A financial boost for internships

A renewed grant could help fund up to 170 paid internships across three University colleges.

Raj Chaduvula

Internships provide advantages that aren’t easily measurable: networking, workplace experience and professional skills. Usually, paychecks are a bonus.
 
 
A recent grant awarded to the University of Minnesota will expand the possibility for undergraduates to get paid to intern with the creation of 170 such positions across three colleges.
 
 
Earlier this month, Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation awarded the University $374,000  to fund internships for students in the College of Design, College of Continuing Education and College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Science.
 
 
Preparing for careers often comes with the burden of debt or thin income for students, said Sara Newberg, director of Career and Internship Services for CCE, CFANS and CDES. 
 
 
In those schools, Newberg said, nearly 40 percent of students who complete internships are unpaid — particularly in nonprofit or government positions.
 
 
“The goal of the grant is help alleviate the stress of money for students,” she said. “So based on their financial aid status and need, the awarded amount will be decided.” 
 
 
Vince Spaid, a senior majoring in Fisheries, Wildlife and Conversation Biology, said he accepted an unpaid internship researching fishers in northern Minnesota knowing it would be unpaid. He was able to afford it using a previous grant made by Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation.
 
 
“A Ph.D student I knew sent out an email for people in my major asking for students to take a look at the grant,” Spaid said. 
 
 
Now he describes it as the highlight of his resume. But while unpaid internships provide the same important experience as paid ones do, he said, not all students can afford them. 
 
 
The College of Design also supports student interns through research assistant positions in its Department of Landscape Architecture, said Amanda Smoot, a department administrator.
 
 
Newberg said the Great Lakes grant, and others like it, can help level the playing field for students to begin advancing their careers before graduation — regardless of whether a position is paid or not.