Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

25 Years of Lowering Barriers: Whitman Internship Grants

This year, the Whitman Internship Grant (WIG) celebrates its 25th anniversary. In the quarter century that it has been available, over 1,500 grants have been awarded to students.

The WIG provides funding to students who seek to secure or build an unpaid internship opportunity in order to offset expenses that would otherwise be covered by a paid position.

Nadine Stecklein started her position as Assistant Director for Internship Programs at Whitman College in August 2022. Since then, Stecklein has focused on improving accessibility to the WIG by focusing on the application process. 

“We are taking the opportunity to review what the Whitman Internship Grant is. [Does] the structure of it … make sense for students today? Are there things that we should be considering but are not?” Stecklein said.

Participating in an unpaid internship is often hard for students who cannot afford to cede a paycheck for the duration of an internship. Research shows that students who are unable to intern without pay are most often women, Black or Hispanic. 

In addition, unpaid interns are not considered employees of the organization under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and consequently are not legally protected against harassment and discrimination.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) is committed to ensuring that students have equitable access and opportunity to participate in an internship. 

In a statement calling for federal action against unpaid internships, NACE wrote about the division between paid and unpaid internships. 

“The bifurcation of paid and unpaid internship opportunities causes a disparate impact on student outcomes and furthers systemic inequities. As the research indicates, paid internships are disproportionately going to males, white students and continuing generation students. These students then go on to receive more job offers and higher starting salaries, which perpetuates and exacerbates the disparate impact over time,” the statement said. 

NACE advocates for the implementation of legislation that eliminates unpaid internships and the provision of support to employers in the process of transitioning from unpaid internships to paid internships.

Stecklein agrees with this initiative and said that students who are unable to participate in internship positions due to lack of funding are left at a disadvantage.

“A lot of companies will say, ‘Well, we’re giving students really great experiences.’ Well, [those] experiences [can’t] pay the bills,” Stecklein said.

Through the WIG program, students are eligible to apply for and receive up to three terms of funding during fall, spring and summer sessions.

All WIG recipients are required to create blog posts on the Whitman Career and Community Engagement Center website, where they share their experiences and skills learned throughout their internships. 

Last summer, senior Alanna Sherman received a WIG to fund her internship as a grant writer and production assistant with Unincarcerated Productions, a Washington-based production company in Bellevue, WA, that creates media about incarceration and the prison system.

In an email to The Wire, Sherman expressed her gratitude for the financial support she received from the WIG in order to make her internship opportunity feasible. 

“The financial support of the WIG was crucial during my internship, as it helped me with housing, food and transportation,” Sherman said. “I would not have been able to complete this internship without the WIG, and I am incredibly grateful for this experience!” 

Recipients of the WIG are responsible for their own budgeting and can choose which expenses they want to cover with the funds granted to them. 

Stecklein recalls students who also put their funds towards technology or gear needed to participate in their internships. For example, one student needed special hiking boots to complete fieldwork in Alaska, another needed a piece of computer equipment for an internship at a computer science company.

“Internships are all about learning,” Stecklein said. “It’s important to us to encourage students to really advocate for themselves.”

For 25 years, the WIG has enabled students to participate in internship opportunities, ensuring equitable access to students regardless of their financial position. Stecklein is committed to ensuring equitable access for many years to come.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Whitman Wire Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *