Unpaid internships are hit or miss with cougars
The treatment of unpaid interns has recently come under fire, but UH students are continuing to apply for and accept these positions with the hope they will gain experience in their anticipated field of work.
Marketing junior Colleen Seitz currently has an internship with UH’s Athletics and Marketing Department. She finds the environment comfortable and easy to work in.
“There’s no sort of, ‘You have to do the grunt work and I’m your boss.’ That mentality is not there at all. It’s very much, ‘If you need help, I’ll help you,’” Seitz said. “It’s kind of like a big family in a sense because I spend so much time with them.”
Seitz says she has gained valuable insight into the inner workings of a sports marketing position and is receiving hands-on experience with the types of projects she could face in her future career.
“They respect that we’re there to work and to learn,” Seitz said. “Anytime we express an interest in something, they’ll try to make an opportunity for us to learn if we haven’t been given that yet.”
For journalism junior Jennifer Pearson, her experience with the Houston Chronicle is much different. She has done photo galleries, but she has not received direct credit for her work.
“I’m stuck in a position where I’m kind of doing menial tasks,” Pearson said. “I know other students who have really good supervisors and are getting the work they need to show for their portfolio. It depends on the people that you begin with.”
She is obtaining credit through UH for the internship, but Pearson is not sure whether the experience is helpful.
“I paid for the college credit and if I get that credit, it’s fine. But the experience along the way to obtain that credit is not wholesome,” Pearson said. “While I’m not wasting money, I don’t think I’m wasting time.”
Anthropology senior Jene Harper believes the chance to gain experience outweighs the monetary expenses. He holds an internship at Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center and helps veterans adjust to civilian life.
“I’ve gotten life lessons and experiences that are much more valuable in the long run than financial compensation,” Harper said.
“The trade-off in spending that time and having the chance to gain the currency of human experience is far more valuable than getting $10 an hour.”