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Sociology interns gain real world experience

Lauren Haruno | Friday, October 7, 2011

Notre Dame’s Sociology Internship class provides a way for students to experience classroom lessons in the real world, bringing book learning to life.

“[Students] get the opportunity to take their sociological knowledge out to the field, and see how sociological theory works in action, and reflect on the social conditions of the community.” Ann Marie Power, director of the sociology internship program, said. “It’s one thing to learn it in an academic setting, and another to actually have the flexibility of mind to call on [sociology] to help you to analyze what’s going on.”

Senior Danny Jackson, an intern at the Robinson Community Learning Center, said despite being only two months into his internship, he is already humbled by his experience.

“I get a better understanding of the seriousness of the [education] problem, just the educational inequality that we have,” Jackson said. “Hopefully [down the line] I can change it.”

More than 10 agencies accept interns from the course, ranging from the South Bend Center for the Homeless to Indiana Legal Services, Power said.

“[These organizations are] another very vital set of hands, another person who’s actively thinking, and helping [students] to engage whatever the challenges are.” Power said.

Senior Christian Moore, who interns at the local Salvation Army, monitors the local food pantry. He said his experience in the class has opened his eyes to the struggles of community members.

“It’s challenging seeing all the struggles, and not being able to do anything immediately for people,” Moore said. “It’s like a wake-up call. When you’re on campus it’s really hard to relate to a lot of what’s going on with the majority of Americans.”

Interns put in six to eight hours at their agency per week, and the course meets every four weeks as a class.

Students engage academically by completing readings that are both general and specific to their particular placement, and finish off the semester with a presentation of their experience through a sociological scope, Power said.

Though much of their time is dedicated to the internship, Power said students must keep their course content in mind.

“I like to encourage them to think about the difference between knowing sociology and making sense of what they’re doing versus somebody who just comes in off the street, and doesn’t have a sociological background.” she said.

Moore said the sociology internships are rewarding and offer an experience that is atypical of common student internships.

“A lot of people usually just intern with bigger firms, but actually interning at non-profits or schools is just as important and just as rewarding.” Moore said.

Jackson said the internship class allows students to experience inequality first hand.

“It’s one thing to learn from a book,” Jackson said. “I mean you can hear all you want about the inequality, but until you really see it, how detrimental it is to these kids, you don’t really appreciate it.  So I think it’s extremely important to go out there and experience it first-hand.”