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Group Fieldwork Internship

This past summer, the Museology Program piloted a new Group Fieldwork Internship Program for current Museology students, recent graduates, and local organizations to work in a problem space defined by the organization. The post below discusses how this pilot program came about in light of the coronavirus pandemic:

Shifting to an online learning environment has created many challenges for our students, one of which has been finding internship opportunities, especially going into this previous summer. “Knowing that students were going to be in an uphill battle, we [the program] were trying to think about ways we could kick-start some ideas for internships with organizations in a time where there were so many other competing priorities,” said Dyaln High, Museology Graduate Advisor. 

With these challenges in mind, Dylan and other staff brainstormed piloting a group internship so students could have peer support through their project, while also finding ways to reduce the burden on organizations hosting our interns. To gain a better understanding of the position of local museums in this new remote world, Dylan held focus groups with previous internship partners to see what they thought about this Group Fieldwork pilot. “Largely, they confirmed a lot of our suspicions – that they were still interested in hosting interns, but they didn’t really have as much time to think about how to turn opportunities remote,” said Dylan. Following the feedback from the focus group, Dylan pitched the Group Fieldwork pilot to museums throughout Washington and received responses from multiple organizations proposing varying problem areas for our students to work in.

The Group Fieldwork pilot was designed to create internship opportunities for current Museology students and project manager positions for graduating students to have opportunities in the field following graduation. The Group Fieldwork Internship pilot consisted of six organizations paired with 2-3 students to work 90 hours over the summer, as well as a project manager to work as a liaison between the students and the sites. The intern and project manager positions were paid through the Museology paid internship pilot

For the Group Fieldwork pilot, “we gravitated towards the idea of having these internships be focused around a problem rather than a task because we knew that a lot of organizations were grappling with big questions and big problems as things went remote,” said Dylan. Over the course of this internship opportunity, the interns worked within the organization’s problem space to propose strategies to address this problem in the form of recommendations or solutions that could be implemented by the partner organizations. 

Following the end of the Group Fieldwork Internship pilot, Dylan reached out to the sites, interns, and project managers and found it was a positive experience and all participants recommended continuing this program. “One of the biggest challenges that students faced, but I actually see this as part of the success, was the challenge of working with a problem space because it was messy, and hard to define and know what it is you’re trying to address. So while a lot of students mentioned it was the biggest challenge, they also said it was a good learning opportunity, which to us is the primary goal of these internships,” said Dylan.   

Based on the experiences of the students, project managers, and sites, the Museology Program is planning to continue the Group Fieldwork Internship Program in the summer of 2021. To learn more about the experiences of the students and sites that participated in this internship, check out our Instagram and Facebook for spotlights in the coming weeks!