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UT News

Experiential Learning All Summer Long

UT programs supporting equitable access to internships for all Longhorns

By Rosalind Faires

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Student stands on exterior stairway of red-brick building
UT student Paul Kimball III stands in downtown Smithville, where he worked for the Chamber of Commerce as a 2021 Home to Texas participant. Photo by Trent Lesikar.

Summer takes most Longhorns off campus and away from classes, but that doesn’t mean their opportunities for experiential learning evaporate in the heat. Programs supported by Texas Career Engagement (TCE) and the School of Undergraduate Studies (UGS) are helping University of Texas at Austin students make the most of their time off the Forty Acres this summer. Among them are the TCE Internship Fund, Home to Texas™ and UGS Summer Exploration Grants.

An internship is often the best way for students to explore a potential career path, build their resume and make vital industry connections before graduation. But not all internship opportunities come with sufficient pay — or any pay at all — making them unrealistic time investments for lower-income Longhorns.

The TCE Internship Fund, which was bolstered this year by a grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, reduces that financial barrier and makes unpaid internships accessible to all Longhorns. Students can apply for a grant and, upon being selected, be paid $20 per hour up to a maximum of $4,000, based on internship hours completed between the first and last class day of the summer semester or term. The 2022 funds have already been disbursed, but students can plan to apply for the 2023 Summer Internship Fund in the coming school year.

First-year students who have come to UT from partnering small or medium-sized Texas communities have the opportunity to participate in Home to Texas. Formed through a partnership of the IC2 Institute, UGS and TCE, this early career program matches rising sophomores with full-time, nine-week internships in their hometowns so they can develop a strong professional foundation at the start of their college career and build connections for a potential future in their home community. Participating students in unpaid internships receive a $5,000 scholarship, and students in paid internships earn a minimum of $5,000 for the summer.

On top of gaining job experience in their internship, students spend the summer taking a research and professional skills course and participating in a research project, before ending the summer with a celebratory event in their hometown. Applications for next summer’s program will be due in January 2023.

Since 2010, enterprising students have devised unique academic and career development opportunities for themselves with the support of UGS Summer Exploration Grants. These grants, which can be requested in any amount up to $2,000, provide financial assistance for undergraduate Longhorns pursuing professional development and independent exploration in their fields.

Students can use the funds on conference fees, books and subscriptions to relevant sites and programs, supplies for a research project, living expenses or any number of things — they just have to explain how their proposed project will clarify their academic or career path in their grant application. Keen on starting a podcast interviewing people in the social justice field or interested in building a greenhouse so you can raise sustainable crops next summer? Keep an eye out for the application when the program opens next spring.

Longhorns of all backgrounds and incomes have opportunities for creativity, personal and career growth, and community building whether they are spending their summer in Austin, in their hometown or outside the U.S. All three of these programs demonstrate UT’s commitment to making experimental learning a cornerstone of our educational experience.