Part 1: Initial Set-Up Considerations

When I was a new faculty member in 2015, I came out of the gate eager to facilitate internships for my students. Because of my background in clinical psychology, in which practical experiences are essential components of our professional preparation, I thought that I was naturally well prepared to mentor my students. Reader, I was wrong! In this post and the next I hope to share the core components of the startup process that helped me move from amateur to pro in the internship game. In today’s post, I will discuss helping students acquire internships, relationships with other university partners, and logistical considerations for setting up your program and syllabus.

Interns and Placements

The path to internship mentoring often starts with student need for practical experiences. In some programs, there are established partnerships, and the work of making sure students have placements is part of a routine process. If this applies to you, skip this step! For the rest of us, the responsibility of finding a student placement can feel a bit like a standoff (see picture!).

screenshot from the office with Michael Scott pointing to two people on either side of him outside of frame who are also pointing at him and each other. Michael is labeled "career center", the person on the left is labeled "Faculty", and the person on the right is labeled "Students".

Students, career services staff, and faculty can and should work together to support students in finding opportunities. In most cases, the ultimate responsibility falls to the student, but faculty and staff can give ideas for placements, reach out to contacts, and utilize university resources to assist students in brainstorming. For example, I often suggest that my students who want experience with mental health intern with helplines, crisis centers/shelters, and inpatient facilities. Although I do not have specific contacts, this gives students a place to start. Our career center assists our students in using our job network website, which often includes a multitude of opportunities across disciplines. They also assist students in learning the ropes of the external hiring sites, as well as locating relevant opportunities in cities across the country (and world!). One particularly clever strategy our career center folks have employed was to create a database of former students who listed an internship on LinkedIn, so that current students could a) see what types of internships had been successful before and b) consider reaching out to alumni for support and consultation. This has been a tremendous help to our students.

Career Services

I cannot stress enough the importance of a good working relationship with your career services team. Often faculty tell me that they perceive this person/team as student-facing and that they send students there but have not gotten to know the career team themselves. In my experience, getting to know the career team and their areas of expertise was the best thing I ever did! First, they certainly are based in student support, and knowing what they can (and cannot) do to support students is essential for us to understand as we send students to them. Second, they are trained career professionals, and although most faculty have disciplinary expertise and knowledge of career paths, most of us are not experts in professional development. We often describe internship placements as having three key players: the student, the site supervisor, and the campus mentor, and I have found it to be critical for the campus support for students to include both academic and career team members.


As your student is finalizing their placement, the next step is to formalize the process through registration. I often have students who find and complete work experiences on their own without academic credit/integration, but this step applies for students who wish to obtain formal credit and participate in academic mentorship. This was possibly my largest hurdle as a faculty mentor—figuring out by whom, how, and when internships were registered. Some departments at my university have an internship course and so students participate in the academic component via formal structured group offering led by a faculty member in a regular classroom setting. Some departments have students work with faculty one-on-one, and the student registers with the individual faculty member through the career center. Many of our students want the internship to show on their transcript but do not wish to have academic credit, and so they do a special workbook program with a staff member in our career center.

With regard to credit, specific expectations also vary widely. Your university may require a certain number of work hours for a certain number of credit hours, and may require specific academic course time. This varies even across colleges at my institution. The possibilities for how this might look for you are ENDLESS! There are often online descriptions of internship requirements and policies that describe the basics so you can orient yourself and your student to the process. Also, find the person who is the expert on your institution’s processes at your location and buy them lunch! This level of partnership between university folks and the community works best when all players have the chance to get to know each other and collaborate.

Syllabus Considerations

The syllabus for an internship could be quite brief and basic, but there are many details that can help structure a positive experience for all parties. Below are a few suggestions for inclusions based on my own experience and the fabulous examples from my colleagues:

  • The basics: course description, course meeting time, number of credit hours, etc.
  • Overview/rationale for the value of an internship experience and the ways in which the internship can be a high-impact practice
  • Learning goals/outcomes that address a) the student’s specific internship activities, b) the student’s professional development goals, and c) the student’s academic goals
  • Expectations for the student’s professional behavior in the workplace
  • Risk mitigation information (any necessary information about liability and/or student concerns; see our 3-part blog series about risk in work-integrated learning)
  • Information about student support regarding accommodations (many folks ask for this info in the classroom setting but neglect it in experiential learning!) See Caroline Ketcham’s blog post on mentoring across difference.
  • Expectations for course meetings
  • Descriptions of assignments
  • Grading information

There is a lot to consider as you embark on your journey as an internship mentor! Getting the student placed and planning out your initial course are big steps! Come back for part two of this series where I will continue to discuss the set-up process with a focus on assignments, setting up appropriate expectations for the student and the site, and several resources that helped me get rolling as a mentor.


Ketcham, Caroline J. 2021. “Mentoring Across Differences: An Upcoming Series of Conversations.” Center for Engaged Learning (blog), Elon University, July 8, 2021.

CJ Eubanks Fleming is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Elon University, where she serves the Faculty Fellow for Internships in the College of Arts and Sciences. In this role she evaluates department- and university-level data regarding internship outcomes, shares internship best practices with faculty, and serves as a liaison between faculty/ students and the university’s career center. She also serves as a seminar leader for the 2022-2024 research seminar on Work-Integrated Learning.

How to Cite this Post

Fleming, CJ. 2022. “Faculty Mentors Start Here! Mentoring Undergraduate Internships When You’re New to the Game.” Center for Engaged Learning (blog), Elon University. November 1, 2022.