Internship provides professional experience, alumni connections

headshot of Paige Lesier in summer term template

Over the summer, we’re excited to share stories of students who are making the most of their Summer Term, both in person and online. We hope these stories serve as a source of inspiration and give you a glance into what life is like for Summer Term students.

Paige Leiser (she/her/hers) is a senior from Minnesota studying political science and working on certificates in education policy, global health, and gender and women’s studies.

This Summer Term, she’s participating in the Wisconsin in Washington, DC Internship Program, a 12-credit experience that allows undergraduates to spend a semester or summer interning in Washington, DC, while taking courses. Students can choose between a domestic or an international focus. Placements vary from Congress and political organizations to media and historical sites.

Here’s what Leiser has to say about her experience:

You’re participating in Wisconsin in Washington internship this summer. Are you doing this in person, hybrid or virtually?

My internship is virtual this year, but I hope to travel to DC at the end of the summer to see the city and my workplace!

What made you decide to do the Wisconsin in Washington internship this summer?

I wanted to intern with the Wisconsin in Washington program to gain professional experience with fellow Badgers in the DC area. I hope to someday work in policy and advocacy, and DC is the epicenter of opportunities related to public service.

Tell us about your internship experience thus far.

I am interning with the National Women’s Political Caucus, an organization dedicated to electing female, progressive candidates in federal and state governments. I will be interning with the program for about 10 weeks, working with five other interns. I will be researching for the caucus to help them prepare for their upcoming 2021-2022 candidate endorsement and training cycle. I will also have the opportunity to help the group with their 50th anniversary conference and gala. I am very excited to learn more about the behind-the-scenes elements of the candidate recruitment and training process!

How will the Wisconsin in Washington internship help you meet your academic and career goals?

My internship will help me connect with the vast UW–Madison alumni network located in DC and give me access to important resume-building tools. I ultimately hope to attend graduate school, so gaining experience in the professional world will be highly beneficial to me in my future career.

Besides the internship, what else are you doing this summer?

I will be spending time with my friends that have remained on campus for their internships and studying for the GRE. I also plan to spend many sunny days out on the Terrace in between meetings and projects!

Tips from an internship coordinator

Kathleen Rause, internship coordinator with Success Works at the College of Letters & Science, says Summer Term can be a great time for an internship since students may have more free time than they do in the fall or spring and many employers offer summer internships.

headshot of Kathleen Rause
Kathleen Rause, internship coordinator with Success Works

Wondering if your course of study has internship opportunities?

“Internships are available in almost every career field,” Rause says. “While some may think of certain industries such as business or engineering when they hear the word ‘internship,’ there are options in almost any field you can imagine.”

To find internships, Rause recommends students visit their school or college home career center website to take a look at resources tailored to career or academic interests. She also suggests checking out Handshake and LinkedIn as well as the UW Student Jobs board, which shares research and internship opportunities, usually on campus or in the Madison area. Visit the International Internship Program website if you’re interested in interning abroad.

While last summer saw many companies working with UW–Madison to place students in virtual internships due to the pandemic, Rause says that this summer about 1/3 will be virtual, 1/3 will be in person and 1/3 will be hybrid. Internships can be paid or unpaid, though Rause says they discourage for-profit companies from offering unpaid internships.

How can an internship help you? Rause says there are countless studies showing these and other benefits of internships:

  • Exposure to industry and the world of work – Do you like the company/industry/sector? What do you value in a work setting?
  • Access to industry professionals and future employers – Employers may have pipeline programs where they offer interns full-time jobs upon graduation.
  • Application of knowledge gained in the classroom – Students can apply theory or concepts learned in courses to practical work.
  • Development of technical and transferable skills – Building these skills is important for future job applications and interviews!
  • Increases employability due to resume-building and networking opportunities.

Rause encourages every student to participate in an internship at some point before they graduate.

“There are so many options in terms of type of company and how many hours per week you commit, as well as paid and unpaid options,” she says. “Make an appointment with a career advisor (through the Career Exploration Center or your specific school or college) if you are stuck or are not finding the type of opportunity you would like.”

Learn more about summer internships and advancing your academic goals on the Summer Term website.