The culminating academic experience for students in Recreation, Sport and Tourism is a semester-long internship that provides students the opportunity to apply knowledge and skills gained from classes to a professional environment.
In consultation with the internship coordinator, an internship agency is selected which represents a match between the student's academic preparation and their career goals. This formal, guided learning experience is supervised simultaneously by the agency supervisor and university internship coordinator. The diversity of the leisure industry is reflected by the types of agencies with whom students have completed successful internships, including convention and visitor bureaus, resorts and hotels, park districts and departments, corporate employee recreation programs, cruise ships, state and national parks, and collegiate and professional athletic departments and teams. Benefits of the internship, in addition to the application and refinement of job specific knowledge and skills, include the development of professional relationships, the opportunity to discover professional strengths and areas of needed growth, and an enhanced depth and breadth of understanding of the leisure industry.
- To provide students with experience upon which to build professional careers; an arena to practice the application of leisure theory and techniques in intern settings and an opportunity to discover their professional strengths and weaknesses.
- To enhance the student's understanding of leisure behavior and leisure service delivery.
- To provide the University with an applied setting for evaluating student performance.
- To establish and enhance communication between leisure service agencies and the University.
- To offer practitioners an opportunity to contribute to the leisure service industry through the preparation of professionals.
The internship program consists of pre-internship field experiences during the first three years of the undergraduate program followed by enrollment in a professional internship during the senior year. Pre-internship experiences are described below.
Pre-Internship Field Experience- A work or volunteer experience, preferably at the operational level (i.e., face-to-face leadership, park maintenance, camp counselor, assistant to full time staff, etc.) in a leisure services agency. Tending bar, working retail, and waiting tables in a restaurant are not acceptable pre-internship experiences. It is preferred that students accumulate several field experiences during their freshman through junior year. Each experience will contribute to their professional preparation and may be later listed as professional experience on the student's resume. Field experiences are given no academic credit and are not supervised by the university.
Most of the necessary placement procedures are taken care of as RST 480 class assignments (taken the semester prior to the internship).
During the first three years of the student's academic program they should accumulate 300 hours of pre-internship experiences. In addition, they must follow as closely as possible the recommended course sequences. The Application for Internship form calls for verification of senior status and the completion of certain courses deemed necessary and prerequisite to the internship.
Given the learning emphasis of the internship, the intern should receive training, supervision, and ongoing evaluation similar to, and, in many cases, more than that provided for employees. Additionally, the agency assumes responsibilities to meet specific agency university requirements for the internship including:
- Indicating acceptance of the student as an intern by submitting the Internship Site Confirmation Form.
- Designing, with the University, an ongoing educational program and adapting the program to specifically address the individual educational needs of each intern.
- Completing and submitting to the University a mid term and final evaluation on the forms provided by the University and sharing the results of these evaluations with the student.
- Consulting with the University supervisor, as necessary, to review the student's progress. These consultations may be conducted in person (when in Illinois), by phone, electronic and/or mail correspondence.
The Agency Supervisor
The Agency responsibilities are usually delegated to an Agency Supervisor of Interns. The Agency Supervisor serves as an agency based teacher providing instruction and supervision to the intern utilizing the agency's operations to further the student's professional competence. The Agency Supervisor should:
- Have an initial conference with the intern to determine their specific needs and adapt the training program to meet those needs. Assist intern with developing internship goals and objectives and with completing the Student Reporting Schedule.
- Review student developed goals and objectives with the purpose of verifying the feasibility of achievement. Goals and objectives that cannot be achieved within the agency should be returned to the student for revision. It is not the role of the Agency Supervisor to draft the student's goals and objectives. This is the student's responsibility.
- Confer with the student at least once a week to arrange schedules, discuss work performance, and analyze problems.
- Monitor the student to safeguard the quality of the agency's services as well as the student's progress and well being.
- Inform the student of all personnel policies and procedures.
- Help the student understand their role in the professional practice of leisure service delivery.
- Assist the student in meeting specific agency university requirements.
- Evaluate the student's performance and submit the results on the forms provided.
- Allow the student reasonable freedom so that an adequate learning experience can be experienced.
- Provide necessary program supplies and equipment for activities conducted by interns.
- Be the contact person and liaison between the University and the Agency with respect to the intern program.
The student engaged in the internship assumes certain responsibilities. These are to:
- Register and pay the appropriate fees as required by the University.
- Make arrangements for housing. Agency supervisors may assist with this task as they are more familiar with the housing situation in their community.
- Attend and complete any training program provided by the Agency.
- Adhere to the policies and duties outlined by the Agency, meeting all scheduled commitments and arrangements made in connection with training assignments.
- Check with the Agency Supervisor before any money is expended for program materials.
- Submit periodic reports as required by the University and the Agency.
- Attend periodic conferences with the Agency and University supervisors.
- Affiliate with a professional organization in the student's area of interest or specialization, i.e., Illinois Park and Recreation Association, Resort and Commercial Recreation Association, and/or other appropriate state and national associations.
- Arrange for personal liability insurance and present proof to the University and the Agency.
- Perform work assignments to the best of ability.
The Internship Coordinator from the University has overall responsibility for the Internship Program. These duties include:
- Overseeing the system of assuring that students have meaningful field experiences and adequate preparation prior to the internship.
- Helping students prepare for their internship.
- Supervising arrangements for and giving final approval of all internship placement assignments.
- Representing the University in all official arrangements with cooperating agencies in the conduct of the internship program.
- Monitoring the student's experience and being available for consultation with students or agency personnel. This supervisory responsibility is shared on an assigned basis.
Faculty assigned as University Internship Supervisors will:
- Evaluate the student's written reports and assignments and assist them in completing satisfactory work.
- Serve as a liaison between the Agency and the University.
- Visit the student during the student's experience to observe the student's work and evaluate progress, when feasible. Students who are placed out of state are not visited in person; the student's progress will be monitored by phone, electronic, and/or mail correspondence.
- Assign the student a final grade.
While the University cannot demand that agencies pay interns a wage or a stipend, it is strongly encouraged. University of Illinois interns have performed extremely well for agencies in the past and have an excellent reputation for service. Some interns have performed vitally needed research on topics of interest. Other interns have designed and led programs with great success. With rising costs of tuition, food, and housing, some interns are hard pressed to select sites other than near their hometown. Providing compensation often allows for a more appropriate match between the agency and student goals. When compensation is provided, care should be taken to ensure the intern training relationship is that of an educator/trainer and student rather than that of employer and employee.