Academic Engagement

This guide is designed for community partners interested in engaging students and faculty in water-related projects. Navigating the academic structures from outside the university can be daunting. This brief guide presents types of approaches for engaging faculty and students.

If you are interested in pursuing a water-related project, contact Center for Environmental Inquiry or Center for Community Engagement which assists community members, faculty and students to engage in partnerships.

What are Internships?

  • Internships are community or field-based learning experiences where students are placed in a job setting to learn skills that integrate their future career goals with coursework. Internships can be with for- or non-profit organizations.  At SSU, all academic departments support interns.At SSU, some departments require internships and have specific internship coordinators. Internships can be paid or unpaid.
  • Paid or Unpaid? You can use this US Department of Labor fact sheet to help you figure out if an internship legally must be paid.
  • Community Involvement Program is slightly different from an internship. It provides a means for students to earn academic credit for volunteer experience but must be with a nonprofit and governmental organizations (for profit organizations not allowed). CIP must be unpaid. Not all departments offer CIP to their students. See CCE's blog post "What’s the Difference Between Internships and the Community Involvement Program (CIP)"

How Does it Work?

  • Community members are responsible for recruiting, training and supervising the student. Student interns find a faculty advisor on campus to oversee the academic requirements of their internships.
  • SSU does not have an central internship department. Internships are handled at the department level. Some departments require internships and have internship coordinators. Here is a list of Department phone numbers and weblinks to Schools on campus.
  • If the internship is unpaid, service time can become a part of the Sonoma County Time Exchange and compensating with Time Dollars.

What to Anticipate

  • The internship may be the students' first professional experience. Students will need specific instruction on work expectations, including number of hours, work hours, andn other administrative requirements.
  • Students will be learning on the job. Internships are based on the premise that students will be learning new skills.
  • Students vary in writing and critical thinking skills. If certain skills are required for the internship, community members should interview students to determine whether they have these skills.
  • Students top priorities often are their school work. Midterms and finals can create heavy workloads for the students and variability in student availability should be addressed at the beginning of the internship.

How Do I Find a Student Intern?

When Is the Best Time to Recruit Students?

  • The beginning of Spring (January) and Fall (August) semesters is the best time to recruit students looking for internships. If students are receiving credit, they generally need to have their forms submitted by the second week of the semester.

What is Service-Learning?

Service-learning is teaching method in which students enrolled in an academic course undertake a community project or experience. (More information about service-learning.) The community project is used as a "text" for student learning and students must participate in completion of the project to pass the course. Service-learning responds to community needs and supports academic learning. There is no inclusive dictionary definition, but "service-learning" generally includes:

  • Reciprocity: The community service supports the students' academic and civic learning and addresses an expressed community interest
  • Reflection: The instructor provides students with opportunities for structured "reflection" that helps students to connect the service with academic and personal learning.

How Does it Work?

A nonprofit or governmental organization partners with a course instructor to create a project. Only non-profit or governmental organizations are eligible for engaging faculty and students in service-learning projects. See CCE's "What is a Community Partner?" The project must:

  • be connected to and supports the academic learning objectives of the course
  • address a need identified or developed in partnership with the community partner
  • be a core component of the course and is described in the course syllabus or independent study contract
  • be the basis for the end-of-course critical reflection linking the service and academic study

What to Anticipate

  • You will attend the course at least twice and interact with students. See CCE's "Providing Students With An Orientation"
  • Student products will be variable in quality but that the instructor will be able to provide information about reliability and quality of the results
  • Timing of course work will be defined by the academic schedule and other course requirements
  • Course supplies may need to be provided by the community partner

How Do I Find a Class?

When Is the Best Time to Find a Class?

  • Service-learning takes some up front planning. It is best to plan a project with a course instructor in the semester prior to the one in which the course is taught. If the project is relatively short, it may be possible to incorporate some aspect of the project into the current semester.

What are Contracts?

SSU faculty and staff can engage in contract work with organizations or individuals interested in undertaking specific projects. Students are often employed as part of the project work.

How Does it Work?

Contracts are developed by the community organization, faculty or staff and SSU Contracts and Procurement. These are legally binding agreements that specify scope of work, budget and deadlines for deliverables.

Faculty and staff can engage with organizations directly or as part of SSU institutes. Examples of campus institutes with regular contract activity include:

What to Anticipate

Faculty or staff member is responsible for the delivery and quality of the final project. Student work is carefully reviewed to ensure that it meets high quality standards.

How Do I Find Faculty or Staff Interested in My Project?

Many faculty across campus engage in contract work. The best way to identify faculty is by reviewing faculty websites to find descriptions of their expertise and whether they have engaged in contract work in the past. The WATERS Expertise Guide provides an introductions to faculty interested in water-related issues and provides links to their website with additional information about their recent contract work.

When Is the Best Time to Develop a Contract?

Anytime. Contracts can take 4-6 weeks for development with SSU Constracts and Procurement.