The Promise of History Internships
Over the past several years, historians have worked in various capacities and with numerous organizations to gauge the overall health of the field. The AHA has taken a lead in identifying the discipline’s strengths and contributions, the most prominent effort being the Tuning Project. The recent release of core goals and competencies provides a common language for all historians to use when promoting the discipline’s merits and defining curriculum. Much of the discussion focuses on what is happening inside the classroom, but what about outside of it? What are other visible displays of history’s value?
Internships offer an opportunity to demonstrate the applicability of the discipline and to advance institutional missions. On an individual level, undergraduates gain invaluable experience in a variety of professions, thus preparing them for a life beyond college. For departments, these opportunities add a dynamic, community-engaged element to coursework. For the field at large, internships are clear demonstrations of the previously mentioned core goals and competencies. When students apply their studies to the wider world, the results reflect well on history’s place in higher education and society.
The purpose of this panel is to examine established and developing departmental programs dedicated to history internships. Our goal is to investigate exactly how internships contribute to the history curriculum and perhaps more importantly, what structural elements make for successful experiences. In this way we can explore history’s larger social and intellectual contributions from a new perspective.
The participating panelists come from a variety of institutions, ranging from large state schools to small liberal arts colleges. There is a mix of large cities and more rural settings. While internships are frequently associated with public history, certain participants show that a wider net can be cast. The diversity of panelists’ programs clearly show that efforts to explore history outside the classroom can happen in virtually any setting.
In this session, panelists describe the overall structure of their departments’ programs and how each fits into the larger curriculum. They explore the obstacles to overcome and the best practices that have contributed to the growth of that program. The participants discuss the ways in which their respective programs have furthered institutional priorities, such as service learning and community engagement. They also show how internships respond to the particular needs of their students, be it in an emphasis on legal studies or a need to develop skills perhaps not fully formed in the traditional classroom setting. These experiences will show the promise of internships and provide attendees with ideas that can be used to refine existing programs or to start new ones.