Grad Student Research Internships
Impetus for the Internship Initiative
About one-half of new doctorate recipients find initial employment in business, government, or nonprofit jobs, according to a recent report from the National Science Foundation.
This prompted Schroeder and other University leaders to initiate a dialogue with employers in the Minneapolis area about how to best prepare these students for careers beyond academia: the Spring 2015 Graduate & Professional Education Assembly was dedicated to this topic.
Representatives from local companies spoke about how employees with a Ph.D. degree contribute to their organizations, as well as how graduate students can position themselves and their research to land non-academic careers.
“We seek out graduate students because we’re looking for innovative thinkers,” said Lloyd Clausen, Senior Campus Recruiter for Target.
Bernadette Piacek-Llanes from General Mills noted the kinds of skills they’re looking for: “What’s most important to us is technical acumen and judgment; the ability to connect the dots…the ability to work in teams and to collaborate.”
And Medtronic’s Michael Bateman, a senior scientist and also a U of M alum, advised graduate students to emphasize their “willingness to learn, and to go beyond [their] skill sets.”
“It became very obvious that a research experience and its concrete outcomes such as publications, presentations, performances, exhibitions or a timely completion were seen as valid indicators of future success,” says Schroeder.
23 grad students receive awards totaling almost $100K to support summer research internships
As part of the University’s effort to broaden career options and research experiences for graduate students, the Graduate School recently awarded 23 students with stipends of up to $4,000 each for internships during summer 2015.
“The purpose of this program is to help students make early connections with potential future employers and also make employers aware of the potential that our graduate students have,” says Henning Schroeder, Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Education.
Priority was given to applications from students in non-STEM fields that don’t typically include internships – either paid or unpaid – as part of their graduate student training.
It was also critical that applicants could demonstrate how the proposed research project would enhance the student’s dissertation research; how it would benefit both the student and the host organization; how the skills and experience gained would advance career readiness and options; and that the student had the support of his or her advisor. More than two dozen programs from six colleges were represented in the applicant pool.
Says one of the applicants whose proposal was funded, "This is a priceless opportunity that will help me explore my research area of interest in the education and employment of immigrants. It is also an opportunity for me to engage with a community organization that serves immigrants and refugees to build a relationship with the University of Minnesota."
The wide array of “host” organizations brought forth by the students is impressive. They represent industry, nonprofit and government; they’re global and local; well-known and undiscovered: from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts to the World Health Organization; from the Penumbra Theater Company to the American Lung Association; from the Active Kids Association of Sport to the American Composers Forum.
“We believe that these experiences will not just be helpful to those looking for jobs outside academia,” says Schroeder. “In order to successfully apply for faculty positions, demonstration of collaborative work and engagement with non-academic entities is just as important.”
While this initial phase of the program was limited to students in research-based doctoral programs (Ph.D. and D.M.A.), the goal is to expand the program to all researched-based graduate students in the future. "This program has a lot of people excited," says one applicant. "Thank you for providing us the opportunity to apply for much needed funding to seek out opportunities to establish connections and build our skills outside the classroom."
“We have received many inquiries from students, faculty and companies, and are optimistic that we can expand the program after this pilot year,” says Schroeder.