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College devotes more than $200,000 to help unpaid interns and student teachers

The Iowa State University College of Human Sciences has awarded more than $200,000 in scholarships over the past two years to assist students gaining work experience through unpaid internships and student teaching experiences.

Under an initiative that began in the summer of 2015, the college has so far awarded six rounds of scholarships totaling $204,000 to 157 students. Most of these students have chosen service-oriented careers, but none received paychecks while interning or student teaching in their field of study.

This scholarship helped me achieve my lifelong dream of attending nursing school,” said Sedona Dowd, a senior in kinesiology and health who is interning at Mary Greeley Medical Center and Story County Public Health. “It helped offset some of my costs here at ISU so that I could focus on my final courses and my internship, as well as my graduate school applications.”

Madeline Miller, a senior in child, adult, and family services, said the scholarship made it possible for her to work toward her goals with a school counseling internship at Sawyer Elementary in Ames.

“I pay for my college degree by myself,” Miller said. “Without this scholarship, I would have had to choose an internship that was paid to meet my basic needs — rent, groceries, etc. — while I attend school full time. The internships that are paid in this field aren't necessarily what I want to do after graduation, and wouldn't assist me near as much as this one has in furthering my career goals and dreams.”   

Each scholarship provides students with $1,000 to $2,000 to help with living expenses incurred during an internship or student teaching appointment required for their degree program, where other financial compensation is not provided. The larger scholarships are awarded to students serving in an unpaid internship in Iowa that benefits economic or community development, state or government agencies, schools, or social-service agencies.

Applications being accepted for next round

Applications are now being accepted from College of Human Sciences undergraduate students seeking scholarships for both summer and fall. The application deadline is April 17 for summer internships, and July 24 for fall internships and student teaching opportunities.

The most recent round of scholarships helped a total of 39 students — 25 majoring in elementary education; three in child, adult, and family services; one in early childhood education; one in event management; eight in kinesiology and health; and one in family and consumer sciences education and studies.

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Iowa State senior Linnea Stephens works with children at her internship in New York

“I was thankful for the scholarship because my internship is unpaid and I don't have enough time to work another job — so knowing that I received financial help made me feel more at ease being here,” said Linnea Stephens, a senior in child, adult, and family services who is interning at A House on Beekman, a nonprofit that provides programming to help children in the South Bronx, New York, thrive.

Stephens’ internship responsibilities include both working in the office and going to an after-school program each day, helping to pick kids up from school, facilitating games, and helping children with their homework.

BrieAnn Nielsen, a senior in elementary education who’s student teaching at Gilbert Elementary School, and Max Griffith, a senior in kinesiology and health who’s student teaching at Kuemper Catholic School in Carroll, both said the scholarship allows them to worry less about their finances.

“This scholarship will help ease some of the financial burden that I will have on my shoulders after I graduate in May,” Griffith said. “This scholarship has also made it so I won't have to get a job during my student teaching placement — something that is highly suggested against because of the demand of being a student teacher.”

And Lindsey Anderegg, a senior in secondary education and family and consumer sciences education and studies, is student teaching in Rosendal, Norway. She hopes to become a principal and eventually open her own school.  

“This scholarship has helped me in my studies abroad because the program cost an additional amount on top of my original Iowa State tuition,” she said. “It made it possible for me to be able to have this experience.”

Efforts still underway to encourage paid internships

A recent study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers Foundation found that unpaid internships correlate negatively to student salary and employment outcomes, but still help students with networking, confirming or rejecting career interests, and setting and attaining career goals.

This internship helped solidify my aspirations of becoming a nurse, and allowed me to see the behind-the-scenes workflow of a hospital,” Dowd said. “I am very thankful for this opportunity and all the experience that I have gained from it because I believe that real-life experience is so much more beneficial for learning.”

The College of Human Sciences has for several years encouraged all employers to provide some form of financial assistance to interns — whether it be a stipend, room and board, a scholarship, or something to offset the students’ tuition and cost of living. However, some nonprofits and other organizations lack the budget to pay interns.

Forty percent of College of Human Sciences student internships for academic credit in the past year were paid between summer 2015 and spring 2016 — up from 35 percent four years ago, according to data from the college’s career services office. However, that still leaves 60 percent of internships unpaid.

“While it is our goal to have all of our students participate in a paid internship experience, we fully realize compensation is not always provided,” said Tammy Stegman, the college’s career services director. “For students, the experience alone may be more meaningful than the pay. We are grateful to donors who provide scholarship funds to assist these students with living expenses.”

An anonymous gift in December 2014 established the endowed Dean’s Chair in the College of Human Sciences. Some of those funds are used to establish the scholarships for unpaid interns and student teachers. Additional funding comes from the college’s career services office and from other private gifts directed to the college.

Support for students continues to be a priority and can be directed to Iowa State University’s Forever True, For Iowa State campaign by contacting Molly Parrott, the College of Human Sciences’ director of development, at 515-294-7437 or mparrott@iastate.edu.