2020 is a strange time to look back on ten years of the International Internship Program at UW-Madison and simultaneously try to imagine the next ten. I joined our founding director, Maj Fischer, in IIP’s second year and we saw tremendous growth as the two of us were able to cultivate more internships for Badgers as well as support independent students with funding, credit, and more. It has been exciting to see the new destinations, new internships, and new collaborations with faculty, staff, alumni, and internship hosts to create unique professional experiences around the world.
I strongly value our ability to work closely with the students and internship hosts through the entire process and help them navigate the ups and downs of interning abroad. We now have three advisor/program coordinators supporting this; quite a change from when it was just me working with every student! The enthusiasm, personal experience and connections that each one brings to the role is exciting for our students and partners to have more tailored support.
When we hit our official anniversary date in February we were just starting to grapple with how COVID-19 might impact our programs in East Asia while navigating our busy summer application and advising season. Little did we know that very soon we would call back all spring students abroad, cancel all summer programs abroad and move to remote work ourselves. It was so hard to see experiences cut short and others not able to begin. In addition, this summer has also been a time to reflect on access and equity in international internships, examine all aspects of our work, and recommit to this core value.
We’ve taken this opportunity to improve many of our resources, review our existing internships, and explore future opportunities both virtual and abroad. Cultivating these relationships and experiences for Badgers brings us much excitement and optimism, though we know it will be a new journey with new challenges. We are eager to support our students and partners in valuable cross-cultural work experiences and continue building the program in new directions to start the next group of Badgers on their global careers.
Thank you to everyone – students, alumni, campus partners, internship hosts, families, donors – who helped us learn, grow and define who we are in these first ten years. I look forward to staying in touch and working together on the next ten! I hope you’ll explore our alumni profiles and share a comment, memory, or even an internship lead with us as we take time to reflect and reconnect this year. Please also consider a gift to support the next ten years of interns abroad and help us Fill the Hill October 21-23 at the end of this week of celebration.
Michelle Kern Hall
International Internship Program
University of Wisconsin-Madison