An internship is a paid or unpaid entry-level position that provides work experience and some professional development. Concerns have been raised about the equity impacts of unpaid internships which systematically exclude potential applicants who cannot afford to cover their costs to participate.
Graduate Education Diversity Internship Program (GEDI), American Evaluation Association (AEA):
This is an example of a long-running program which involves a combination of group support and individual support. The AEA website describes the program as follows [retrieved March 2017]:
The Graduate Education Diversity Internship Program provides paid internship and training opportunities during the academic year. The GEDI program works to engage and support students from groups traditionally under-represented in the field of evaluation.
The goals of the GEDI Program are to:
- Expand the pool of graduate students of color and from other under-represented groups who have extended their research capacities to evaluation.
- Stimulate evaluation thinking concerning under-represented communities and culturally responsive evaluation.
- Deepen the evaluation profession’s capacity to work in racially, ethnically and culturally diverse settings.
- Interns may come from a variety of disciplines including public health, education, political science, anthropology, psychology, sociology, social work, and the natural sciences. Their commonality is a strong background in research skills, an interest in extending their capacities to the field of evaluation, and a commitment to thinking deeply about culturally responsive evaluation practice.
Training and Networking Components: It is assumed that students come to the program with basic qualitative and quantitative research skills. The GEDI Program then works to extend those skills to evaluation through multiple activities:
- Fall Seminar. A five-day intensive seminar, held in Claremont, California, provides an orientation that expands the student’s knowledge and understanding of critical issues in evaluation, including thinking about building evaluation capacities to work across cultures and diverse groups. The interns complete a self-assessment in the Fall, clarifying their own goals during program participation.
- AEA Annual Conference. Interns will spend a week at the American Evaluation Association annual conference. While there, they attend: (a) pre-conference workshops selected to fill gaps in their knowledge and skills, (b) conference sessions exploring the breadth and depth of the field, and (c) multiple networking events to connect them with senior colleagues. The interns also conduct a small-service learning project in the form of an evaluation of one component of the conference.
- Winter Seminar. A three-day seminar, held in January or February, provides the students with additional training, coaching on their evaluation projects, and panel discussions with evaluation practitioners working in a range of contexts.
- Evaluation Project. Interns will have the opportunity to provide support to an agency’s evaluation activities in close proximity to their graduate institution. Interns will provide three updates on their evaluation project activities as part of the internship program, describing and reflecting on the application of their evaluation knowledge to the actual project activities.
- Monthly Webinars: The students gather each month for a two-hour webinar to check in on evaluation projects and site placements, add to existing skill-sets, and learn from invited guest speakers.
- AEA/CDC Summer Evaluation Institute. The program ends with attendance at the Summer Evaluation Institute held in Atlanta each June. There, students once again connect and finalize project reporting, attend training workshops, and participate in a graduation ceremony.
- Specific Support Mechanisms: Interns are supported by colleagues at school, at their site placements, and within the sponsoring association:
- An Academic Advisor. The academic advisor at the Intern’s home institution supports and coordinates coursework and other activities, while helping to integrate the internship program with the student’s plan of study.
- A Sponsoring Agency. Students generally are matched with sponsoring agencies near their graduate institution that provide the opportunity to perform evaluation activities compatible with students’ research interests and skills.
- Supervising Mentor. A colleague at the host site with evaluation experience acts as a guide and mentor throughout the program.
- GEDI Program Leadership. GEDI Program Director and AEA Past-President (2015) Dr. Stewart Donaldson is an experienced evaluator. Working with a cadre of colleagues, he, Co-Director Dr. Ashaki M. Jackson, and Program Liaison Dr. John Lavelle oversee the curriculum and site placements. Throughout the internship the leadership are available to guide, advise, and support the interns in achieving their professional goals and the goals of the program.
- AEA Staff Support. AEA staff provide logistical support throughout the internship. Post-internship, they work to connect program graduates with opportunities for leadership, participation, and networking within the association.
- Online Community. The GEDI cohort uses an online community space for checking in, turning in updates, asking questions, and informal networking.
The interns work the equivalent of approximately two days per week at an internship site near their home institutions from approximately September 1 to July 1 (10 months). The interns may work on a single evaluation project or multiple projects at the site, but all internship work is focused on building skills and confidence in real-world evaluation practices. Interns receive a stipend of $8,000 in recognition of their internship work based on completion of the internship and satisfactory finalization of program requirements, including any deliverables due to the host agency, progress reports, and reflections on the internship experience. In addition, major travel expenses (shared hotel rooms and airfare) to the program-related seminars and conference are covered. Interns are responsible for other travel and food costs.
[AEA website, retrieved March 2017]
Advice for CHOOSING this option
Concerns about equity and exploitation of young and emerging evaluators have been raised around some internship programs. Organisations considering employing an internship program would benefit from first looking into these debates, and structuring their programs accordingly. For those looking for an overview of the key issues, the online evaluation discussion group Pelican has a number of discussion threads on this topic.
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Peersman, G. and Rogers, P. (2017). Pathways to advance professionalisation within the context of the Australasian Evaluation Society. Melbourne: ANZSOG/BetterEvaluation. Retrieved from: https://www.betterevaluation.org/en/resources/pathways-advance-professio...
AEA Graduate Education Diversity Internship (GEDI) Retrieved from: https://www.eval.org/gedi