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UW–Madison undergrad Maren Stewart explores Australia’s sights when she’s not busy working at her summer internship at a fermented foods company in Melbourne.

Scholarship empowers SoHE students to pursue internships

For many college students, a summer internship offers an illuminating sneak peek into how they’ll combine classroom learning with a job in the real world. But not every internship offers students enough pay — or any pay — to meet their living expenses. Other internships may come with costs that can put this valuable learning experience out of reach for many students.

That was the problem faced by UW–Madison student Maren Stewart when she was accepted for a summer 2023 internship at a fermented foods company in Australia. (The internship was developed for UW undergrads by the internship team at International Academic Programs, the central study abroad office on campus.) A junior in the School of Human Ecology (SoHE), Stewart was keenly interested in the role, which aligned well with her academic and professional goals, but knew it would come with a high cost.

“Australia is an expensive country, and this internship came with a low-pay stipend. When my advisor told me about SoHE’s summer internship scholarship, I knew it would help me tremendously with financing my travels, accommodations and other expenses.”

Building opportunities, reducing barriers

Each year, SoHE’s internship scholarships help hundreds of UW–Madison students engage in unpaid and out-of-state internships for credit, helping to offset costs for tuition, travel, and room and board.

Alicia Hazen

Alicia Hazen, SoHE’s assistant dean and career services director, says the scholarship is vital to the school, which requires all of its students to complete an internship for credit, the culmination of a careers-focused curriculum designed to ensure all students graduate ready for employment.

While internship scholarships are awarded every semester, Hazen says that summer sees the greatest demand.

“Students can complete their required internship in fall, spring or summer, with over 50 percent of students opting to complete it in the summer when they have fewer competing priorities,” Hazen explains. “To take the 3-credit internship course, however, students must pay summer tuition. The summer internship scholarship was developed to help alleviate the financial burden of completing the internship during Summer Term.”

Funding for the internship scholarships comes from SoHE and the support of generous donors. Since 2017, UW–Madison Summer Term has helped finance the summer internship scholarship, which this summer was awarded to 64 students for a total of $84,000.

Summer Term Assistant Dean Keri Johnson says it’s important to prioritize access to summer opportunities for students. “We hope that through this partnership, we can reduce financial barriers associated with doing a required internship for credit over the summer.”

Hazen notes that while the school aims to get to a point where all students are compensated for their work as interns, “we aren’t quite there yet.”

She reports that “of the 427 students who submitted their internship for credit approval this summer, 19.4 percent indicated that they were not receiving compensation for their work in the internship, which has negative implications, particularly for underrepresented, first-generation and low-income students.”

The internship scholarship, she says, “aims to provide students with funding that will allow them to engage in high-quality summer internships regardless of their financial circumstances.”

Learning and living Down Under

Stewart made it to Australia, where today her summer internship is introducing her to a host of skills in marketing and communication — from planning content and conducting interviews for a newsletter to promoting workshops and presentations. She’s already connecting the dots between this experience and her future career.

“As a consumer behavior and marketplace studies major with minors in public health and entrepreneurship, I know that I like making a difference. Health has always been important to me,” Steward explains. “I would like to enter a marketing role within the healthcare space [after graduation], and this internship is helping me gain experience in a small business that focuses on health and wellness — and in a creative space.”

Completing her internship abroad has brought personal learning experiences, too.

“I’m taking advantage of the great food, coffee and beauty here!” Stewart says. “When I am not working, I like to go for walks in one of the many gardens or try new restaurants. Next week I will be attending the World Cup, which takes place in Australia and New Zealand. As a huge soccer fan, I’m quite excited!’

She says the summer internship scholarship has given her a rare opportunity to say “yes” to more opportunities to pursue her personal and professional goals.

“I can put my efforts towards my work and career development, and spend less time worrying about finances. I will be forever appreciative of this opportunity and what it has meant for my education and development.”

Learn more about UW–Madison Summer Term and designing the summer that’s right for you. And don’t forget to share your #MyBadgerSummer experience on Instagram for the chance to win a summery prize.