Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Listening to the Public: Surveying Internship Work Sites to Determine Students Postgraduate Readiness


Writing Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Arts and Humanities


Much of what English or Writing departments currently know about students postgraduate preparedness is assumed. For the most part, we hope the skills we teach our students will easily translate from the classroom into the workplace. Despite such optimism, numerous studies (e.g. Gaitens 2000; Tovey 2001; Roever 2000; Steeves 2006) report that interns face various challenges as they transition from the academy to the work world. They note that supervisors are often frustrated by not only the gap in skills, but students inability to professionally negotiate the work environment (i.e. workplace illiteracy). This raises the questions: how much do we really know about how our students perform on-the-job in relation to what organizations expect performance-wise? Do our students actually develop the knowledge and skill sets necessary to become successful professional writers? As departments public faces, internship directors are in a unique position to help answer these questions. In this role we have firsthand knowledge about the kind of work our interns are doing through on-site supervisor visits and evaluations. Internships are the perfect setting to study our students abilities and their potential value as employees. Unfortunately this type of information often goes unreported to the directors themselves or to other members of the department. The data may remain locked away in file cabinets or go unretrieved from databases. Relatively few studies have thoroughly documented supervisors assessments of student interns educational preparation and their workplace performance. Therefore, intentionally collecting supervisor feedback would enable departments to better examine their students capacities to shift from the academic realm to the workforce and to determine to what extent the skills they gain through the program actually translate into successful internships and eventually successful employment. This presentation will highlight and discuss some of the major findings that emerged from analyzing nearly two years worth of supervisor evaluations of student intern performances including workplace literacy and academic preparedness. In addition to reporting on supervisor feedback, I will share how professional writing faculty from my home institution responded to the supervisors perceptions of their students. By sharing these results, I hope to encourage more departments to utilize supervisor feedback to assess their academic programs, their students abilities, and their students state of readiness post-graduation for employment. Spigelman and Grobman (2006) contend that it is critical to assess the extent to which an academic program has fully prepared [students] for the challenges and expectations of internship sites (58) as well as future employment sites. As internship directors we are in an ideal situation to review students internship experiences through the lens of the supervisor in order to establish that learning outcomes are being met, students experiences are consistent with our academic programs mission, and that organizations expectations are being considered. Ultimately, supervisor evaluations serve as critical reality checks for student interns and departments alike, and we need to listen more carefully to these important public stakeholders. Writing and English departments must also recognize internship work sites and internship programs as valuable resources to gather useful assessment data on a range of areas from student learning and programmatic effectiveness to classroom instruction. Works Cited Gaitens, Judi. Lessons from the Field: Socialization Issues in Writing and Editing Internships. Business Communication Quarterly 63.1 (2000): 64-76. Print. Roever, Carol. Mead Corporation's Creative Approach to Internships: Success in a Unionized Manufacturing Plant. Business Communication Quarterly 63.1 (2000): 90-100. Print. Spigelman, Candace, and Laurie Grobman Why We Chose Rhetoric: Necessity, Ethics, and the (Re)Making of a Professional Writing Program. Journal of Business and Technical Communication 20.1 (2006): 48-64. Print. Steeves, H. Leslie. Experiencing International Communication: An Internship Program in Ghana, West Africa. Journalism and Mass Communication Educator 60 (2006): 360-373. Print. Tovey, Janice. Building Connections between Industry and University: Implementing an Internship Program at a Regional University. Technical Communication Quarterly 10 (2001): 225-239. Print.

Conference Name

Conference on College Composition and Communication

Conference Location

Tampa, FL

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