UCD introduces an Internship Programme to the four-year BA Humanities degree

Anna Blackburn discusses UCD’s new Humanities Internship programme with some of the people who helped get it off the ground

In the Autumn of 2020, the UCD College of Arts and Humanities implemented a trimester-long internship programme into the curriculum of BA Humanities students pursuing a four-year degree.

Dr Jaime Jones, Deputy Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies for the College of Arts and Humanities, and Bronwyn Salmon, the Employability & Internship Manager, have been developing this programme for over five years and were excited to finally incorporate it into the curriculum. All third-year students at UCD who have successfully completed their Stage 2 requirements are eligible to apply for internships and, upon successful fulfilment of workplace expectations and academic requirements, completing an internship is worth 30 credits and is GPA neutral, so it does not affect students’ overall graduated GPA.

Originally, the programme was set to begin in January of 2021, but the plan changed when Salmon found there was an “appetite” for both students and companies to begin in September. Arts and Humanities students have a wide range of skills, from creative writing and arts and culture, to marketing, communication, and research, so the internships offered through UCD consisted of a wide variety of companies and roles. “I think that speaks to exactly what Arts and Humanities students are good at” said Dr Jones, “they apply skills rather than necessarily kind of specific business-related training, to jobs that they come into. And so because of that, when you look at our portfolio compared to other colleges and other degree programs, it's just much more diverse. They can write, they can research, they can communicate and those are incredible skills in the workplace”. Salmon sourced internships from companies who advertised on the UCD Careers portal, such as Museum of Literature Ireland, Newstalk, Off the Ball, Fighting Words, TodayFM, The National Library of Ireland, STAND, Balls.ie, and several others. This year the programme placed twenty-five students, fifteen in Autumn and ten in Spring.

There is also an option for students to source their own internships, both locally and internationally, online or in-person since the internship replaces their trimester. This year was smaller than Salmon and Dr Jones had anticipated due to the Covid-19 pandemic, as many companies opt-ed out due to requiring an in-person intern, however, they are working to expand the programme and offer the opportunity to go on internships to as many students as possible next year. Self-sourcing an internship through UCD makes the company more likely to accept an intern, as the students have the support of the University making companies more secure in their decision to take on a student intern. Dr Jones works to “make it clear to the companies that we're working with that while it's definitely of benefit to them [...] part of the benefit is that they're engaging with the students' experience. It's not just about what the student could bring to their organization, but rather how they can help foster that student... and all of the organizations that we work with are really interested in that part of it of actually, helping the students to develop the skills that they need in the workplace, so that's something we really look for in our employers, that open-mindedness to nurture the students who are going into the positions.”

Choosing an internship can be very difficult, but there are a lot of supports available in UCD to help students prepare. With any and all questions, emailing Bronwyn Salmon is the place to start. You can also ask the Careers Office for advice and Dr Jones recommends talking to your pathway coordinator for “a more general discussion of how a specific internship would fit into their specific academic trajectory.” The Career Readiness module is also a good way to prepare yourself for interviews and what to expect in the workplace. Dr Jones and Salmon also take the time to hold an induction session with all incoming interns and check-in with them during the trimester.

Internships are a good way to improve your CV, gain workplace and interview experience, and help direct students on their path to finding a career that is right for them. Third-year English with Creative Writing student Jodie Doyle did an internship at Museum of Literature Ireland (MoLI) in Trimester One. Her role consisted of research projects, helping with workshops, and other opportunities. In her role, she discovered that she enjoys working with kids and found the support from her superiors crucial to her success, stating MoLI was the first place she had experienced “a healthy work culture. The people there were super encouraging and were interested in me as a person and professionally and really wanted to help me succeed. Part of MoLI’s ethos is to be a stepping stone into bigger things and help you think out of the box and give you new opportunities. I would definitely recommend doing an internship because it pushes you so far out of your comfort zone and it’s a really fun way to spend a semester of college. You really learn about yourself, especially through the weekly journals.”

Internships can also help you expand your professional contact list and build your confidence in all aspects of your life. It gives students “this narrative that you can present to possible future employers saying how it’s your origin story” said Dr Jones.

Dr Jones was eager to get this programme started. She said she’s “always really disliked [the] perception that Arts and Humanities students are somehow not as equipped for the workforce as other students because really you find the opposite is true. I have this really strong [...] mission to spread the word about what Humanities students are capable of. It's that opportunity of showing employers, showing society, and actually showing the students themselves exactly how much [they’re] capable of and that to me is just hugely exciting.”

“[I] always really disliked that that perception that Arts and Humanities students are somehow not as equipped for the workforce as other students because really you find the opposite is true

Dr Jones and Salmon are always looking for feedback from students about their interests in order to create a more diverse portfolio of opportunities going forward so feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns you may have regarding Humanities internships at UCD.