Each of Columbia’s three schools, Media Arts, Fine & Performing Arts, and Liberal Arts & Science, have their own way of encouraging the furthering of students’ professional lives by gaining skills through internships.
Lyn Pusztai, industry relations and internship coordinator of the cinema art + science program, said she hosts 45-minute internship introduction meetings with students three times a week in her office.
Pusztai said students need to have their core requirements in the cinema art + science department completed, a grade point average of 3.0 or above and at least two completed semesters at Columbia.
“The industry I work with in my industry relations is higher-level internships,” Pusztai said.
“I need to know the student is not coming in right out of high school. They have some base of knowledge, even though the whole point of an internship is to learn and grow.”
According to Pusztai, cinema art + science students display a pattern of having one or two internships that lead to jobs upon graduation.
Pusztai said it is important for industry relations to be deeply rooted at Columbia. She said those who work in the film industry know they can count on Columbia students because they have had great experiences with them in the past.
Pusztai said she sends industry contacts to students who have sought out an internship.
“I encourage students to see me, but because internships are an elective, it is an elective whether they get in touch with me or not, ” Pusztai said.
Pam McNeil, academic manager and internship coordinator in the dance department, said students generated their own dance internships in the past.
According to McNeil, the department would set up a way for students to get credit for work they would do at studios or companies such as the Joffrey Ballet.
McNeil said this year the dance department is aiming to develop more structure around internships. She said this semester the department is receiving internships from outside entities that are looking for students.
The department currently has three for-credit internship positions, two of which are filled; many students participate in independent projects and directed study programs.
She said the two interns help with communications and production for the Dance Center’s 2015-16 Presenting Season.
“We always encourage anyone looking for internships to consider the option of credit, ” McNeil said. “We are trying to have more credit opportunities for the students.”
While the department does not handpick students for internships, it does direct the advertisement of internships to fitting groups.
“We got a lot of our interns when we announced it at the town hall and talked about what the internships were,” McNeil said.
“That was a lot more effective than when we were just posting [internships].”
McNeil cautioned that the department makes its students go through a rigorous process to ensure they are able to handle the tasks the internship will provide.
McNeil said she hopes, as more internships are available, it will become more common for teachers to reach out with recommendations for their students.
Devon Polderman, academic manager for the department of creative writing, said students in the department have found successful internships in fields such as publishing, editing and education as well as marketing, advertising and public relations.
Polderman said students sometimes meet with him individually but the department holds group informational sessions to assist more people at once. As students lock down leads, the department holds individual meetings again.
Polderman said he joined Columbia in 1998 and has been involved in the academic manager role for the last nine years.
“The culture has changed for the positive greatly with more and more students expecting to intern, to make it part of their plan,” Polderman said.
“I would not say this was the case nine or 10 years ago.”
Polderman said he is impressed with students’ understanding of the need to develop a professional life to go along with their creative life.
“[Students] have a stronger sense coming into the door that creative writers need to find a way to sustain themselves so they can carry on with their creative endeavors,” Polderman said.