Internship Syllabus

PLS & IR Internships Syllabus

PLS 490 or IR 490

PDF version of the Internship Plan Form only

Political Science: Dr. Donald Zinman
Phone: (616) 331-8714; Email:

International Relations: Dr. Polly Diven
Phone: (616) 331-3282; Email:



The Internship Program in Political Science (PLS) or International Relations (IR) at Grand Valley State University is an opportunity for students to learn through practical experience. While the internship experience is invaluable as a means of professional networking and career advancement, our program is also designed to help students make connections between their regular classroom work and their possible profession. The Internship Program places students in a variety of national, state, and local executive and legislative offices, government agencies, political campaigns, party and interest group organizations, think tanks, judicial agencies, and law firms. IR students may also consider internships in international business or non-government organizations (NGOs).

This syllabus addresses the most frequently asked questions about the program. Please read it carefully before meeting with the Internship Director to discuss the program.



GVSU awards academic credit in proportion to the hours of work a student-intern completes. For each credit, the student is expected to work fifty hours (e.g. the student must work a total of 150 hours to receive three credits and 300 hours to receive six credits). A typical schedule during the fall or winter semesters is 10 hours a week for 15 weeks to obtain three credits and 20 hours a week for 15 weeks to obtain six credits (though students may choose 2, 4 or 5 credits as well). Up to six internship credits can be applied toward the credits needed to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in political science or international relations. The official course number for registration is PLS 490 (political science) or IR 490 (international relations).



Generally one of the key steps in finding an internship is to meet with the Internship Director to discuss placement opportunities. Prior to the meeting, students should also consult at least three campus resources:

  • The Experience Matters website (, which includes a partial listing of previous internship experiences and contact information for potential employers.
  • The GV in DC website (, which includes special information about interning with The Washington Center or other opportunities in Washington, D.C.

Please note: While the Internship Director will help prospective interns find a suitable organization, students themselves are ultimately responsible for identifying and contacting a sponsoring organization.



The internship provider is expected to provide the intern with meaningful tasks – ideally a project or series of projects – and regular supervision in the accomplishment of those tasks. Internship providers should specify a supervisor for the intern. Before the student accepts an internship with the sponsoring organization, the student and his/her supervisor will fill out and sign the relevant portions of the Internship Plan (see attached), which includes space for a brief written description of the expected tasks. In addition, the internship supervisor’s responsibilities are to be in regular, direct contact with the intern, provide direction to the intern’s job activity, and complete a final evaluation of the intern.



The intern is to perform as if he or she were a regular employee of the office, which includes expectations of neatness, punctuality, productivity, and openness to supervision. Although the primary job responsibility is to work on projects assigned to them, the intern may also be expected to do routine tasks and clerical work. Because the internship is taken for academic credit, the intern must carefully observe, analyze, and reflect upon the organization’s operation and context. See below for evaluation expectations.



At the beginning of the internship, students should complete the following:

(1) Internship Plan and Registration Permit: Prospective interns and their internship supervisors will fill out and sign the Internship Plan form, which is appended to this document. Unless the Internship Director makes an exception for unusual circumstances, the completed form should be submitted to the Internship Director at the time of registration. Upon submission of the Internship Plan, the Internship Director will issue a permit that allows students to register.

(2) Learning Objectives: Within two weeks of the commencement of the internship, students will submit to the Internship Director a brief summary (no more than two pages, double spaced) of their learning objectives. Be sure to keep a copy of the objectives for reference at the end of the semester. Interns should focus on objectives in the following areas:

  1. Professional: How do you expect this internship to help you pursue your career goals?
  2. Civic: What political knowledge or civic skills (e.g. public speaking, writing, financial literacy, cultural competency leadership) do you hope to obtain through this internship?
  3. Scholarly: Do you expect your internship to confirm/disconfirm what you have learned as a student of political science or international relations?
  4. Personal: Do you expect the internship to give you a greater sense of personal civic responsibility?

By the end of the semester (i.e., by the due date on the Internship Plan), students will complete the following:

(1) Supervisor Evaluation: At least two weeks before the end of the internship (the ending date is indicated on the Internship Plan), the intern will request that his or her supervisor forward a performance evaluation directly to the Director. The evaluation should indicate whether the student-intern has performed satisfactorily for the appropriate number of hours. A brief letter or email is usually sufficient.

(2) Internship Portfolio: Each intern is required to turn in an Internship Portfolio at the end of the semester. The Portfolio should be submitted via email. It will comprise the following:

  1. Resume: Interns will integrate their internship experience into a resume that also includes their professional objective(s), educational information, and other relevant experience.
  2. Journal: The journal is a weekly log that will include a summary of each day’s activities as well as observations and brief reflections about the functioning of the office (e.g. work-supervisor relations, leadership and management practices, interactions with outside agencies, groups and constituents/clients). It is important that interns set aside regular time to record these journal entries.
  3. Experience Matters website: Each student will “Submit an Experience” by following the instructions at Note: Your submission to Experience Matters will be forwarded automatically to me by GVSU’s Career Services.
  4. Internship Reflection: Interns will write a 5-7 page paper (double-spaced) that focuses on (1) the political and social role of the internship provider, and (2) the student’s own experience working for the internship provider. The paper should make explicit linkages to the political scientific literature on the intern’s type of organization, though the intern may find that his or her experience does not confirm that literature. The reflection might respond to the following questions, among others:
    • Whom is the organization trying to serve, and in what way?
    • How does the group pursue its goal? What are the major obstacles to pursuing its goals (e.g. individual people, public opinion, local institutions, resources, etc.)?
    • How does the organization fit into civil society? Does it seem to encourage the development of “social capital”? Why or why not?
    • What are the organization’s standards for effectiveness? Does it live up to those standards? Should there be different standards?
    • Did the student meet his or her own learning objectives by working for this provider? Why or why not?
  5. Informational Interview(s): Interns will conduct informational interviews with one (for interns completing 2-3 credits) or two (for interns completing 4-6 credits) established professionals in their area of interest (e.g. legislator, lawyer, legislative director, chief of staff, campaign manager, political advocate, public executive or administrator). The portfolio will include a summary of the interview(s) in no more than 2 double-spaced pages for each interview. The interview(s) may cover a range of topics, including the career motivations of the interviewee(s), his or her education and other experiences that led to his or her position, and the aspects of the profession that he or she likes or dislikes, among other topics. In the summary, be sure to record the interviewee’s name and the date and place of the interview(s).

Rev. Sept. 2009

PDF version of the Internship Plan Form only

Internship Plan: Political Science 490 and International Relations 490

Intern Name_____________________________  Email Address __________________

Major __________________  Semester ___________ G # _________________________

Financial Compensation (circle one)


HOURLY WAGE (Amount: _______________)

STIPEND (Amount:______________)

TUITION REIMBURSEMENT (Amount:_____________________)


Internship Supervisor:_____________________________________ Title:_________________________ Organization                        __________________________________ Email: _______________

Postal Address _____________________________ City/State/Zip________________________________

Phone _____________________________  Ext._________
Fax _________________________________

Internship Start Date _________Internship End Date _________ Hours per week _______

Total # of Hours  (50 hrs./ credit) ____________ Internship credits ________

Responsibilities of Intern (to be listed by the Internship Supervisor)





Intern Supervisor Signature _________________________  Date_________________

I understand that the intern will request an evaluation letter no later than two weeks prior to the internship end date, and that the letter is due to the Internship Director by the end date.

Student Signature _________________________________  Date _________________

I understand that I must complete the necessary work for internship credit (as described in the program description, available from the Internship Director) by the internship end date.

Approved by Internship Program Director ________________  Date _________________

For more information, go to Internships at