Above: LSA students pose with alumni who work at Facebook and WhatsApp at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California. 

It doesn’t all happen at once.

For LSA students doing internships over the summer, some have to apply early in the winter while others can wait until later in the spring. Internship start dates aren’t standardized, either. One student might report to work May 1 while their roommate doesn’t begin until the middle of July. LSA students have internships in every major American industry and across the world, which means one group of friends could have members who find themselves working in refugee services in Athens, learning the ropes of the tech industry in Silicon Valley, fact-checking government reports in Washington, D.C., and doing arts administration in Detroit before they meet up again in the fall back in Ann Arbor.

As various and idiosyncratic as an individual student’s internship experience might be, many of them share the same starting point: the LSA Opportunity Hub. The LSA Opportunity Hub is an essential resource located on central campus that works to help students connect their liberal arts education to their professional goals and aspirations, regardless of their financial situation. The Hub works with students to flip the script and make life after graduation a source of excitement instead of anxiety.

The LSA Opportunity Hub was launched in 2016 and is one of the signature initiatives of Dean Andrew D. Martin. Since its start, the Hub has continued to expand to meet the needs of LSA students, growing from a staff of five to a team of 26 coaches, support staff, and administrators.

All LSA students have access to the Hub’s coaches, to a database of alumni-hosted internships, and to short courses designed to help students take full advantage of their internship experiences. This comprehensive programming from the Hub means that students have the chance to think deeply about what they’re doing before, during, and after their internship experience, and that they get to take advantage of LSA’s global network of dedicated alums while searching for a summer position.

The Hub also helps expand internship possibilities for students by providing financial support. Last year, the Hub awarded over $1 million in scholarships to cover costs associated with internships—including housing, transportation, and living expenses—clearing the way for students to try out a summer working their dream job or experimenting with a position in a new field.

“The financial support that the LSA Opportunity Hub provides our students is a great leveler,” says Dean Andrew Martin. “It’s an empowering institution that is making sure that our least privileged student coming in the door can have the same experience as that of the most privileged student.”

A Learning Experience

Programming at the Hub is founded on four major cornerstones: coaching and preparation, internships and other experiences, alumni and employer connections, and funding. This summer, the Hub is connecting students to internships throughout Michigan, across the country, and in 22 countries around the world. And they will be interning at companies and organizations as varied as Uber, the Red Cross, Goldman Sachs, and the Motown Museum, many of which were begun by LSA alumni seeking to recruit and engage students from their alma mater.

Summer internships can take any number of forms. They can be very short flash internships that last 24-72 hours; virtual internships, where students participate remotely; and, of course, the more traditional internship where students work in a full-time paid or unpaid position for a number of weeks or months. But regardless of their form, these internships share certain integral benefits, including access to hands-on education, a chance to develop professional networks, and experiences that help students understand whether they’ve found a good fit or if they should keep looking.

Paula Wishart, the assistant dean of student development and career initiatives and the director of the LSA Opportunity Hub, says that as important as internships are, it’s just as important that students take full advantage of the opportunities that internships provide—and that students think about their experience and follow up afterwards.  

“The Opportunity Hub provides resources and support through every stage of the internship experience,” Wishart says. “We work with students to identify their goals and reflect during and after the internship on what they have learned. By the end of an internship, students have applied their liberal arts education to solving real problems—which is really thrilling when you think about it.”

This article is part of an ongoing series on the LSA Opportunity Hub’s internship season. The Hub’s internship program is a first-of-its-kind project, connecting liberal arts students’ academic work to real-world experience through the Hub’s massive internship databank and global network of alumni and resources. You can read more about internship season here.

Image courtesy of Alia Orr