US internship program proves successful

One of the less publicised developments in higher education over the last quarter of a century has been the growth of internship programs, says Dr JOHN HART.

In 1990 and 1991 I worked with the then Dean of the ANU Faculty of Arts Professor Richard Campbell to establish the Australian National Internship Program, designed to offer students an opportunity to see the inside workings of the Commonwealth Parliament.

More than a decade later I developed the Washington Internship Program as a joint initiative with Professor Donald DeBats at Flinders University. Each university sent six students to spend seven weeks each year, working in a US congressional office – usually a member of the House or the Senate, but sometimes a committee staff office.

When the students returned, they wrote a 6,000-word research project based on a task undertaken during their placement.

The Washington Internship was a first for ANU in the development of overseas internships. The initial cohort went in 2005 and, at the time of writing, the twelfth group of students were in Washington.

The organisation of a program like this wasn’t easy.

It required finding a dozen placements for non-Americans in the US Congress each year, a complex process of visa sponsorship and application, travel to and from the US, accommodation for seven weeks in Washington, insurance, and putting in place a system of back-up and support should anything go wrong.