol Services, Inc., Governmental Consultant Services, Inc., Michigan Environmental Council; Michigan Education Association, Michigan Association of School Boards, Wiener Associates; research organizations such as the Citizen's Research Council of Michigan; consultants such as Sterling Corporation and Rossman Martin & Associates; and a number of non-profit organizations (NGOs).
Examples of local placements have included more than 400 different internships in 59 geographical locations, mostly in southwestern Michigan. The types of these internships can be categorized as placement with General Management (38 cities and counties); Elected Officials; Health and Human Services; Administration of Justice; offices at Western Michigan University; and miscellaneous local Kalamazoo internships such as the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo, Housing Resources Incorporated, the Independent Business Association, the Kalamazoo Center for Independent Living, Planned Parenthood, United Auto Workers, and the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
Commonly asked by prospective interns:
- Do I need to be a political science major to pursue an internship?
Not necessarily. Fifteen hours of Political Science credit must be completed by the semester before the internship would begin. Preference is given first to Political Science majors, then to Political Science minors, and then to any students who have met the 15 hour minimum.
- Do I need a particular grade point average to qualify for consideration?
A minimum grade point average of 2.5 is required or a 3.0 in 15 or more hours of Political Science classes. Most interns actually have a grade point average of over 3.0 but 2.5 can qualify you for the program.
- Can everyone who has 15 hours or more of political science classes and at least a 2.5 grade point average obtain placement in an internship?
No. Most internships are served during the Spring Semester. There is room for up to 25 interns. The Spring program is directed by Dr. David Houghton (each Spring term since 1991). Internships can also be served during fall and summer sessions but they must be arranged with individual faculty members. In other words, there is a Spring Semester program for internships but students can always, on their own initiative, contact a faculty member and discuss an internship idea. If you do not have a faculty advisor you should go to the Political Science office in 3302 Friedmann Hall and you will be directed to one.
- How should I decide if an internship experience is one that I want to have?
It is useful to think ahead about what you want to do after graduation and then to think about whether a placement in a professional setting would further your goals.
- What is the time commitment for an internship?
The Spring program requires all day Tuesdays and Thursdays for the duration of the Spring Semester. Two mini-vans are available for 15 students to go to Lansing each spring. There is no cost to the intern for travel on these vehicles to Lansing. All other internships with Dr. Houghton require two days per week also. You will need to talk to other department members to get exact specifications as to their requirements if you seek to pursue an internship separate from the Spring program.
- Are there written assignments in addition to the service in the internship?
Yes. All of our internships have various writing assignments. The faculty member sponsoring the internship will specify the requirements.
- Should I have a resume available when I talk to a faculty member about an internship?
Yes. It is preferable that you put together a resume and state your goals on it.
- If I want to pursue the winter program, what do I do?
You need to make an appointment to see Dr. Houghton (call the Political Science office at 7-5681) so that he can put your name on a list that is kept for the winter program. Some students have their names put on this list up to two years before doing an internship. It is recommended that you do this as soon as possible. However, positions on the list do not guarantee an internship.
- If my major is declared in political science and I want to do an internship in my major, who can advise me on the types of intern experiences?
It would be useful to begin by talking in general terms with your major advisor. Once this has been done, you may be referred to Dr. Houghton or to some other member of the department.
- Can I get credit for an internship?
Yes. All internships are for various numbers of credit hours that are determined by the number of hours worked in the placement. For example, in the Spring Program, four hours of credit are earned for completing two 8 hour days per week for the Spring Semester or roughly 240 contact hours. Written assignments are also included as a part of the required work.
- Do I receive a letter grade for an internship?
No. The evaluation is on a Credit/No Credit basis.
- When is the best time to complete an internship during my undergraduate years?
The junior year is the best time for most students. The 15 hour requirement for Political Science classes has usually been met by then and depending on the internship experience a student might want to pursue different courses in the senior year or complete a second internship in an entirely different area.
- What do I do if I have no idea of what I might want to do in an internship?
The best bet is to begin by thinking about the courses that you have had that most interested you. Follow that up with a general discussion with your advisor. Then make an appointment to see Dr. Houghton if you still are uncertain. He has been working with interns since 1978 and he will be able to help you sort out your best options.
- I hope to be/am a member of the Lee Honors College. Is the intern program affiliated with Lee Honors?
Yes. Since 1991, the Lee Honors College and the Department of Political Science have jointly worked together on the Lansing Capital Intern Program. If you are a member of the Lee Honors College you may be able to join our Spring Program without having had previous Political Science classes. In fact, most Lee Honors interns in our Spring program are Political Science majors, but it is occasionally done by non-majors.
- Do I get paid as an intern?
Usually you do not get paid. Most offices are looking to give you an experience while you earn credit hours. However, each year some students at the end of the internship are offered a full time job while some others are offered summer employment. Most interns seek to get job experience and they are not looking to get immediate employment.
- How do I make contact with the office that I would hope to work in?
- Be accepted into the spring program or accepted by a faculty supervisor
- Contact personnel in the office in which you seek to intern
- In the Spring program, Dr. Houghton will make all needed contacts and will arrange two to four interviews for you. The interviews are set up in a one day period for you. You then decide which office you prefer to work in. Additional interviews can be arranged if you do not find the right fit.
- If I want to intern in Lansing (other than in the Spring semester) or any other city for which would need transportation, can I obtain the use of a university vehicle?
No. The mini-vans are available for the Spring program only (to Lansing).
- I understand that an internship is not required for credit in any of the majors or minors in the Department of Political Science. Is it important for me, then, to complete an internship?
Maybe. Each student has different goals. Participating in Mock Trial, Western Student Association, having a job, and other factors might not make an internship a practical option. If you are very certain of your career path, an internship might not be needed. On the whole, an internship is recommended. You interview for your own internship. You ultimately decide what internship you will have; no faculty member makes the choice for you. Therefore, if the internship seems to fit your goals it is likely a good investment of your time.
- A last question: how have interns who have completed an internship through the Department of Political Science evaluated their experience?
On the basis of two mail surveys conducted with former interns (in 1997 and in 2000) 100% stated that they would recommend the experience to new majors.