CCNY Students Lead Groundbreaking Internship Study

 US Capitol
Every year, tens of thousands of college students descend on Washington, D.C., to work as interns en route to careers in politics, public policy and public service.  However, until now, little has been known about the impact and quality of their experiences in the nation’s capital.

A groundbreaking study by The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars (TWC) in conjunction with a team of students from The City College of New York’s Division of Social Sciences offers insights into the value, range and significance of D.C. internship programs and how they can be improved.

Comprising four graduate students from the Public Service Management program (PSM) and one undergraduate from the affiliated Public Management Fellows program, the City College team conducted its research in Washington last summer. The group – Natalia Trujillo, Cesar Moreno, Maryam Abdul-Aleem and Kristen Carroll, graduate students in the PSM Program and Stanislav Lyubarskiy, a public management fellow – spent up to ten hours a day surveying more than 500 interns.   

Dr. Adriana Espinosa, adjunct assistant professor in the PSM program, served as project coordinator and co-authored the resultant study, “Mapping the Quality of Summer Internships in Washington, D.C.” Andrew L. Yarrow, a historian, journalist and public policy professional who teaches at American University, and Jennifer Clinton, chief operating officer of TWC, were the other co-authors.   

The survey identified many elements of the internship experience that contribute to interns’ professional growth. Key findings were that interns greatly valued feedback on the quality of their work and mentoring, and that they overwhelmingly felt (86 percent) their internship matched their academic and professional skills.

Of the 531 interns surveyed, 47 percent were political science majors, with another 14 percent majoring in international relations and 11 percent each majoring in economics and history.

Mr. Lyubarskiy, the only undergraduate on the CCNY team, said the survey yielded fascinating results. “It allowed me to see the true benefits of internships as well as the components that are needed for a good internship,” he noted. 

Ms. Carroll, one of four graduate students on the project, said the survey had opened the door for future research on internships.

“It really dug deep into the “internship world” and laid out almost everything from who is   interning to what industries offer paid internships, how students get internships, what the internships entail and so much more,” she added.

On what the CCNY team took away from the project, Ms. Carroll said: “it gave us a chance to be creative and it taught us how to structure a good survey.”

Personally, it opened her eyes to what type of work she wanted to do, as well as the type of environment she would be most comfortable working in as an educator.

“This study will help improve public management education in this country,” said Mark Musell, director of public management programs at CCNY.

TWC’s Ms. Clinton said up to 80 percent of college students spend a summer or a semester interning before they graduate, and, given the economic climate, internship experience has never been more important.  “It’s essential to conduct research like this, so we can we can both improve students’ postsecondary education and better prepare tomorrow’s workers,” she added.

The study is the first in a series of TWC research projects on the nature, quality, and impact of internships in Washington, D.C. and throughout the United States. 

About the Survey
“Mapping the Quality of Summer Internships in Washington, D.C.” is a 2011 study conducted and released by The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars in conjunction with a team of students from The City College of New York. The study was based off of a sample of 531 students interning in Washington during the summer of 2011. Data were collected and analyzed between June and September 2011. The study was created to gain a better understanding of the range and quality of internship experiences in Washington, D.C.; to more clearly define what should be characterized as an “internship”; and to identify ways that internships can be improved.

About The Washington Center
TWC is an independent, nonprofit organization that serves hundreds of colleges and universities in the United States and other countries by providing selected students challenging opportunities to work and learn in Washington, D.C., for academic credit. The largest program of its kind, TWC has almost 50,000 alumni who have become leaders in numerous professions and nations around the world. It was established in 1975. For more information visit:

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