Faculty of Arts Internship Program
As Canada’s leading research and most international university, McGill is home to an exceptionally diverse student body and an academic milieu where scholarly endeavour is enriched by a global perspective and a keen sense of community engagement. Nowhere at the University is that more evident than in the opportunities provided to students by the Faculty of Arts Internship Program.
The opportunities the Faculty of Arts provides to its students to grow and develop outside the classroom during the summer months are unparalleled in their breadth and diversity both at McGill and across Canada. The Faculty of Arts Internship Program enables students to expand their horizons and engage in meaningful collaborations with corporate and community organizations around the world. Its Arts Undergraduate Research Awards Program (ARIA) provides students with an unparalleled opportunity to work directly with faculty members on research projects, enabling them to engage in high-level academic research and to develop and hone their research and analytical skills.
The University’s Internship Offices Network is also housed in the Faculty of Arts, thereby making Arts the hub of internship information and support services at McGill. With an experienced staff, a structured program of application assistance, pre-travel learning sessions, student-to-student and staff support mechanisms and extensive follow-up, McGill has a proven track record of vetting and selecting applicants to ensure that keen and talented young people are matched with national and international opportunities that benefit both the students and the organizations in which they are placed.
Dean of Arts Antonia Maioni provides the most cogent summary of the value of each of these experiences: “Internships, externships, and opportunities to work with faculty members on current research projects, are all critical to the Faculty's strategy to enhance non-classroom learning experiences. Internship and externships provide valuable opportunities for Arts students to apply the skills and knowledge acquired in the classroom to real world problems. They also connect students to a network of former interns that can help them navigate life after McGill. ARIA opportunities provide unparalleled training for graduate study.”
Host organizations consistently remark on the mutual benefit derived from these internships. A staff member and internship supervisor at Equitas: International Centre for Human Rights Education in Montreal, Quebec, noted: “There are a number of employees currently working at Equitas who undertook internships with us, including myself. I think that an internship provides an opportunity to see how an organisation works and also helps to build relationships which can often last much longer than just the internship. It helps to see if there is a good ‘match’ between the intern and the organisation. Such internships also demonstrate the level of commitment which a student is prepared to undertake and can be an indicator of their future potential engagement. A good internship needs an investment by both the employer and the intern. An internship provides a great learning opportunity and helps to build the ever important CV.”
Unlike in the sciences, where it is common practice for upper level students work in their professors’ labs, the opportunity to work directly with a professor on their research is less common in many Arts disciplines. Dean Christopher Manfredi recognized this lacuna in opportunities for Arts undergraduates – particularly those who were contemplating academia as a career – and so in 2010 took an innovative step and established the Arts Research Internship Awards. The funding for this program comes from donations from Arts alumni (50%) and from matching funds from the participating professors’ research grants. As with the Internship Program, the success of ARIA is built and dependent on the dedication and collaboration of the administration, faculty, staff, and alumni.
These awards provide support to undergraduate students who undertake research during the summer under the direct supervision of a faculty member. The students benefit as they engage in a high level of scholarship in preparation for graduate studies; gain skills related to methods of inquiry in their discipline; they contribute to the professor’s research agenda; and they receive academic mentorship from a faculty member. The faculty member benefits from the opportunity to work with some of the best and keenest undergraduates and from the opportunity to provide mentorship to future scholars.
As one professor said: “My ARIA intern this summer was perhaps the best research assistant I have had in over 20 years of full-time teaching and supervision. The ARIA program provided a wonderful opportunity to involve a talented undergraduate student in my research, and the formal structure of the program (with its requirement of regular meetings and a final report) ensured the quality of the experience. I was delighted to be part of this program, and hope it can be continued in the future.”