May 09, 2011

Internship course leads to jobs for graduating seniors

The interdisciplinary approach central to the Gender Studies Program at Lewis & Clark is paying off for a group of students who are entering a range of related jobs after graduation.
  • Maisha Foster-O'Neal '11 (self portrait)

The interdisciplinary approach central to the Gender Studies Program at Lewis & Clark is paying off for a group of students who are entering a range of related jobs after graduation.

For the last several years, Deborah Heath, director of gender studies and associate professor of anthropology, has taught an internship course called “Gender in the City,” which is designed to connect theory and practice. In addition to deepening students’ knowledge of gender theory, the course connects students to internship experiences that they can leverage for jobs across many sectors.

“This course provides students with opportunities to learn from each other about a wide array of gender-related professional and academic domains, including health care, legislative lobbying, gender in the arts, electronic and print publishing on global gender issues, and social service support for women, children, and sexual minorities,” Heath said. “Each time it has been offered, students have been able to build on their internship, with students developing senior thesis projects as well as moving into positions related to their internship work.”

The Lewis & Clark Gender Studies Program, launched in 1985, was the first of its kind in the country. The program examines the biological, social, and cultural construction of femininity, masculinity, sexuality, and the ways we locate ourselves within gender systems. The program offers an interdisciplinary minor that students combine with widely varying majors.

In addition to completing internships with nonprofits throughout Portland, students in Heath’s course engaged in intensive reading, writing, and analysis, and learned about an approach called “participatory action research,” which was first developed by economists interested in grassroots development in India. Students also read works by geographers and political theorists about the politics of urban and regional spaces and about how to facilitate democracy to ensure the full participation of underserved groups.

Internships pave the way for job placements

Every graduating senior, and one junior, who took Heath’s course this spring landed jobs with the help of their internship experiences.

Danielle Blechert ’12, a sociology/anthropology major, obtained a position with Bradley Angle House, a domestic violence shelter where she has served as an intern this spring. Applying what she learned about the shelter’s youth services, Blechert will work as an on-call youth advocate, filling in for other advocates, running bi-weekly group sessions at the shelter, managing case files, conducting homework sessions, and providing other necessary support for the children served by Bradley Angle.

Maisha Foster-O’Neal ’11, a gender studies major, interned for SMYRC, the Sexual Minority Youth Resource Center. Foster-O’Neal has been hired as the youth engagement specialist for the Oregon Department of Family Health in the Adolescent Health Section, where she will research youth advisory committee models and design a tool kit for the department to create its own youth advisory committee. The youths on the committee will provide input about what services and programming they would like school-based health centers to provide to students in Oregon public schools.

Maggie Mahoney ’11, a sociology/anthropology major, interned for Cause It!, a Portland business consulting firm founded by MJ Petroni ’08. Mahoney will spend the next year working for City Year New Orleans, a year-long AmeriCorps program in which corps members serve in high schools as tutors, mentors, role models, and leaders of after-school programs. Corps members also organize and participate in large and transformative city-wide projects that include constructing schools and developing community.

Sarah Nedeau ’11, a psychology major, has been hired by Raphael House, the shelter and crisis intervention center where she has been an intern this semester. She will be an on-call advocate for Raphael House, working the crisis line and supporting survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault who live in the Raphael House shelter. Nedeau recently presented about her work at Raphael House at a gender studies brown bag event on supporting survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Translating liberal arts experience into jobs

The Center for Career and Community Engagement (3CE) at Lewis & Clark recognizes that internships are an ideal way for liberal arts students to gain practical job experience in career fields outside of the classroom. Staff members from 3CE work with students, alumni, faculty, and community partners to provide opportunities for students to discover and connect their interests and passions while gaining professional experience and exposure.

Learn about the other ways 3CE is helping students prepare for successful lives after college: