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Student Engagement

As student affairs professionals, we push students to get involved on campus and also host many programs throughout many different fields for students to attend. Research has shown that the more students are involved in educational activities the more likely they are to succeed in getting higher grades, graduating, and personal development more fully as people. (Kuh, Kinzie, Shuh, Whitt, & Associates, 2005) Student engagement is a critical part of student success and student development.

As Kuh et al. (2005) note, when institutions, faculty and administrators put in the effort and resources to foster student success through creating student engagement activities, students put much more effort into their studies and activities, achieving their own success. Kuh et al. , (2005) did a study to document effective educational practicing based on student engagement and graduation rates.

They used the educational practice clusters created by the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), which are: academic challenge, active and collaborative learning, student interaction with faculty members, enriching educational experiences, and supportive campus environment (Kuh et al. , 2005, p. 10). The focus of this paper will be on the benefits of enriching educational experiences, specifically internships and field experience. Internships and field experience can include aspects of NSSE’s other clusters such as faculty-student interactions, active learning, and supportive campus environment.

Kuh (2009) in his article “What Student Affairs Professionals Need to Know about Student Engagement” briefly goes over the research of student learning, which started in the 1960’s. In the 1990’s the focus shifted to student engagement when the demand for accountability went up (Kuh, 2009). While research shows student engagement positively benefits students from all different backgrounds, more research is needed to further understand how to involve second and third year students along with non-traditional students in educational engagement activities. (Kuh, 2009).

The second items to look at are chapters from the book “Student Success in College: Creating Conditions That Matter” by G. Kuh, J. Kinzie, J. Schuh, E. Whitt and Associates (2005). This article goes over the importance of student engagements and did a study of characters of 20 schools that had student engagement and graduation rates. These schools varied greatly, but all had engaged some aspect of the NSSE’s learning clusters (Kuh et al. 2005). These schools could serve as examples for other institutions on how to alter their programs to become more effective in student engagement (Kuh et al, 2005).

In order to learn effectively, students need to be able to apply what they have learned and be challenged (Kuh et al, 2005). One successful way to engage students is through internships, which provide the hand-on learning experiences students will not get in the classroom (Westerberg & Wickersham, 2011). Internships vary in types and can offer many different benefits, such as increased interactions with faculty or more involvement in the community through local internships.

For example, internships at UCSB encourage enriching educational experiences through UCSB’s Career Services which has extensive information from searching to obtaining internships. UCSB engages student internships and field experience largely through their career center. Field experience can also be gained through individual departments for credit as well by signing for a specific course for a specific number of units with a professor’s approval. Students can search for internships through the Career Center itself or by logging into Gaucholink to search the database for internships and job postings.

Career Services also holds classes for career exploration, career fairs, mock interviews, and programs such as job-hunting, interviewing, resume writing, applying to graduate school, etc. A staff of 17 professionals, not including students or volunteers, runs the career service center of UCSB. Ignacio Gallardo is the Director and Emily White is the associate director and John Coate is the Assistant Director/Coordinator (UCSB, 2014b). Career services is used by undergraduates, graduate students, and recent graduates for six months after graduation.

They all have access to the service center along with GuachoLink, the career services website and job posting. Undergraduates and graduates are also able to do internships in their respective major for units. The Career Services was first called the placement center and was established in 1953 (The Regents of the University of California, 2005). Over time, its services grew and expanded as more students were seeking employment, vocational guidance, advising, career planning assistance, and help with job searching (The Regents of the University of California, 2005).

In order to keep up with the ever-expanding demand, UCSB Career Services (2013) has several plans to implement in the future; one new change is to expand experiential learning opportunities, such as internships and field experience, for students to explore. They plan to do this by continuously expanding their database for internships with a heavy emphasis on local internships to connect students to the community (UCSB Career Services, 2013).

For the Career Service (2013) to deepen the learning experience, they also plan to add a reflection piece to an existing program module, students use while doing internships so the students can record their learning and what new skills they learned. They also seek to support employer’s recruitment efforts by providing more to existing programs, simplifying the hiring process and more active promotion of internships on campus by planning special program aimed at target populations to increase visibility. (UCSB Career Services, 2013).

All these focus on encouraging students to get internships, to engage students in hands on learning and possible field experience. The emphasis on the local internships also encourages students to get involved in the community as well by being in it since campus can sometimes be a satellite of its own. Getting off campus encourages students to be aware and involved in the community they are working in. In general, students are satisfied with the career services. They offer many different programs and services one can take advantage of.

The highest ratings of satisfaction were specific services like assessment testing, drop in appointments and career programs (UCSB, 2014a). In the survey taken on student satisfaction for the 2012-2013 school year by seniors, 40% of the survey respondents said they were satisfied with the internships opportunities at UCSB (UCSB, 2014a). 58% of the 1183 respondents had at least one internships, while 42% who used the services did not (UCSB, 2014a). UCSB does not require internships but they are strongly encouraged. GauchoLink Job Board was the main source for finding internships (UCSB, 2014a).

Interestingly, the survey noticed the more internships a student completed, the less they felt the internships were less important in career planning (UCSB, 2014a). This could because students gain hands on experience about potential jobs they weren’t expecting as some may experience in internships like in the opening example of Westerberg and Wickersham’s (2011) article “Internships Have Value, Whether or Not Students Are Paid”. UCSB does a biyearly satisfaction survey of graduating seniors they email in the spring quarter and provides the data in a Summary Report of Career Services (UCSB, 2014a).

The survey is sent out to all the seniors who declared candidacy and 35% responded. The data was compared to the data collected in 2011 (UCSB, 2014a). UCSB Career Services enabled students to get internships in their major or field experience that enables them to get hands on experience, apply what they learned in the class in the real world, get involved in the local community, and gain new skills for their resumes. Some internships under a professor also encourage faculty and student interactions, but these internships are done individually by major departments and for course credit.

Such internships also directly enable students to use what they read from their textbooks and lectures (Westerberg & Wickersham, 2011). Being able to do so challenges students and requires students to put in the effort which Kun et al. , (2005) have mentioned improves student success. Internships are one way for students to engagement in student learning. Since internships greatly vary so does it benefits. At UCSB, some benefits are hands-on experience, interaction with faculty when doing internships within the department, or getting more involved in the local community in internships in the area, etc.

As Kul et al. (2005) emphasized any involvement in educational activity has the benefits of student development and higher grades but internships cross into other student success clusters like active learning that make it exceptionally valuable. It is important for institutions to have well established Career center like UCSB’s Career Services, to help students search and prepare for internships and to have within departments opportunities for internships as well.

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