The Bachelor’s Degree – The Engagement Experience

In political science, all majors must complete six hours of the engagement experience-an internship program which emphasizes improvement of the student’s ability to learn from experience, career assessment, relationships between theory and practice, and realistic appreciation of public affairs.

The most important question to be asked in planning an internship is “What kind of experience is most likely to make me the sort of educated person I want to be?” Identify the experience that best fulfills your educational aspirations. Then you, your adviser, and the Internships and Prior Learning Services (IPL) office can work to approximate that idea as closely as possible.

Most political science majors want political experience. Here are some of the political experiences PSC majors have chosen in the past.

The Legislative Applied Study Term (LAST). This popular AST option is offered each spring semester when the Illinois General Assembly is in session. In a special series of seminars, students learn how to function effectively in the legislative environment and work as aides to Illinois senators and representatives. Interested students should see Barbara VanDyke-Brown, whose office is located in the Public Affairs Center, Room 470, Phone: 206-6579.

The General Applied Study. This is the option in which most students enroll. Political science students have been placed in such agencies as:

  • Executive Office of the Governor
  • Office of the Attorney General
  • Office of the President of the Illinois Senate
  • Illinois Department of Agriculture
  • Illinois Department of Transportation

Students have been placed with such lobbying organizations as the Illinois Manufacturer’s Association, International Federation of Teachers, American Civil Liberties Union, and The Coalition Against Hunger. Others have worked for local government agencies, law firms or the federal government. Still others have undertaken special projects. One PSC major ran for treasurer of Logan County; another founded an environmental federation to save the Middle Fork of the Vermillion River, still another participated in an anarchist commune in California.

It is not necessary that your internship be taken in a six-hour block. It can be taken three hours in one semester and three hours in another semester. The modules are flexible. An additional three hours of internship credit may be taken as a general elective with the permission of your PSC adviser.


Consult. The first thing to do is to talk it over with your political science adviser. That’s important for good curriculum planning. It’s also important because your adviser, who has a lot of experience with applied internships, can help you avoid unnecessary steps. The IPL office (in Brookens 482, 206-6640) is full of good counsel and information. There are files of previous placements, which can help you decide what sort of position is best for you, and the IPL faculty and staff are prime sources of knowledge and information about applied study possibilities.

Arrange your placement. You will need to have your applied internship placement arranged before you register. The IPL office will help you make contacts, but normally the placing agency chooses you. That means sending your likely contacts a resume (the IPL office has a standard resume format) and arranging for an interview. When you have secured a placement, it is time to complete the forms.

Complete an applied internship project proposal. Early in the process, you will have picked up the Internship Course Application from from the IPL office. This form calls for the signature of your political science adviser and your field supervisor, the person in the placement agency who will direct your work and evaluate your efforts. It also asks you what you intend to learn in your applied internship. Think through your answers to that question; being thoughtful about your educational intentions at this early stage will focus your learning and save you time and energy later, when you are forming learning objectives for your learning contract. When you turn the completed Internship Course Application to the IPL office, you will be given a With Permission of Instructor (WPI) reference number, which permits you to register for the IPL 300 course. As you can see from this description of the process, it is important to start preparing for your internship in the semester before you actually want to take it.

Some students have an unusual combination of previous experience and educational aspiration which suggests that an applied internship may inappropriate. If you are one of those students, your political science adviser may suggest that you enroll in the Prior Learning Assessment Program or apply for a waiver of the applied internship requirement.