I believe the Purposeful Work Internship Program retains a deceptive label. By placing this name—a tag—on a class, an internship, or any act done at Bates College, we are not only misleading about the work done under this label, we are also discounting everything not under this label. Purposeful Work only affirms the cliché liberal arts insecurity—that the work we do here lacks practical meaning. By placing this heading on classes and certain types of work, we are inherently excluding classes and work not under this label, which doesn’t align with significant Bates principles.
Looking away from Purposeful Work’s social implications and towards its individual implications, I believe the internship program is inherently flawed. By making students eligible for a Purposeful Work internship—video-taping themselves in a mock interview, making an appointment with the Career Development Center to edit their resume—Purposeful Work is not in any way guaranteeing the student’s work will be purposeful as much as it is done in a way that appeases arbitrary standards. After complying with these regulations, assuming students do well in their interview and get the internship, the hassle for it should be over. But, of course, it isn’t.
What Purposeful Work needs to further consider, however, are the needs of the students in all disciplines. As a studio art and English double major, I found very few internships on JobCat that qualified for Purposeful Work that were in the marketing field, one of the practical applications of my major. Some may say that finding an internship within my majors is unrealistic, and maybe my majors are not practical. However, why would Bates even offer those majors if they do not have practical purposes?
Disregarding choice of major, this is not the only problem I find with the Purposeful Work Internship Program. One of the appeals of Purposeful Work internships is that they are paid. The final deadline for Purposeful Work funding, however, was in mid-March. If the Purposeful Work internships do not suit one’s needs, other summer funding options for unpaid work have deadlines fall between January and April. Every single internship that I applied to, however, was not able to respond with the status of my employment until after the deadlines. The earliest response I received was the last week of April, and I continued getting responses well into the end of May. I believe that I am not the only one who has had this problem.
Junior neuroscience major Nicole Peraica, had similar issues with the Purposeful Work Program. After finding no desirable internships to compliment her neuroscience major, Nicole went into the BCDC for some advice, which led her to a research opportunity in her hometown. She was granted the opportunity to pursue psychiatry research, the most purposeful application she could have hoped for in her major. Her main tasks included editing brain images using computer software, scoring neuropsych assessments, conducting her own personal project, and shadowing MRI scans and clinical neuropsych assessments. Nicole worked 24 hours a week, but could have increased her hours if funding allowed it. For all of this seemingly purposeful work, she was not awarded any funding from Bates, or any outside funding that Bates could have pointed her towards, all because her employer was not able to award her internship until May.
“I think the purposeful work program is a great thing, but I think it should only be offered if all students have an equal opportunity to receive funding,” Peraica said. “I was extremely disappointed that Bates could not support me in this academic endeavor.”
This system can be exclusive to students. Bates needs to extend the paperwork deadline, reconsider its guidelines, and expand its reach to be more inclusive and supportive of alternative internships.