Creating an Internship in Public History to Complement the History Major

Saturday, January 9, 2016: 12:10 PM
Regency Ballroom VI (Hyatt Regency Atlanta)
Laura J. Mitchell, University of California, Irvine
UCI’s Internship in Public History is designed to help students consolidate the skills and knowledge they have learned in the classroom, transfer those skills to anther setting, develop workplace habits and a professional demeanor, gain experience that will help them evaluate future career choices, and contribute meaningfully to achieving the shared goals of a larger project. A detailed overview of the program is available online:

Our students typically enter the workplace with strong writing and analytical skills, but even by their senior year, many undergraduates in our large, public university have not had much practice with oral communication, group work or collaboration, or open-ended problem solving. They are smart, productive, task-oriented, and excited by what they do for coursework but nevertheless remain unsure about how their interests, skills, and enthusiasm could translate into meaningful paid employment after graduation.

UCI’s internship program launched in Fall 2014 to address these needs. We partnered with three local organizations to develop specific projects in which students could take significant responsibility while working with experienced supervisors on whom they could rely for advice and support. The internship runs as a full credit class that meets one hour a week, in addition to the 10 hours/week that students spend working at their site. Student apply for the program, express their preference for a site, then on-site supervisors select students to work with. In our first year, we were able to place all interested students.

Formal survey results and informal feedback from both students and supervisors was overwhelmingly positive. Each student produced a concrete project (museum exhibition, archival accession records, transcribed and cataloged oral history interviews, etc.) or worked with middle-school students who finished a National History Day poster entry. We have already received inquiries from students about next year’s program, and anticipate steady growth.