William & Mary is a leader when it comes to internships and preparing students for successful careers, and the university continues to set the bar higher.

Careers is one of the four cornerstone initiatives of W&M’s Vision 2026 strategic plan. As part of that initiative, the university aims to support internship or applied learning opportunities for every undergraduate student.

W&M’s next step toward this goal is an inaugural Internship & Applied Learning Showcase on Sept. 8 that will give nearly 100 students a platform to communicate the impact of their experiences to the rest of the student body.

The event, which will take place from noon to 3 p.m. in the Sadler Center’s Tidewater A&B rooms, will highlight opportunities that exist beyond the classroom in professional settings through pithy three-minute presentations by students. It is open only to W&M students.

“It’s a great way to reach out to other students who may not know about these internship and applied learning opportunities,” said Sophia Kim ’24, an art history major who did a summer internship at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk. “With the showcase, students can come in and hear about other student experiences and explore what their niche is.”

Creating an ecosystem

For the third consecutive year, the Princeton Review named William & Mary the best public institution for internships, highlighting the university’s commitment to preparing students for successful careers.

Moreover, the Wall Street Journal ranked William & Mary 16th among public institutions for top-paying jobs in tech.

William & Mary Chief Career Officer Kathleen Powell said the university’s goal is to guarantee a funded internship or applied learning opportunity for every eligible qualified undergraduate. She added that W&M’s target for 2026 is for 85% of undergraduate students to record an internship or other applied learning opportunity on their transcripts.

The showcase, to be held once a semester, will act as a “knowledge transfer” to get more students to think about the importance of internships and applied learning opportunities, such as research, community service and internships connected with study abroad programs.

There will be learning objectives associated with the showcase, and judges will review the presentations based on communication skills and critical reflection.

“In that career cornerstone for Vision 2026, one of the three pillars for us is educate for impact, and we know that an internship opens doors for students. It’s career capital,” Powell said.

“How do we get students excited that internships just become part of the culture? This showcase is one of the many things that we’ll be doing throughout the next few years to get students excited and to share their experiences.”

William & Mary is in the process of building a team to help students connect with internships and applied learning opportunities. The university recently hired Director of Internships & Applied Learning Phil Heavilin, and is rounding out a team to include a career coach and a coordinator.

“In addition to culture, the showcase will help develop the ecosystem, because students are going to engage in these opportunities in a variety of ways through different departments and programs and people,” Heavilin said. “What the showcase will do and what I think our team here is trying to do is we’re trying to look across the William & Mary ecosystem to find ways to streamline, to organize and bring people together collectively.”

Powell said the university’s destination survey for the Class of 2023, which it is currently collecting data for, will show approximately 475-525 unique employers hiring William & Mary graduates.

“We want to keep that going, and the only way we can keep that going is if we are expanding the internship pipelines,” Powell said.

The Internship & Applied Learning Showcase is a culmination of work by a cross section of campus, including the Charles Center and the Office of Career Development & Professional Engagement, both of which came together last fall to offer a course to allow early academic students to receive credit for internships.

“Students who participated in the new three-credit summer course benefited from the opportunity to reflect upon and share their internship experiences with one another alongside a faculty mentor,” said Elizabeth Harbron, director of the Charles Center and Floyd D. Gottwald Professor of Chemistry. “The showcase goes one step further, by inviting all students to share with the campus community how their applied learning experiences this summer intersected with their academic coursework and shaped their educational and professional goals.” 

Lessons learned

Presentations will be modeled after those at the Graduate & Honors Research Symposium. Students will present a single slide of information on a digital monitor while giving a three-minute statement. Afterward, they will answer questions and engage with other students.

The presentations will communicate how the experiences shaped the students’ aspirations for grad school or careers beyond William & Mary.

Sophie Workinger ’24, a global studies and government major who interned with the City of Williamsburg, will present about her work in helping the city develop a carbon emissions reduction plan. Her internship allowed her to connect her studies with her passion for the environment. She now plans to pursue an environmental program in graduate school.

“It’s sort of been a growing process, but this internship really helped me understand that no matter what I do, it has to involve the environment,” she said.  

Workinger will also speak about some of the lessons she learned during her internship experiences. For example, she discovered that she’s not interested in pursuing research-based work. Also, she realized a possible career path in local government that she didn’t consider previously.

“That was a surprising twist for me,” she said.

Kim, who interned in the curatorial department at the Chrysler Museum, will speak about how hands-on her internship was. She worked on three projects for upcoming exhibitions and was part of doing background research as well as selecting prints for a focused gallery in one of the museum’s main exhibitions.

“I had the opportunity to go around to different departments and talk to everybody and dabble in all sorts of things,” Kim said. “I loved what I was doing specifically, but I definitely had the chance to explore different parts of the museum if I wanted to go into that in the future.”

Many of the presenters, including Workinger and Kim, participated in a pilot three-credit course over the summer consisting of faculty-led seminars and Zoom sessions to allow students to reflect on their experiences.

“This early credit-bearing internship is amazing in the sense that we have created a vehicle for students, especially freshmen and early sophomores, to have a holding place where they can receive credit before they are required to declare a major and have an academic home,” Powell said.

The goal of the inaugural showcase is to infuse the campus community with an interest in internships and applied learning beyond campus. The hope is that the showcase grows and helps the university reach its aspiration of every student participating in an internship or applied learning experience.

“I think the main goal is to help create a culture that views a William & Mary education as one that connects the classroom to a rich and varied professional world around us,” Harbron said. “We’re trying to weave together the professional and the academic journey in a way that honors William & Mary’s roots in the liberal arts & sciences.”

, Communications Specialist