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Department of Political Science
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Academic Internships

The Political Science Department encourages students studying Political Science to do internships and allows students to receive academic credit for internships. Students may receive one hour of academic credit for PLSC 471; two hours of academic credit for PLSC 472 and three hours of academic credit for PLSC 473

Internships are available with local and state governments, as well as other organizations with a political or policy emphasis. Winthrop students have participated in internships with the Charlotte, North Carolina Metrolina Council of Governments; York County Government, South Carolina; and the Rock Hill City manager's office, South Carolina.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Helpful Internship Websites 

Recent Internships

Purpose of the Internship

  1. The Value of Experiential Learning. People learn in different ways. Some people are very good at learning by reading and listening. Others learn by doing. For experiential learners, nothing makes traditional classroom lessons come alive more than gaining first-hand experience in one’s chosen field. Even if one does not receive any glamorous assignments on an internship, simply "hanging around," observing, and listening can provide valuable insight into the workings of the political world.   Numerous studies provide support to the idea that internships can make a big difference in future job prospects.  
  2. Exposure to Careers. Political Science students -- and their parents and friends -- often wonder what in the world they can do with a Political Science major. By doing an internship, the experience will provide an opportunity to explore different careers that Political Science majors commonly pursue. There’s more out there than meets the eye.
  3. Build a Resume. When looking for good employees, employers want educational credentials and experience. How can one acquire this experience when one is busy finishing a degree? An internship is an excellent place to start. One can also acquire contacts and references for that future job search.
  4. Receive Academic Credit. Recognize that doing an internship can count toward the degree and major as well.  The Political Science Department now requires some sort of experiential learning, and internships can satisfy this requirement.  For more on this, see below.

Academic Requirements

The following outlines the requirements to receive academic credit in the Political Science Department at Winthrop University. All students seeking academic credit for their internships are asked to keep track of their hours. The students also must be evaluated by their on-site supervisors as a part of the final grade for the internship.

PLSC 473: To receive three hours of academic credit, students will complete one of the following assignments in addition to the minimum of 150-160 hours spent working on the internship.

  1. If the student receives a specific project of significant responsibility from his/her internship supervisor, the student will then write a (eight-ten page) reflective paper. In this paper, the student should reflect in a meaningful way on the internship experience and what he/she learned from it. This paper and a copy of the project completed for the hosting agency in combination, become the basis for the internship grade. The student must maintain a journal that contains a weekly entry about the internship experience and details about specific activities, frustrations, etc. that the student may encounter. These weekly entries must be submitted to Dr. Van Aller via email each week as well as assembled together to turn in as part of the final project.  Examples of student projects include: designing a web page for the City of Rock Hill, doing a feasibility study of impact fees for York County Government, designing a zoning proposal for the town of Fort Mill, and writing a report on diversity for the human resources department for the City of Charlotte.  Alternatively, and with permission of Dr. Van Aller, several projects may be completed in the three hour internship period, which will be related by the weekly journal entries and final paper.

PLSC 472: To receive two hours of academic credit, students will be required to complete a shorter version of the above options for three hours of academic credit. Specific requirements may be negotiated with Dr. Van Aller (or another faculty member as appropriate). The student must maintain a journal that contains a weekly entry about the internship experience and details about specific activities, frustrations, etc. that the student may encounter. These weekly entries must be submitted to Dr.Van Aller via email each week as well as assembled together to turn in as part of the final paper. The student is also required to work on-site a minimum of 100 hours as well as complete a 7 - 8 page reflective paper.

PLSC 471: To receive one hour of academic credit, students will be required to keep a journal and write a short reflective paper (five -six pages) on the nature of their internship assignment. Students are also required to work a minimum of 60 hours on-site. No additional outside reading is required.

Basis of the Grade: In any case, students’ work will be evaluated on the basis of insight, intellectual merit and fluency of their writing. Students are strongly encouraged to submit drafts and/or consult the Writing Center. Poorly written papers, no matter how insightful, will receive a poor grade. Unless they specify an S/U grade when they register for the course, students will receive a letter grade for their academic internship.

Students may receive academic credit for a total of three hours of internship credit, so that the student might enroll in  PLSC 471 and then 472 later, or conversely a full three hour 473. Students are encouraged to participate in additional internship opportunities even if they do not receive academic credit. Under special circumstances, students may receive credit for independent research (PLSC 498) as part of an internship assignment, with permission of the Chair.

Students may choose to complete their internships during the summer months but must be enrolled in the most appropriate summer school session commensurate with their internship. If an internship overlaps into the next semester, such as summer into fall, students will take an incomplete for the initial course and then will receive a final grade when they complete the final section of their internship in the subsequent semester. Under normal circumstances, however, students should enroll in the internship concurrently with the internship assignment.  State insurance regulations specify that students must be enrolled in a formal internship course to receive protection under workman's compensation.

Students may receive credit for both paid and unpaid internships, however the state does not provide workman's compensation coverage for paid internships.

Signing Up for the Course

Dr. Van Aller is responsible for the administration of academic internships. Students who wish to enroll in PLSC 471, 472, or 473 must meet with Dr. Van Aller to discuss their internship assignments and receive his signature to enroll in the course. For the vast majority of internships, Dr. Van Aller will design the assignments and assign the students’ grades.

In some cases, when students arrange internships outside of Dr. Van Aller's areas of expertise, students will be directed to another member of the faculty who will design reading lists and assign grades as appropriate.

Appropriate Internship Assignments

Placements with the following agencies or organizations appropriate to receive credit from the Political Science Department:

  • Any legislative institution at any level of government (for example, U.S. Congress, state legislatures or City Council or County Council). This includes both the district offices and the Washington offices of all members of Congress.
  • Any executive agency at any level of government (White House or federal agency such as the Department of State or HUD; Governor’s office or state agency such as Transportation or DHEC; City or County Governments).
  • International governmental agencies, such as the Organization of American States, the United Nations or the World Health Organization.
  • Embassies (Either US embassies abroad or foreign embassies located in the United States).
  • Local school boards
  • Interest groups
  • The lobbying divisions of trade associations (such as the Chamber of Commerce) and labor unions.
  • Political campaigns
  • Political parties
  • Private businesses that contract services for government, such as a consulting firm that writes regulations for agencies, or conducts feasibility studies for local governments.
  • Government relations departments in private corporations.
  • Courts or affiliated agencies (i.e. public defender’s offices)

Please noteThis list is incomplete.  Other appropriate internships exist, and students may negotiate those as appropriate.

The special case of law firms: A students may receive Political Science credit for internships with law firms if his/her internship assignment has some relevance to Political Science per se. For example, students involved in routine clerical work or real estate title searches cannot receive academic credit. Students may receive academic credit if they are conducting legal research for a significant court case, or engaging in lobbying activities of behalf of the firm’s clients. In any case, students who wish to receive academic credit for internships with law firms should consult Dr. Van Aller.

In any case, students who are interested in attending law school are encouraged to seek internships with law firms even if they cannot receive academic credit for this experience.

Arranging the Internship

The Department of Political Science will assist students seeking academic internships, but does not guarantee that we will find placements. The Department gives first priority to students enrolled in the Concentration in Public Policy and Public Administration. Other students will be accommodated on a first-come, first served basis.

In addition, the Career Services Office can help arrange co-operative opportunities and give advice on job seeking, interviewing and resume writing.

The Department of Political Science has had longstanding internship arrangements with the City of Rock Hill, the Town of Chester, and York County Government. Students are strongly encouraged to make their own internship arrangements whenever possible.

There are several organizations that specialize in helping students arrange internships in Washington, DC. The Washington Center and Georgetown University have two of the best programs. They will assist students with finding an internship placement, transferring credit back to their home institutions and even with finding housing. In addition, the University of South Carolina also offers a competitive Washington internship program for honors students, which is open to honors students statewide. Students wishing to participate in any of these programs please see Dr. Van Aller for details and be sure to see Dr. Karen Kedrowski, Chair of the PLSC department, for specifics on transfer credits.

Adopted August 15, 2001. Updated August 1, 2013