Internship program bridges gap between classroom and office

Published January 1, 1992  | January 1992 issue

For 16 years a number of Twin Cities companies have refused to believe that they cannot have an impact on education in Minnesota. For 16 years these companies have supported the Teacher Internship Program, a program that places the classroom teacher directly into the business world.

Initiated in 1975 as a cooperative venture among the St. Paul Cos., 3M Corp. and the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce, the internship program was designed to expose educators to the needs and workings of for-profit businesses and non-profit organizations. Conducted during the summer, the program also allowed businesses the opportunity to use teachers' skills for special projects. These projects have included computer database systems, corporate publications and employee evaluation tools. For the past 10 years, the internship program has been coordinated and run by the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

Mo Selim, director of the Center for Economic Education at St. Thomas and coordinator of the internship program, sees the advantages for both schools and businesses. "It's a win - win situation," according to Selim. "The businesses get the specialized talents of the teacher while the teacher becomes sensitized to the needs of the business world and can take that back to the classroom."

The eight-week program exposes the teacher to many factors that go into finding and starting a job in business. Here is how it works:

  • Teachers' application forms/resumes are pooled and distributed to participating companies.
  • The companies select and interview applicants who fit the needs of a proposed project.
  • At the end of the school year, selected teacher participants spend a week at the University of St. Thomas in special economic education seminars that familiarize them with the forces affecting the business world.
  • The teachers then spend seven weeks working at the host company.
  • As a final critique, teachers are requested to create a lesson plan for their classroom that would reflect their participation in the program.

The cost of the internship program is underwritten by the supporting companies. Of the $3,200 per teacher participant that companies pay, $2,600 provides a stipend for the teacher while the rest covers seminar and administrative costs.

The number of internships available is limited by the number of sponsoring companies that participate each year. Selim says the program is affected by the economy—when the economy is solid, there is more corporate involvement. "There have been as many as 42 interns and as few as 17. In all, we've had about 400 interns in the program," Selim says.