Internship Syllabus

PLS & IR Internships Syllabus

PLS 490 Internship
IR 490 Internship
2-6 credits

Faculty Internship Directors:
Political Science: Dr. Donald Zinman
Phone: (616) 331-8714
Email: [email protected]

International Relations: Dr. Polly Diven
Phone: (616) 331-3282
Email: [email protected]

Political Science (PLS) and International Relations (IR) internships are experiential learning activities designed to help students make connections between the theory and practice of academic study and the practical application of classroom learning in a professional environment. Internships offer the opportunity to explore career options while gaining relevant experience and professional connections. Students can pursue internships in a variety of national, state, local, or international settings with government agencies, think tanks, non-profit organizations, political campaigns, law firms, corporations, and interest groups.

After successful completion of the course, students will be able to:
• Create relationships and professional connections that help them pursue their career goals
• Apply and develop skills such as public speaking, writing, research, financial literacy, leadership, and cultural competency
• Evaluate and apply the knowledge gained in academic courses to agencies and organizations involved with policy formulation and implementation
• Explain the challenges and opportunities of various professions in political science and international relations.

Students must have junior standing and permission of the Internship Director. Students must meet with the Internship Director to discuss the program. Second year students with strong academic records may petition the internship director for a waiver of the junior standing requirement. 

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. A student can earn a maximum of six credits in PLS 490. No more than nine credits in PLS 399, PLS 499, and PLS 490 may be taken. Similarly, for IR majors, a maximum of six credits in IR 490 can be taken, and no more than nine credits in IR 399, IR 499, and IR 490 can be taken.

Internship Hours Worked

GVSU Credits Earned












In consultation with the Internship Director, students should choose 2-4 readings to complete during the course of the internship. The readings below debate the equity and importance of student internships. These two are required readings. In consultation with the Internship Supervisor, students will select 1-2 additional readings that are specific to the nature of the internship.

Schwarz, Madeline. Winter 2013. “Opportunity Costs: The True Costs of Internships.” Dissent,

Thompson, Derek. May 2012. “In Defense of Unpaid Internships.” The Atlantic,


All coursework should be submitted on the Blackboard website for PLS 490/IR 490. Weekly journal entries including the number of hours worked will be submitted on Blackboard using the Discussion Board. Interns will be able to view and comment on other interns’ postings. Two short papers, described below, should be submitted on Blackboard. In addition, you will be prompted to submit the four short assignments on Blackboard at regular intervals. The Final Portfolio can be submitted on Blackboard or through email.

(1) Weekly Journal: The journal is a weekly log that will include a summary of 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. Weekly entries should be at least one paragraph and must include the total number of hours worked.

(2) Learning Objectives Paper: Within two weeks of the commencement of the internship, students will submit a brief summary of their learning objectives (1.5-2 pages). Interns should focus on objectives in the following areas:

A. Professional: How do you expect this internship to help you pursue your career goals?
B. 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?
C. Scholarly: Do you expect your internship to confirm/disconfirm what you have learned as a student of political science or international relations? 

(3) Midterm Assessment Paper: This paper should be submitted within five weeks after the beginning of the internship (1.5-2 pages). Interns should include answers to the following questions:

A. What tasks is the student undertaking at his or her internship?
B. Does the internship conform to the student’s expectations?
C. Are there problems or concerns with the internship that should be noted at this time?

 (4) Assignments: 

A. Resume: Interns will integrate their internship experience into a resume that also includes their professional objective(s), educational information, and other relevant experience.

B. Organization Overview: Do some basic research into the organization where you are interning. What is its mission and how does it seek to fulfill that mission? What is the budget and where does funding come from? What is the history of the organization?

C. Informational Interview Summary: Interns will conduct at least one informational interview with an established professional in their area of interest (e.g. NGO director, attorney, chief of staff, campaign manager, or public executive). Questions may include the career motivations of the interviewee, the education and experiences that led to their position, and the aspects of the profession that they like or dislike, among other topics. In the summary, be sure to record the interviewee’s name and the date and place of the interview.

D. Reading Reflection: How have your PLS/IR 490 reading assignments affected how you think about this particular internship? 

(5) Final Portfolio: This is due by the end of the semester or by the due date specified on the Online Agreement Form). There are three components of the Portfolio, as noted below.

A. Internship Reflection: Interns will complete a 5-7-page paper in response to a prompt devised by the Internship Director. The paper should make explicit linkages to the assigned readings and other related literature on the intern’s organization. We anticipate that some of the work completed as part of the assignments will become part of this final paper.

B. 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 the Internship Director by GVSU’s Career Services.

C. Supervisor Evaluation: Two weeks prior to the end of the semester, the student and the internship Site Supervisor (as indicated on your Internship Agreement Form) will receive an email with a link to the final evaluation. It is the student’s responsibility to make sure that the supervisor receives and completes this form. If for some reason you or your supervisor does not receive the evaluation, please contact your Faculty Internship Director. The evaluation should indicate whether the student-intern has performed satisfactorily for the appropriate number of hours.


Internships are graded through a Credit/No Credit marking. To earn a grade of Credit, students must submit a Final Portfolio and must earn a grade of 70% or higher on all assignments. In addition to this requirement, all components of the portfolio must be submitted for the student to be qualified to earn course credit.   

Grades will be calculated as follows:

  • Learning Objectives: 10%
  • Midterm Assessment: 10%
  • Four Assignments: 20%
  • Weekly Journal Entries: 15%
  • Reflection Term Paper: 30%
  • Experience Matters Form:  5%
  • Supervisor Evaluation: 10%

Revised Summer 2021



Page last modified August 30, 2021