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Going beyond the books

For graduate students juggling research, writing and teaching, finding time to get job experience can be tough. To help students get a leg up, the Department of English Language and Literature have another option in the curriculum: internships.

Kimberley Adams interned this semester at the McGill-Queen's University Press.

Taken in lieu of a seminar course, the internships require 50 hours of work over the fall semester and can be done at a variety of organizations. In operation since 2012, the internships are now in their third year. For the 2014-15 year, six students have worked at the McGill-Queen’s University Press (MQUP), the Kingston Literacy and Skills program, the City of Kingston’s Municipal Heritage Committee and Kingston WritersFest. In the past, Queen’s Strathy Language Unit has also hosted interns.

“The internship is a good way of changing the thinking about what an MA is,” says Glenn Willmott, a professor in the department who’s facilitating the internships this year. “Rather than the researching, reading and writing of a seminar class, the internships allow students to put their skills and knowledge into practice.”

To take part in the internship, students and the host organizations rank one another according to their preferences, with the English department facilitator finding the best matches.

Kimberley Adams, MA’15, interned this year with the MQUP. She worked with an editor at the press to survey the current trends in the field of sociology, mapping where they think the study is headed.

“We looked into manuscripts currently being written, special issues of journals and the themes of recent conferences to see what’s popular right now,” says Ms. Adams. Analyzing the data gave her an opportunity to hone her research skills and see a side of publishing she otherwise wouldn’t have known. Her research gives MQUP a better sense of the field and allows the press to be more strategic when it comes to making decisions about manuscripts.

“This internship has given me a chance to diversify my education and take part in a process I’ve never seen before,” she says. “I’ve gotten some real world experience and developed some transferrable skills, plus if I’m ever looking to publish something, I have an understanding of the work that’s involved.”

Along with the internship program, the English department also has its graduate students take part in a professionalization class that teaches them the skills needed to work as a professional academic. Along with training in how to mark essays and write grant applications, the course teaches students about hunting for work in the academic job market.

“These internships affirm that there’s a practical and productive side to scholarly life outside academia and getting to take part enriches the student experience,” says Dr. Willmott.