Latin American Studies

STUDENT GUIDE TO LAS 490
INTERNSHIP IN LATIN AMERICAN STUDIES

Facilitator: Zulema Moret, B-2-242 Mackinac Hall
E-Mail: moretz@gvsu.edu
Phone: 331-2286 (office)
Fax: 331-8111

INTRODUCTION. One of the best ways to learn about Latin America and Latino culture is by getting to know its people and institutions. One of the best ways of learning about careers in the field is by working in it. LAS 490 speaks to both of these objectives by offering you the opportunity to earn college credits while you work among Latin Americans or Latinos or for an agency which specializes in studying or servicing these communities. Locally, you might find a placement with the Hispanic Center of West Michigan, the United Farm Workers of America, the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at Michigan State University, or the Latin American Marketing Division of Steelcase, Inc. In Latin America, you might find work with a human rights agency, a health care provider, or a school. To encourage this kind of enriching, practical yet educational experience, the Latin American Studies Program offers upper division students who have successfully completed at least nine hours of LAS-related courses (those listed as part of the program in the catalog) a chance to earn valuable credits by enrolling in LAS 490.

GOALS AND OBJECTIVES.

INITIATING AN INTERNSHIP.
In consultation with your faculty advisor and the site supervisor prepare a written work plan for your internship experience, outlining the work you intend to perform, setting dates for the submission of periodic progress reports, providing a tentative schedule for its completion, and establishing a date for submission of your cumulative final report. Submit the work plan, with signatures from your faculty advisor and site supervisor, to the LAS Program coordinator for final approval of your registration in LAS 490.

ORIENTATION AND LANGUAGE TRAINING.

CREDITS AND EVALUATION.
Evaluation is based on successful completion of the work plan arranged with your advisor and site supervisor. Your supervisor will be asked to submit a written evaluation of your performance at the site. This, along with periodic progress reports and a cumulative final report will provide your advisor with the material needed to grant you credit for the course. Your progress reports (1 to 2, typed pages) must list the activities you've engaged in since your last report and provide a running tally of the hours you've logged since the beginning of your placement. It should also include notes relaying your evaluation of the progress you've made towards fulfilling the goals and objectives of the course. The final report (8 to 12 typed pages, double-spaced) should elaborate on the reflections made in your periodic progress reports, discussing your personal and intellectual growth, your contributions to the agency, and the relationship between your LAS education, including the orientation reading assigned for the course, and your practical internship experience. You should also provide your advisor with copies of any work produced for your supervisor.

WORKING WITH YOUR FACULTY ADVISOR.WORKING WITH YOUR SITE SUPERVISOR.

YOUR INTERNSHIP ACTIVITY.
These guidelines were designed to enhance your internship experience. Please let us know if you have any problems or suggestions.

Although the work plan, progress reports, and final report are needed to get credit for the course, your first priority will be to respond to the needs and demands of your site supervisor. In the development of your work plan, you should expect meaningful assignments and opportunities to learn about the agency through the observation of staff meetings, client service conferences, and so forth. Try to avoid being taken advantage of and try to avoid being ignored. Ask questions. Since you are a newcomer who will only be around a few months, you may need to be assertive and remind your workmates that you are there to learn. All the same, be courteous, responsible, and reliable in your dealings with colleagues at the site and your supervisor. Irresponsibility can result in a negative evaluation from the supervisor and reduced opportunities for future students. Show up on time, avoid unnecessary absences, and dress and behave appropriately. Be sure to discuss your progress and performance regularly with your site supervisor and clarify expectations periodically. These suggestions are important when you work at the site but especially when you work autonomously and infrequently visit the agency. It is always a good idea to write a note of appreciation to your supervisor when the internship has ended.

Each internship requires a site supervisor. This person is usually the director of an agency or a staff member assigned by the director to be your supervisor. For all practical purposes, he or she is your boss in all matter related to your work plan. This work plan should be developed with the complete consent and cooperation of the site supervisor. It should reflect the expectations of the agency and the judgment of you and your faculty advisor as to what can reasonably be accomplished during the allotted time. Work with the supervisor during your internship, supply copies of your progress reports, and consult with him or her regarding any problems or needs you may encounter during the course of your internship. At the end of the semester, your site supervisor will be asked to evaluate your performance on the basis of your achievements and behavior.

Internships require the participation of a faculty advisor. There may be a faculty member you particularly like to work with or there may be a faculty member whose Latin American Studies interests closely correspond to your internship interests. In some cases, the Program coordinator may also double as your faculty advisor. In either case, you must solicit the support of a faculty member who will work with you in preparing the work plan, providing orientation reading, responding to your questions and progress reports, if necessary, reading your final report, and evaluating your internship for credit. Look upon your faculty advisor as the instructor for your internship course. All the same, be aware that most of your learning activity will take place independently and in response to the directives of your site supervisor.

LAS 490 is offered on a Credit/No Credit basis. You may earn from one to three credits, depending on the number of hours of internship work you log. While a one credit course requires an average of four hours of work a week (60 hours per semester), and a two credit course requires and average of seven hours (105 per semester), each additional credit requires 3.3 hours additional work (approx 50 hours per semester).

For both domestic and foreign internships, it is important that you obtain specific orientation which may go beyond what you've already learned in your LAS courses. Ask your faculty advisor for a brief bibliography related to your site selection.

For the Hispanic Center, for example, reading a book like Earl Shorris's Latinos: A Biography of a People is required preparation. For foreign sites, it will be necessary for you to read about the specific country. For most foreign sites, and some domestic ones, it will also be necessary for you to have completed minimum LAS language requirements (SPA 202) or the equivalent.

Follow up your letter with a phone call and request for a meeting with the site supervisor. Make a formal contact with sites of interest to you with the approval and assistance of the Program coordinator. Normally, you will send out query letters along with a copy of your resume and the "Student Guide." Do some of your own networking. Discuss potential sites with friends, classmates, your LAS instructors, and the Program coordinator. Prepare your resume and meet with the LAS Program coordinator. Plan ahead! It is too late to get an internship when the semester has already started. Decide which semester you want to do your internship and start making arrangements for it in the early part of the prior semester.

Arranging an LAS 490 course depends on your initiative, especially when it comes to local sites. Your LAS advisor and the Program coordinator can make recommendations for sites but it is up to you to generate contacts and formalize arrangements. This is good practice for the career-hunting you'll do after graduation. We also welcome your initiative when it comes to establishing an internship outside the area and abroad. In the case of overseas internships, however, it is important that the project be coordinated with the Office of International Affairs as well as the Latin American Studies Program. One, to gain practical experience learning about Latin America and/or Latin American/Latino culture and the types of institutions that serve these communities. Two, to demonstrate your ability to relate the practical internship experience with the knowledge learned in LAS courses. Three, to demonstrate how your Latin American Studies training benefited you and the internship agency. Four, to show how your internship experience enhanced your knowledge of Latinos, Latin America, and/or the field of Latin American Studies, as appropriate.

Page last modified November 4, 2013