Working to provide students with valuable internships

Matthew Scheidel, Staff Reporter

What all students deserve, regardless of economic background, is opportunity, and Oakland University is trying their best to make sure that happens.

“We offer a whole bowl of them,” Brian Hlavaty, director of the internship program, said. “It just depends on what the student is interested in — we’ve got students wanting to go into advertising, we’ve got students who are PR majors and that’s all they’re interested in, we’ve got some students that just want television or radio, so we try to offer a little bit of everything.”

Hlavaty explained the process of an employer looking for interns from OU, and what the university expects from the employer.

“So, a company comes to us and says ‘hey we’ve got this [opportunity],'” he said. ‘“What do we need to do to make it work?’ We give them the rules and the regulations, and tell them, ‘here’s what the student has to do.’ Here [are some] things we don’t want the student to do: we don’t want them running errands, fetching coffee, all of the stupid things you hear interns do. We want them under a mentor, doing work that appropriately falls under the skills that they’re seeking to learn about.” 

According to Hlavaty, the COVID-19 pandemic has hurt the internship program.

“[The pandemic] just gutted the internships,” Hlavaty said. “They’ve all switched to remote internships — and that happened a year ago. As a matter of fact, that just abruptly shifted remote. Then many companies finished up a year ago in the winter semester of 2020, and decided to put internships on hold. So, dozens of them just said ‘we’re not going to do it right now’. And they haven’t done it in the fall, they haven’t done it this semester, and some of them are telling me, ‘well maybe next fall — call me in June and we’ll see what happens.’”

The university is currently working on a replacement for the OU News Bureau course. Journalism professor Katherine Roff is one of the people leading the charge on that front.

“[Solutions journalism] is more of an approach to journalism as opposed to a specific theme,” Roff said. “People who advocate for solutions journalism would probably argue that solutions journalism can be applied to any of society’s issues that you’re covering. That could lean a little bit naturally towards social issues, environmental issues, but it can be applied to anything.”

Roff said that much like the previous OU News Bureau course, this course will be offered as an alternative to an internship.

“A lot of this course would be looking at inclusive pedagogy and practice,” Roff said. “So that means things like universal learning design, which is where we’re recognizing lots of different ways of contributing to the class and not just a final exam or anything like that.”

According to Roff, the class attempts to replicate the internship experience, tailored to what the student is best at.

“It would be working on projects throughout the semester — collaborative learning — so not too different from a newsroom,” Roff said. “People will be researchers, they will be photographers, and we’d have that collaboration going on through forums and quizzes, not just that focus on one assignment, or on the final score. We’re looking at trying to make it as inclusive and accessible as we can.”

Roff elaborated on how they plan to keep the class accessible, mentioning a wide variety of student interests will be included.

“We want to try and make it as representative as we can in terms of student interests,” Roff said. “If students are really interested in broadcast, then they might choose broadcast as a final medium. If they are interested in feature writing, that might be the medium they present their final assignments [with]. [Students] will build up a portfolio throughout the semester to show editing processes, reflective processes, things like that.”

Roff is hoping to have the course ready to offer by Winter 2022.