Examination of factors that influence student and supervisor perceptions of congressional internship success



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Throughout the evolving landscape of experiential learning, internships have become a prevalent opportunity for higher education students to gain real-world experience that complements what a student has learned in the classroom. Internship opportunities are found throughout many higher education institutions primarily focusing on specific disciplines or majors. However, some internships (i.e. congressional internships) may be a beneficial opportunity for a student in any major or discipline. The goals of a congressional internship are commonly education, research, and public service. Despite the popularity of the congressional internship, little research has been conducted to supplement the soundness of congressional internship programs and what the students learn and gain while participating. This three-phased, qualitative study sought to better understand (a) a content analysis discussing the evolution of the experiential learning experience that lead to the inception of a congressional internship, (b) students’ expectations, internship experiences, and learning outcomes, and (c) internship supervisor perceptions of the students’ experience and learning outcomes.
Phase II and III of the study found that students’ career and professional skills improve throughout the course of the internship. Additionally, the time of year and the duration of the internship affects the prevalence of the learning outcomes. This study provides theoretical and practical implications to enhance understanding of the congressional internship experience. The findings from this study also informed the development of a framework for a congressional internship program.



Congressional internship, Career skills, Professional skills, Learning outcomes