Putting Sociology into Practice
SCU’s Sociology Department supports their majors through an internship program focused on career exploration, research opportunities, and post-graduate success.
by Sarah Stoddard '23
With the ability to provide useful job experience, help create professional connections, and allow students to use knowledge from their classes in a workplace setting, internships are one of the most valuable experiences a college student can engage in. At Santa Clara University, the Department of Sociology has developed a program to ensure each of their majors partake in an internship that will prepare them for their futures. “Internships are increasingly becoming integral for students’ post-graduate success, and we are dedicated to supporting our students and making sure they are set-up to succeed when they graduate,” says Cara Chiaraluce, the department’s internship program coordinator.
As part of this program, which has seen success since it began in 2017, all sociology majors at SCU are required to complete an internship and participate in a complementary course taught by Chiaraluce. “While students complete their fieldwork hours at their internship site, they complete coursework designed to emphasize the application of their sociological knowledge to gain a deeper understanding of their field experiences, while developing a variety of professionalization skills,” Chiaraluce explains. Madison Hoffman ’22 (Sociology) completed this course along with an internship at a local community farm called Veggielution. “We provide organically grown fruits and vegetables at a low price to low income people of east San Jose,” Hoffman explains. During her experience, she completed research and compiled information about public health-related government benefit programs and how undocumented immigrants can get access to these. Hoffman completed her 300 hour internship over the summer, but because she had such a great experience working at the farm, she plans to continue helping out on weekends. “I’ve never met a community that was so resilient or kind,” she says.
“The Sociology Internship/Field Experience Program is designed to provide sociology majors with the opportunity to work hands-on in the community, local or abroad, and to connect sociological theory to the broader social world and professional workplace,” Chiaraluce says. “Additionally, I believe that internships provide myriad opportunities for students to develop different skill sets, network with professionals, explore potential careers, and prepare them for post-graduate success.” Many student internships have also turned into job offers after graduation.
The Sociology department has also partnered with the College of Arts and Sciences’ REAL program to further support students in internships or research opportunities with faculty members. Megan Imai ’23 (Sociology) received funding from the REAL program over the summer for her internship as a research assistant for SCU’s Molly King (Sociology). During her experience, Imai gained several valuable skills such as learning to work in a collaborative setting and managing her time to complete independent work. She initially wanted to participate in an internship where she would conduct research to explore whether it was something she would like to do in her career. With the support and funding from the REAL program, she discovered that she enjoys it and may pursue it in the future. “The REAL program is especially valuable for students who need summer funds, and otherwise, may not be able to afford to dedicate an entire summer to an unpaid internship,” Chiaraluce explains. “Therefore, they would miss out on an exciting opportunity that may be crucial to their professional development.”
As an additional way to support students’ internship experiences, the Sociology department has also created three new fellowships: The Alma Garcia Fellowship, the Marilyn Fernandez Fellowship, and the C. Power Study of Institutions Fellowship. “These fellowships help support students who may not be able to take advantage of an internship opportunity otherwise,” Chiaraluce explains. “They are named after senior faculty who have made invaluable contributions to the sociology major and department.” With these fellowships, the department’s partnership with the REAL program, and the support students receive from faculty, sociology majors at SCU are given all the resources they need to complete an internship that will prepare them for success in their careers and lives after graduation.