The practicum component is designed to give students the opportunity apply theory-to practice-in a professional work setting. Also, students can gain insight into the nature of the organization, assess applications of student learning and development theory, observe different administrative styles, and enhance their professional philosophy of student affairs and higher education administration. Ultimately, practicum experiences are a valuable component of the program, representing opportunities for career exploration, professional development, and entrees into employment
The goals of the practicum experience are to provide students exposure to different functional areas or departments, administrative processes, and procedures in order to enhance their transferable skills and their ability to integrate theory-to-practice. That said, the program does not require students to complete practicum experiences in specific functional areas. Rather, the goal is for the students develop general professional competencies. Also, the expectation should not be for SAA M.A. students to serve as research assistants for the semester.
Selection and Placement
In students' initial fall semester, the instructor of the Professional Development Seminar (EAD 893) will introduce the purposes of practicum. During that same semester, students will meet with their advisor and the practicum coordinator to discuss placement preferences. Students should reflect on what practicum experiences interest them. For instance, some students wish to gain experiences that will strengthen their background in a determined area. Other students want to explore areas where they have little or no background. Either way, students should develop a plan to satisfy the practica requirement and should discuss this plan with their advisor.
The practicum coordinator along with the student will initiate placements. A number of placement sites are fairly standard and readily accept students each semester. However, not all offices offer placements each semester, and limited opportunities are available during the summer at Michigan State University. Instead, most summer practicum experiences revolve around the nationally-based internships established through ACPA, ACUHO-I, and NODA. Other placement sites can be developed, but students must begin this process well in advance, and these plans should be discussed with the placement coordinator.
Every effort will be made to place students in the practicum of their choice. Some offices may, however, have more students interested than can be accommodated. Other offices may require students to have specific skills and abilities. Thus, before a placement is finalized, a student is expected to meet with the supervisor to clarify the goals of the experience and to assess whether the placement is possible and desirable. Ultimately, the practicum coordinator confirms placements after reviewing the student's submitted and signed Call for Practica Form.
Lastly, in determining practicum placements, priority will be given to students who are nearing completion of their programs and who need a practicum to fulfill requirements.
Two separate practicum placements are required. At least one practicum placement must be in a student affairs area.
Also, students must have successfully completed at least one semester of EAD prior to a practicum placement. Students enrolled in a practicum during fall or spring semester must complete their practica requirements, including the final reflection, before credit for EAD 893 is awarded. The final EAD 893 credit will not be awarded until the student has successfully completed two practicum placements.
Lastly, to be placed in a practicum, a student must be in good academic standing (3.00 GPA) and be determined ready for a placement by the faculty. Exceptions to practicum requirements are made with the approval of the practicum coordinator and the student’s advisor.
Expectations and Evaluation
At the beginning of a practicum, the student and their supervisor will agree on the nature of the experience and the student’s learning goals. The details of this agreement should be documented in the revised and signed Call for Practica Form, which must be filed with the placement coordinator prior to the beginning of the placement.
The number of hours for fall or spring semester placements vary from 8-12 hours per week; however, students should anticipate committing about 120-150 hours per placement. For summer practicum experiences, hours may also vary, but should be at least a total of 120 hours.
Students are encouraged to meet regularly with their supervisors for planning, discussion, and evaluation. These check-in meetings are beneficial, particularly because students supervisors will provide written evaluations of their practicum students. Ultimately, the practicum supervisor’s evaluation and the practicum coordinator’s evaluation of students' reflective activities will determine students' successful completion of their practicum experience.
Thaddeus Stegall, Class of 2016
Practicum Site: Presidents Council State Universities of Michigan
My experience at the Presidents Council State Universities of Michigan was an enriching and enlightening experience. While there, I had the privilege of sitting in on various meetings of state and universities officials such as the governor, university presidents, provosts, vice presidents, and university staff and administrators. There were many very important issues that were discussed at these meetings that impacted our institutions and state at the macro level. Many of these issues were to be kept confidential, which required a level of professionalism, trustworthiness, and tact when dealing with certain issues. I also had the privilege to compile data to create visual displays for diffident organizational numbers and reports that were given to the Michigan legislature. I learned, firsthand, who were the decision-makers, movers, and shakers and how they got to those positions. I also learned the amount of difficult decisions that upper-level university staff and administrators make on a daily basis. Overall, this was an eye-opening experience that opened my eyes and future career aspirations to governmental relations and educational policy.
Joe Bozzo, Class of 2015
Internship Site: Housing Facilities, Texas Tech University
Experiencing something new was my top priority in planning the summer between the two years in the SAA program. Once I knew I would be returning to my graduate assistantship as an assistant community director, I decided it would be best for me to gain an experience outside of supervising undergraduate students. I ended up at Texas Tech University with an ACUHO-I internship in Housing Facilities. Being a part of such a large and collaborative housing department was something that I took for granted before my facilities experience. As an intern, I quickly learned about the different stakeholders that effected the facilities unit's ability to undertake certain construction, maintenance, or repair projects, which included institutional partners as well as contracted organizations. I had the opportunity to work directly with many areas within the unit including work orders and maintenance, interior design, construction, housekeeping, lock-smithing, and pest control. My main project, however, was a compilation and analysis of departmental utilities expenses for the fiscal year. I also had the incredible opportunity to undertake committee work and collaboratively plan a drive-in conference for the interns of the SWACUHO region with the other interns at TTU. Lastly, the associate director for Housing Facilities was my direct supervisor in this role. I valued learning from his perspective in the department and he also encouraged me to share my experience with others. His instruction led me to eventually have a testimony of my learning published in the SWACUHO newsletter, which was also a great professional experience!
Lauren Koppel, Class of 2015
Internship Site: Women's Resource/Returning Adult Program
Lansing Community College
I interned with the Women’s Resource/Returning Adult Program at Lansing Community College over the summer in 2014. Located in downtown Lansing, the community college serves nearly 20,000 students a year. The college offers associates and certificate programs. The Women’s Resource/Returning Adult Program focuses specifically on increasing student access through financial grants and support through advising and educational programs.
As a student who did not attend a community college, my internship gave me exposure to the community college environment. I grew professionally by becoming familiar with the work of several functional areas and offices. I interviewed and observed several offices to continue my own professional development and gain knowledge concerning different functional areas. My development continued through interviewing the Dean of Students, which gave me a broad overview of the institution. Additionally, the opportunity to work with students increased my knowledge of the barriers to achieving higher-education and strategies to assist students.
For my internship, my supervisor and I outlined specific projects including: observing student advising sessions, developing outreach materials and avenues, revising workshops and creating programming experiences, and researching the services of women’s resource programs at other community colleges. This experience allowed me to further develop my skills as a generalist and enhance my understanding of administrative procedures and tasks.
In the research and evaluation component of my internship, I familiarized myself with women’s resource programs. My supervisor and I used data to inform our restructuring of the Returning Adult Orientation Workshops. We added childcare opportunities, increased our marketing to include mailed brochures, and altered the workshops to be more reflective of our students’ needs.
I also developed a comprehensive outreach plan which increased marketing through the institution’s social media accounts and included an interview on a local news segment. This opportunity increased my understanding of the best and clearest marketing techniques for our target student population.
The Women’s Resource/Returning Adult Program and Lansing Community College were flexible to work with and centered the internship experience on my interests. With this flexibility, I was able to continue working at my assistantship and advising in Career Services. The intership experience solidified my gratitude for the preparation the SAA program provides. I felt very comfortable with developing learning outcomes, initiating research, and evaluation initiatives. Additionally, it helped me begin to understand the network of SAA alums as my supervisor is one. Overall, I could not have asked for a better experience to introduce me to the community college environment and grow my skills broadly.
Michelle Trimpe, Class of 2015
Internship Site: Office of Conferences, Institutes & External Events
American University in Bulgaria
In the summer of 2014, I was fortunate to have the phenomenal opportunity to serve as an intern at the American University in Bulgaria in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria. Blagoevgrad is a town located about an hour and a half south of Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. AUBG is a private, liberal arts college founded in 1991 and accredited both in the United States and Bulgaria. Although it is located in a primarily Bulgarian-speaking community, all courses at the university are taught in English. AUBG has about 1,100 students, over 50% of who are international, making it a unique place to work and study.
My internship was in the Office of Conferences, Institutes, and External Events, and I had the opportunity to act as a consultant and create programs for a number of offices within AUBG’s Student Services department. Main projects included developing a student career advisors program for the Career Center, collaborating on the creation of a global leadership certificate for the Dean of Students office, and processing visas in International Student Services. My internship program was based on a cohort-model, and I frequently collaborated on projects and traveled through Bulgaria and Eastern Europe with my three co-interns. Additionally, my supervisor coordinated weekly meetings and led conversations about comparative international education and student affairs which allowed me to learn from graduate students enrolled in student affairs and higher education programs around the world.
As an intern at AUBG, I was able to apply theory learned from my courses in the Student Affairs Administration program to my work on a daily basis. I evaluated and developed survey instruments, created programs with specific learning outcomes, and developed proposals for new programs based in research and best practices, all skills acquired from projects and assignments in my coursework within the SAA program. Many times, I was able to use past projects and assignments as a template for developing new initiatives at AUBG, and the experience working in groups provided by the SAA program proved useful in effectively navigating collaborative projects with my co-interns.
Being immersed in a new institution, country, and culture made me highly perceptive of my tendencies, skills, and abilities, while allowing me the opportunity to consistently reflect on and make meaning of my experience to grow on both a personal and professional level. As a result of the experience, I have solidified my values and interests, gained a new perspective to apply to future work in the field, and increased my skill set and knowledge base necessary to enter positions within a functional area I am passionate about.