Harvard Educational Review
  1. Winter 2021 Issue »

    On the Intersectional Amplification of Barriers to College Internships

    A Comparative Case Study Analysis

    Matthew Wolfgram, Brian Vivona, and Tamanna Akram
    In this article, authors Matthew Wolfgram, Brian Vivona, and Tamanna Akram present a comparative case study analysis of five students from a comprehensive, urban Hispanic-Serving Institution whose experiences exemplify a coordination of intersectional factors that amplify barriers to internship participation. Research shows that college internships yield academic, economic, and professional benefits. However, the opportunity to locate and participate in internships is not equal across student demographic and socioeconomic contexts. There are multiple complex barriers to internship participation for students who are socially and institutionally minoritized by race, gender, and other contextual factors, including finances, work responsibilities, travel, and gendered familial obligations. These factors intersect with systems of power and privilege to amplify challenges and foreclose futures. The authors argue that the delineation of barriers into types alone, such as financial, social, and cultural, without additional analysis of the dynamics of how such barriers intersect and amplify, runs the risk of misconstruing students’ actual experiences when they struggle to access internships and other educational opportunities.

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    Matthew Wolfgram (https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5050-0746) is a senior researcher at the Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, University of Wisconsin–Madison. He employs ethnography and other qualitative research methods, including participatory action research, to study the higher education and career experiences of minoritized college students.

    Brian Vivona (https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9345-1027) is an associate professor at Northeastern Illinois University, where he teaches courses in adult learning and teaching, foundations of human resource development, and organizational needs assessment. He is also a research affiliate at the University of Wisconsin Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions. Much of his work has focused on formal and informal learning in the workplace. His work has appeared in Teaching & Learning in Nursing, European Journal of Training and Development, Advances in Developing Human Resources, and PAACE Journal of Lifelong Learning.

    Tamanna Akram is a project assistant at the Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions and a recent graduate from the Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Originally from Dhaka, Bangladesh, she holds BAs in government and theater arts from Lawrence University, and she spent a year working as the advancement coordinator for the Writers Theatre in Glencoe, Illinois. Akram has both academic and experiential backgrounds in policy, fundraising, advocacy, and nonprofit work. She has significant international field research experience in development, women’s empowerment, and sustainability in Bangladesh, China, Sierra Leone, and Jamaica.