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Intern Perceptions and Learning Experiences: Assessment Insights from a Research Internship Program

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2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Baltimore , Maryland

Publication Date

June 25, 2023

Start Date

June 25, 2023

End Date

June 28, 2023

Conference Session

Improving Retention & Self-Efficacy through Experiential Learning and Research Programs

Tagged Division

Cooperative and Experiential Education Division (CEED)

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Sophia Vicente Virginia Tech Department of Engineering Education

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Sophia is a Ph.D. Candidate in Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. She holds a Bachelors of Science in Industrial Engineering from the Pennsylvania State University and a Masters of Engineering in Management Systems Engineering from Virginia Tech.

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Holly M. Matusovich Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Dr. Holly Matusovich is the Associate Dean for Graduate and Professional Studies in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech and a Professor in the Department of Engineering Education where she has also served in key leadership positions. Dr. Matusovich is recognized for her research and leadership related to graduate student mentoring and faculty development. She won the Hokie Supervisor Spotlight Award in 2014, received the College of Engineering Graduate Student Mentor Award in 2018, and was inducted into the Virginia Tech Academy of Faculty Leadership in 2020. Dr. Matusovich has been a PI/Co-PI on 19 funded research projects including the NSF CAREER Award, with her share of funding being nearly $3 million. She has co-authored 2 book chapters, 34 journal publications, and more than 80 conference papers. She is recognized for her research and teaching, including Dean’s Awards for Outstanding New Faculty, Outstanding Teacher Award, and a Faculty Fellow. Dr. Matusovich has served the Educational Research and Methods (ERM) division of ASEE in many capacities over the past 10+ years including serving as Chair from 2017-2019. Dr. Matusovich is currently the Editor-in-Chief of the journal, Advances in Engineering Education and she serves on the ASEE committee for Scholarly Publications.

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Wayne Gersie

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As the inaugural Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion at Michigan Technological University, Dr. Wayne Gersie is responsible for providing vision, strategic leadership, and thoughtful change management for campus diversity, equity, inclusion and sens

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The SOAR internship program is an excellent example of what the National Academy of Engineering defines as a “high-impact practice”. The purpose of the program is to support underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors and serve as an opportunity to intern with the ARL at Penn State (ARL) to develop the skills needed to succeed in the workforce. Through a cohort and mentorship structure, the program provides interns with hands-on and relevant internship experience. The purpose of the SOAR program assessment was to examine the program during the summer of 2021 and gain a deeper understanding of the intern’s experiences. Specifically, the goals were to: (1) Understand intern perceptions of the program and what sets SOAR apart as a program, (2) Explore intern’s learning experiences in the SOAR program, (3) Provide recommendations for future assessment.

Ultimately, while each intern who chooses to intern with ARL may have varying motivations, in the selection process the SOAR program sets itself apart through its technical research and diversity-focused cohort model which are supported with competitive benefits. Additionally, the intern’s descriptions of the program indicate an overall positive perception of the SOAR. In terms of interns’ learning experiences, the positive results from the MUSIC Model survey demonstrated motivation outcomes associated with learning. The findings from the workplace thriving survey demonstrate that SOAR and ARL created an environment conducive to learning and that the interns viewed the experience as a learning opportunity. These results support the goals of the program and also indicate areas for future inquiry including exploring mentor perceptions and influence of intern background on experience.

This assessment and continued research stand to have a positive impact on the SOAR program and other internship programs. Furthermore, the results of this assessment have the opportunity to aid continual improvement and support translation to other contexts.

Vicente, S., & Matusovich, H. M., & Gersie, W. (2023, June), Intern Perceptions and Learning Experiences: Assessment Insights from a Research Internship Program Paper presented at 2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Baltimore , Maryland. 10.18260/1-2--43822

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