Watson Chronicle


Student Opportunities and Student News

Higher Ed Students Complete Internships in Maynooth, Ireland

Friday, November 06, 2015

On Sept. 30, assistant professor James DeVita and 12 Watson College graduate students boarded flights to Dublin for the start of WCE’s first annual internship experience at Maynooth University (NUIM) in Maynooth, Ireland.

Seven doctoral students and five students enrolled in the Master of Education (M.Ed.) higher education specialization participated in the inaugural program.

DeVita and assistant professor Andrew Ryder began planning the international internship nearly two years ago. “We wanted an English-speaking country where students could gain hands-on experience working on a college campus,” DeVita said. WCE’s higher ed faculty considered the UK and South Africa, but chose Maynooth because UNCW has a strong program at the university for First-Year Spring Admit (FYSA) students.

After an exploratory visit in summer 2014, DeVita and Ryder corresponded with potential internship providers as they worked to put a program structure in place.

“International programs in higher ed are often ‘educational tourism’ that simply provide an opportunity to tour campuses,” DeVita said. “As we developed the Ireland program, it was important to wed applied learning experiences with the internship so students could see firsthand how higher education looks in an international context.”

During initial conversations, WCE faculty shared the vision and asked, “If we could do this, what would it look like?” Ryder said.

Over the course of the 2014-15 academic year, Ryder led the WCE effort to fully develop the program; work that involved procuring internship sites, defining student work roles, arranging meals and accommodations, and planning weekend travel excursions for participants in the inaugural program.

Internships in seven NUIM campus offices were offered in fall 2015: the access office, accommodations, alumni relations, chaplaincy, graduate studies, international and student engagement. Each student worked under the direction of NUIM staff for two weeks, gaining 70 hours of hands-on experience while interfacing with staff, administrators and students.

“NUIM’s student population has grown significantly in recent years and now numbers nearly 12,000, but the staff has remained lean and administrative offices providing student support are still evolving,” DeVita said. This led to significant opportunities for WCE master’s and doctoral students to add value during the internship program.

Hannah Brown and Cindy Fisher helped the NUIM’s dean of students host social justice events, Jon Kapell wrote articles for an alumni publication, and Susan Baxter and Catherine Gunnells helped develop proposals for new graduate-level programs to introduce at the university, DeVita said. “It was definitely a mutually beneficial relationship.”

Students also had an opportunity to learn about Irish history, literature and folklore, to explore the country and immerse themselves in the local culture. They rode bikes in Belfast with students from Brazil and Japan and toured scenic Dublin on weekend excursions arranged by NUIM’s International Studies program; viewed the ruins of civilizations that date back nearly 5,000 years during day trips to Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth; and joined UNCW FYSA students for special events including dinners out, Irish dancing, Gaelic football and hurling.

Participants said the experience provided an opportunity to expand their knowledge of higher education, learn new practices in areas including support for non-traditional students and form relationships with fellow masters and doctoral students as well as colleagues and educators abroad.

“The Maynooth University internship provided intellectual, social, and cultural growth and enrichment,” Baxter said.  “Having an internship opportunity focused specifically on higher education allowed for student and faculty participants to engage in a rich blend of collaboration, discussion and learning.  The combination of work experience and cultural events made for a highly rewarding and enjoyable trip.”  

On the last day, students shared presentations about their experiences in Maynooth. The evening closed on a perfect note, DeVita said. “Every staff supervisor in every office said, ‘We will miss you when you leave and we will welcome you back.’”

Ryder is WCE’s program coordinator for the 2016 internship in Maynooth. The program, scheduled for the fall semester, is open to all students who have completed 6-9 credits in a masters or doctoral higher education program at the college.

For more information visit www.uncw.edu/ed/international/ireland/