Students find other arrangements for summer practicum amid COVID-19

SESP’s Annenberg Hall. Students completing their practicum this summer have had to make new plans in light of COVID-19.

Daily file photo by Allie Goulding

SESP’s Annenberg Hall. Students completing their practicum this summer have had to make new plans in light of COVID-19.

Sophia Scanlan, Reporter

When SESP junior Morgan Hodges received an email from Northwestern that said she could no longer complete her practicum in-person this summer, she wasn’t that surprised.

The SESP practicum, a graduation requirement, takes the form of a field-studies internship in the summer and invites students to intern in Chicago, San Francisco or Washington, D.C. The email, which Senior Practicum Adviser Nathan Frideres sent in May, outlined new options for students to fulfill the practicum requirement.

Rising seniors had the option to waive their practicum requirement if it didn’t fit into their schedule for the school year. Otherwise, students could reschedule the practicum to a different quarter, complete it remotely or enroll in three remote courses from a predetermined list that were designed to simulate the internship experience.

Hodges had planned to intern at The Beacon, a drop-in mental health recovery center in Chicago and part of Trilogy Behavioral Healthcare, but she decided to postpone the experience to another quarter.

“I just decided that I would want to reschedule it, since I am a (junior) and I have lots of time,” she said. “And (I) thought it would be a valuable part of the SESP degree — it’s kind of like the main thing.”

Instead, Hodges will take three other summer classes — ones unrelated to the practicum alternative — to knock out some requirements. She added that she hopes taking these classes will help free up her schedule during the academic year, so she can do her practicum during one of those quarters.

SESP junior Maya Rosental Saporito has decided to complete her practicum remotely. Rosental Saporito originally planned to intern in San Francisco — the city she said she hopes to live in after graduating — but now she’ll work from her home near Los Angeles.

Rosental Saporito will intern at America’s Teaching Zoo at Moorpark College, a place that trains zoologists and cares for exotic animals. She will work on the nonprofit and development side, assisting with marketing, public relations and virtual fundraisers, she said.

“I was pretty open to anything because I’m not totally sure what I want to do as my future career,” Rosental Saporito said. “(I am) kind of doing what I’ve been learning through (Learning and Organizational Change), but getting to do it at a zoo, which is really cool.”

Other students who don’t defer their practicum or choose to complete it remotely will enroll in three SESP courses that aim to mirror the internship experience.

Courses that count toward this alternative practicum include Federal Policy and Politics in the COVID-19 Crisis and Learning and Thinking in Organizations. All students who choose this alternative are required to take The Life Story Interview: Career Narratives of Mentors, Managers and Moguls with SESP Prof. Regina Logan.

The course is a qualitative methods class that will discuss the life story interview methodology and cover career transitions and careers in the time of the pandemic, Logan said. She will also invite alumni like Chuck Friedman (SESP ’88), corporate vice president for Microsoft Edge, to discuss their careers.

Logan said she hopes her students will have a good experience this summer even if their practicums are not continuing as planned.

“The most important thing to me is that students feel like they’re able to tap into their own creativity and to think about work in a way that perhaps they wouldn’t have had a chance to otherwise,” she said. “Even without the actual experience of being in practicum.”

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