Academic journal article New Zealand Sociology

Co-Managing the Sustainability of University Internship Programmes in Brownfield Sites

Academic journal article New Zealand Sociology

Co-Managing the Sustainability of University Internship Programmes in Brownfield Sites

Article excerpt


No University Outreach, including the sociology internship featured in this article, occurs in isolation. There are no greenfield sites. Community stakeholder expectations are generally well established and if educational opportunities for community-engaged learning are to be sustained they need to be cherished by the academic stakeholders involved. Each partnership between course co-ordinator, students as interns, and community manager must be effectively and sensitively managed. Sustainability of opportunity is especially important in a small city with limited opportunities. This article brings together an internship course coordinator, a teaching and learning specialist and two community-programme managers who agreed to host two teams of interns in this internship programme. Together they use their experience to reflect on potential disjuncture between academics' teaching interests, student learning opportunities and community needs and on how to co-manage this complex relationship. The article provides a number of innovations to sustain the evolving relationships between the interns, the community managers and the course coordinator.


This article focuses on the sustainability of community-based tertiary level internship programmes as analysed through a single case study where the senior author (course coordinator) oversaw a semester-long sociology internship involving twenty students in five research sites in the community. This was a third year university level course where the students had to have completed a research-methods course prior. Two of the article's authors were managers employed by the university who run community programmes, where two of the five projects took place.

The internship set out to develop the research skills of undergraduate sociology students for employment in either policy analyst work with the government or an NGO. The internship course went beyond sociology's emphasis on an academic critique of sociological research and society (Finkelstein, 2009: 90). Its goals were to serve as a bridge for students completing their degrees by providing them with specific research experience to prepare them for employment as sociologist researchers.

The five local organisations in which internships were undertaken were: Dunedin Central Libraries, Otago Daily Times (ODT), a group of Dunedin Food Banks and the University of Otago. The Dunedin Central Libraries' Book Bus seemed a vulnerable social service in times of economic austerity and this internship project sought research it and to support it. The Otago Daily Times' Dawn Patrol project studied those who deliver the morning ODT, allowing this 'invisible' group of workers to tell their story about what they do, how they do it and for what purpose. The Food Bank project investigated the food distribution policies used in each of the four Dunedin Food Banks. The University of Otago Science Wananga project explored the experiences of postgraduate students who have supported university staff to deliver science projects to high school Mäori students during 2-3 day residential programmes on marae and nearby schools (Wananga is a Mäori word that loosely translates to 'place or system of learning'). The University of Otago's Marine Studies Centre project studied university students who took part in an 8 day residential, marine science programme for Year 10 Gifted and Talented school children in 2010.

The teaching and research that accompanied this educational development is described in full elsewhere (Tolich, 2012; Tolich and Paris, 2012; Tolich, Shephard and Paris, forthcoming). Students undertook supervised research in groups. Each project involved the students meeting their particular community group to plan and discuss research objectives and questions, interview research subjects at intervals, analyse data and produce reports or resources for the community groups. The course included regular tutorials with the course coordinator and four assignments designed to add structure to the students' research programme. …

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