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Subject: Unpaid graduate internships

Unpaid graduate internships

From: Karen Elise Thomas <ket215>
Date: Tuesday, January 6, 2004
As a graduate intern myself I can't help but be sympathetic to Mr.
Shutts' recent postings regarding unpaid graduate internships. Like
most students in the graduate training programs in conservation, I
have spent considerable time--alone and in the company of my fellow
students--pondering the issues Mr. Shutts raised.

In the end, the most salient question for me is whether this isn't
all a result of simple supply-and-demand. Each of the training
programs in the US graduate a rough average of eight to ten students
each year, cumulatively sending forth a few dozen individuals to
battle in the ever-so-shallow pool of internships, open jobs and
fellowships. Given the lack of positions and surplus of graduates, I
don't find it at all surprising that institutions can offer--and
fill--unpaid or poorly paid internships and fellowships.

To my mind, this begs the (admittedly simplistic) question whether
it is appropriate for the training programs to continue to graduate
so many students. Is it irresponsible to churn out so many graduates
when the field doesn't appear to be able to support them?

On the other hand, no graduate degree in any field is a guarantee of
work, so I have often wondered what is at the root of students
expressing such chagrin over being trained for a field that has so
few openings. I would be surprised if grad students in other fields
feel the same sense of entitlement. And yet I don't think
conservation students are just a bunch of whiners. My instinct is
that the underlying cause is a combination of the length of training
required and strong emphasis on one-on-one mentoring along with the
close-knit nature of the field. Since we're entering a community
rather than an industry, there tends to be a more personal sense of
connection to the work and the community as a whole.

As a "young" conservator (or at least new to the field) I would like
to hear what established members of the community think about these
issues, and am glad the topic was raised. I've heard many an
anecdote from conservators about the heyday of conservation when
there was a staff position just waiting to be filled for every
graduate. Given that the current state of the field is a far cry
from this, I'm curious to know whether established conservators
think the scales of supply-and-demand have tipped too far in the
opposite direction.

Karen Thomas
graduate intern, NYU

                  Conservation DistList Instance 17:49
                  Distributed: Friday, January 9, 2004
                       Message Id: cdl-17-49-002
Received on Tuesday, 6 January, 2004

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