Community Planning and Development: Field Experience Policies and Procedures
CPD Coordinator: Professor Charlie Colgan
The Internship Requirement
All CPD degree students who do not yet have work experience in a planning or community development-related organization are required to undertake at least one internship as part of their degree program. The internship is equivalent to one 3 credit course. Generally, three credits of internship require a minimum of a quarter-time work commitment for 15 weeks (about 160 hours of service).
CPD students who have had relevant experience can petition the Chair to waive the internship requirement, but must substitute other coursework for the three credits of internship that are required for the degree. (The waiver affects the internship requirement, not the total number of credits required for the degree.) The petition should take the form of a letter describing the nature, organizational setting, and time periods of the relevant prior experience and any other documentation that may be readily accessible and relevant (for example, a final written evaluation by the supervisor of a prior internship). In order to have the requirement waived, the experience should generally be in a professional role of not less than six months duration (or a combination of experiences of not less than one year).
What Constitutes an Internship?
- It must be in an organized setting (an agency, a firm, a non-profit organization) and there must be professional supervision. Research assistantships in the Muskie School or USM do not meet this requirement.
- There must be a substantive work program that identifies tasks, duties and/or projects that are expected to constitute the main work. The work program should be in areas related to fields of planning or community and economic development. The appropriateness of an internship according to these criteria is assessed at the time the student applies for approval of the internship. See below.
- There must be a written evaluation by an appropriate member of the host organization, commenting on the student's performance and suggesting any helpful direction or advice for the student's continued professional growth. This evaluation can be in the form of a letter to the Chair of the CPD program or an evaluation of the student using whatever forms are routinely used by the sponsoring organization.
Payment and Working Conditions
An internship may be paid or unpaid, although the majority of internships for CPD students have been paid. In arranging payment terms and conditions, the Chair of the program (or a student's advisor) can assess what has been the practice of other internship employers, discuss with sponsoring agencies, and answer any other questions.
The Muskie School does not have funds to pay internships. Students may undertake paid internships with other agencies and be paid through the University with funds from the sponsoring agency, but these arrangements are made on an ad hoc basis.
An internship may be for more than the 160 hours that is required for the 3 credit requirement. Students should be sure that the number of hours expected of them is fully understood and specified in the internship contract (see below), and that, if a paid internship, that payment reflects the actual time worked.
While working at the internship, students are expected to conduct themselves as professionals and to adhere to the standards of conduct at the organization in which they are working. Students should also remember that they represent USM, the Muskie School , and the CPD program while working in the organization and that their conduct may affect the ability of other students to undertake internships with that organization in the future.
Finding an Internship
The internship can be taken at any point during a student's program of study. The student should discuss with their advisor what is the best time to meet their particular schedule and needs.
Students who require an internship are responsible for finding their own placements. However, the faculty and Office of Student Affairs can assist in several ways:
Faculty are contacted frequently by possible employers, and this information is posted by the Student Services staff to the Muskie list serve and on the bulletin board outside the Student Affairs Office. In addition, faculty may contact students directly when they become aware of an appropriate internship. If a student is looking for an internship, it is a good idea to make sure the faculty advisor knows you are looking, and what kinds of specific opportunities you are seeking. Faculty can also discuss internship needs and criteria with potential employers the student has contacted, and assist them with making appropriate arrangements.
Prior to searching for an internship, the student should identify any specific personal goals they have for an internship (for example, working in a housing agency, working for a nonprofit, working for or with small towns), identify possible targets, and develop a resume and basic cover letter presenting them and their desire for an intern assignment. A faculty member can review these materials with the student and make suggestions regarding possible agencies to contact based on the student's interests.
For summer internships, students should consider applying for the Maine state agency public administration/service internships administered through the University of Maine's Margaret Chase Smith Center. Our Student Services Office usually (but not always) receives a program notice from them by February. This is a good program a number of CPD students have used. But if the student is awarded an internship, be sure to review the proposed assignment with a faculty member before accepting. (In one instructive case, a student accepted an assignment that, uncharacteristically for this program, involved what a faculty member would have flagged as unskilled fieldwork—the student reached the conclusion on his own that withdrawal was necessary after a couple of weeks, but we could have hopefully avoided this and perhaps appealed for a more appropriate assignment.)
Internship General Procedures
- Once you have identified a proposed internship, bring the work program or job description to the CPD Chair for approval. Use the CPD "Field Experience" Contract Form to record faculty approval and attach the work program/job description to it. Make sure it is filed with Muskie School Student Services in your academic records.
- Register for the 3 credit internship course in the semester or summer session that will be closest to the internship. Internships need not coincide exactly with semesters.
- When the internship period nears completion, arrange with your supervisor to have a letter-format evaluation sent directly to your faculty advisor upon the end of your service. Make sure that the CPD Chair knows in which semester you are registering for credit for the internship.
Internships are recorded on the transcript as Pass/Fail. Satisfactory completion of the internship as evidenced by the evaluation of the student's supervisor will receive a Pass. An unsatisfactory evaluation by the supervisor may result in a grade of fail.