Every student who decides to major or minor in Urban Studies is required to take complete an unpaid internship for which they receive 2 cu’s through a course entitled Fieldwork (URBS300). Students are expected to spend 15 hours per week working at the internship site and to attend a weekly seminar designed to help structure the internship learning experience.
Among recent student Fieldwork placements are charter schools, city government agencies, real estate firms, law firms, redevelopment associations, health centers, and magazine publications. There are also many other types of agencies.
Once you settle on an internship site, you must complete a fieldwork placement form and submit it to your instructor or directly to the Urban Studies office.
If for any reason you forsee difficulty fulfilling the 15 hour per week requirement, please have a conversation with Elaine as far in advance of your spring junior year as possible, to discuss a plan.
When do students enroll in Fieldwork?
The fieldwork seminar is held every spring semester. Students typically enroll while in their junior year. Urban Studies students who wish to take a semester abroad should plan to do so in the fall term. Meet with Elaine Simon if you anticipate any special problems with taking fieldwork in the spring term.
First, you need to determine what interests you want to explore. Think about what courses you really enjoyed, what topics inspire you, or what career path you might be considering.
The Urban Studies office maintains a database of agencies that have hosted student interns in the past or have expressed an interest in having an intern. The database is organized by topic, such as architecture, planning, economic development, arts, etc. and is searchable by agency name, topic of interest, or last recent placement. Each entry includes a description of the agency, the type of work interns are expected to do, and contact information. Note: While we try to keep the information current, not every agency updates the information each year. You can determine how recent the agency’s information is by checking the year it was updated. You should also check their website to assure you have the most current information about opportunities and initial contact person, or check in with Elaine for recent information.
You are not limited to agencies that are listed on the database. Use your networks - fellow students, faculty, family, etc. and ask about settings that engage in the work that interests you. There are also many associations of certain types of organizations who publish a list of member organizations on the web. You can check our fieldwork links for some examples.
Once you have a list of agencies that interest you, prepare a cover letter for each one and send it with your resume, just as you would to apply for any paid position. Refer to the UPenn Career Services web page for sample documents and other tips on protocol. Also include a copy of the URBS Fieldwork Factsheet to assure the agency contact person will have a clear picture of our program and what is expected of student interns. Email is usually the preferred method of communication, but you should check the agency's website to confirm. Plan to interview at a minimum of 2-3 different settings to assure you will have a good fit.
Urban Studies keeps past student evaluations of their fieldwork experiences on file in the office. Check with the staff for how to access these evaluations.
You must have a placement by the time that the spring semester begins, so you need to plan in advance. How early This depends on the agency where you want to work. Some companies make hiring decisions for the spring term as early as October of the previous year, to assure they will be able to staff certain projects. While it is advisable to begin looking for a site as soon as possible, many students do not finalize their placement until the end of the fall term.
The process for selecting a site while abroad is much the same for students on campus, but you will need to rely more heavily on the URBS online database (described above) to search for agencies. Choose several agencies that interest you and email the list to Elaine Simon along with a statement of what interests you have and what you hope to get out of the internship. Elaine will provide feedback and make other suggestions if necessary. Contact the agencies by email as specified above and request an interview for early January or whenever you will be back on campus. You should have already received confirmation from your top priority placements before returning, which will give you a couple of weeks to finalize your placement.
You should spend approximately 15 hours per week at the internship site for a total of at least 200 hours over the course of the semester.
Do not wait until after the first URBS 300 class meeting to begin your internship experience. Depending on the Penn academic calendar, the first class may not meet until late in January, and you will need to put in some time working before then both to assure you will be able to complete the required number of hours and to bring some of your experiences to engage in the first class meeting.
The purpose of this seminar is to provide you with an academic anchor to your urban studies internship. In the seminar, you will complete a set of assignments in which you 1) analyze your internship from various perspectives, 2) specify and document your learning, and 3) connect your practical experience with academic theory and research. This third activity can be a starting point for thinking about a senior research project. You will also read and discuss some key works in Urban Studies that will form a theoretical backdrop for the course and to your mastery of the urban studies literature.
Discuss any questions or concerns about your placement with your FW instructor or Elaine Simon.