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College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

Religion and Philosophy Internships Prepare Students for Work

Gloria Gonzalez

A new internship program in the University of Mississippi’s Department of Religion and Philosophy is engaging students in real-world scenarios that allow them to apply their academic training.

The purpose of the internship is to provide valuable pre-professional experience and a unique opportunity to study philosophy or religion outside of the traditional classroom.  By participating in the day-to-day operations of an organization, an intern can gain new perspective on topics related to philosophy or religious studies.

Sarah Moses, an assistant professor in religion, organizes the program. “Students are free to choose a placement ranging from government positions to private sector to non-profit agencies, as long as their experience can be connected meaningfully to a topic in their academic discipline,” she said.

Last summer the department placed two philosophy majors in law offices where, among other things, they reviewed depositions and transcripts, culling them for materials that could be used in their employer’s arguments. By doing this, they made use of analytic reasoning, critical thinking and logic, and argumentative skills learned in their major.

Gloria Gonzalez, a double major in philosophy and religious studies worked as an archival assistant in Archives and Special Collections in the J.D. Williams Library. She spent 120 unpaid hours digitizing pictures of segregated schools taken in the mid-1950s. As part of the academic requirements for her internship, she researched the ethics of digitization and the effect that the use of digital materials has on scholarly research.

Each student participating in the internship course must write a 10-page academic analysis paper relating the internship experience to a topic or issue in philosophy or religion. Gonzalez’s final research paper argued that without the proper context and organization, use of digital materials may hurt the quality of academic research.

She credits this work with solidifying a plan for her future. “The Department of Philosophy and Religion has done a wonderful job of preparing me for the future,” Gonzalez said. “The most practical way was through Dr. Moses’ summer internship course. It provided me an opportunity to fine-tune my interests within the field of library and information science.”

After graduation in May, Gonzalez will spend the summer as a 2011 Junior Fellow at the Library of Congress. “I was able to use my previous internship experience when applying for the internship at the Library of Congress,” she said.

Gonzalez also used her internship and research experience in letters of purpose, cover letters and diversity statements when she applied to master’s programs in library and information science. She plans to attend graduate school at the University of California at Los Angeles, and she hopes to eventually pursue a doctorate degree in philosophy.