Supporting Student Interns and Bonner Scholars with the CCE

Through the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement, students can intern 6-8 hours (including transportation) a week at a nonprofit, school, or government agency in exchange for financial assistance. (This includes students in the Bonner Scholars Program.) In addition to developing professional skills through these experiences, students participate in reflective exercises and educational programming to understand difference, power, and privilege; deepen their thinking about complex social issues; and prepare for active citizenship.

As educators, we seek to find opportunities where students will be seen as valued colleagues while making meaningful contributions to an organization’s work. To support the supervisor-supervisee relationship, we offer the following suggestions to enhance communication, strengthen learning, and promote professional growth.

Suggested Guidelines for Supervisors

Designating a primary supervisor
In our experience, we have found it helpful to designate a primary supervisor for students who will orient them, provide ongoing support, and coaching. Students may report to other colleagues for special projects/roles (or have volunteer coordinators who approve their hours); however, it’s important to establish a primary supervisor who can help them reflect on the full scope of their day-to-day work.

Conducting an initial orientation
Introducing interns to your organization is the first step to a strong supervisor-supervisee relationship. The following is a list of things that might be helpful to cover:

  • Expectation setting: (1) jointly set expectations/goals at the beginning of a semester, (2) job descriptions and/or a Community Learning Agreement, can be important tools for this process.
  • Schedule: setting a schedule with your students, clarifying your availability and preferred method of communication, including how they should notify you when absent. (Since they are undergraduate students, their academic schedules will take priority; however, they will need to be flexible regarding their extra-curriculars and indicate conflicts in advance.
  • Values: share your organizational mission, vision, and values with students.
  • Environment and access: introduce students to your office environment and access to any necessary technology.
  • Key processes: articulate any necessary processes and procedures, including background checks.

Ongoing Supervision
Students often benefit from the following practices: 

  • Weekly or bi-weekly, check-ins (30-45 minutes): students benefit from having regular meetings to voice concerns, identify barriers to their work, and receive guidance from a supervisor. A shared online document can be helpful for creating an ongoing log of meeting notes and action items.
  • Availability of supervisors: while some students come with great experience, they will need guidance, particularly during their first two semesters or when taking on new projects.
  • Expectations: reasonable projects and timelines are important for student interns who have other academic commitments.
  • Closure: setting aside time each semester for students and supervisors to offer one another honest feedback.
  • Logs: some students have regular hour logs that need to be approved online (e.g., Bonner Scholars, Federal Work Study). CCE staff members will provide additional guidance if needed.
  • Joint supervision: if students support other staff on projects, it’s helpful to be clear about who they need to be communicating with for questions and updates.

Suggested Expectations for Students

As their supervisors and educators, we encourage you to ask students to uphold these important, professional courtesies:

  • Timeliness and Communication: students should be on time for their shifts and notify you in advance when they have an academic or personal conflict.
  • Respectfulness: students come from a variety of backgrounds and lived experiences. We work with organizations that create safe learning environments for them and it’s important that they strive to uphold and reciprocate this respect by honoring the organization’s culture and values.
  • Dedication: students should be proactive about setting their schedule at the start of the semester, follow-through on their tasks, and verify their hours. (For Bonner Scholars, they should submit their Community Learning Agreements as necessary.)
  • Initiative: students should be open with supervisors when they have questions and active in seeking out ways to further support the organization.