Macalester Summer Internship Grant shifts to fund virtual student internships

Macalester Summer Internship Grant shifts to fund virtual student internships

Gracie Ellsworth, Features Editor

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Macalester Summer Internship Grant (MSIG) will now only approve internships that can be completed remotely for the summer of 2020. 

Facilitated by Career Exploration, MSIG offers students financial support as they complete an approved 10-week summer internship. This support comes in the form of four levels of grant funding, ranging from $2,000 to $5,000, intended to cover the living expenses incurred during the course of an internship. 

The new requirement marks a significant transition for the program, which previously disqualified virtual internships from funding.

We’ve had to do a rather graceful 180-degree pivot to not only okaying [virtual internships], but actually requiring that they have to be either remote or remote friendly,” Director of Academic Internships Michael Porter said. 

Some student internships which require in-person work will now be out of the running for grant funding. But Porter pointed out that many in-person internship programs, particularly those of academic lab-based research, will not accept any interns anyway this year due to the pandemic’s disruption of their operations. 

“Some things just don’t work out from a remote standpoint,” Porter said. “It’s very sad. It’s very frustrating.” 

Previously, many of the internship positions supported by MSIG centered around community work and field-based research. Virtual internships may lack the benefits of working in-person, which students have often found engaging in their positions. 

“There’s a whole range of cool, interesting, wonderful things that students have been able to do,” Porter said. “[With virtual internships] there’s a lot to learn, a lot to do, but it maybe doesn’t have the same pizzaz and excitement that regular on-site type of internships do.”

Porter predicted that as a result of the transition to remote work, many of the grant-funded internships this summer will be oriented around research and policy. 

In past years, MSIG has also allowed many students to take internships abroad. Porter said that international internships typically make up a quarter of the grant-supported positions. This summer, no internships will be considered which require the student to travel out of the country. 

While MSIG is already in the process of reviewing student applications submitted before the extended deadline of April 6, the program is allowing more applications to be submitted on a rolling basis. Grants are typically awarded to 35 to 40 students, depending on the size of the funding required by the student internships. With coronavirus disrupting the lives of many students, there may be changes in the number of grant applications submitted during the rolling deadline. 

“[Students] are having to adapt to so many different things that paying attention to getting a summer grant might be a lower priority,” Porter said. “But on the other hand, because finding a part-time job in the summertime and having other financial options are going to be diminished because everything is shut down, I think there is going to be a greater demand for a source of funding that would help you do something positive and also make some money.” 

Ultimately, Porter predicts that the number of grants awarded will not change as it is subject to their traditional budget. 

While including a ‘virtual’ internship requirement may change the experience and format of MSIG-funded internships, Career Exploration is faced with the reality of the uncertain nature of the pandemic. 

“It really became evident fairly quickly that there just wasn’t going to be another option,” Porter said. “The best thing to do right now is to go make all [funded internships] remote because it’s safer and more reliable. We’re all trying to figure out how to make those better learning experiences they have have been in the past.”