The Way I See It: Practical Education By Steve Libowitz The Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies is taking time this week to honor the undergraduates who have taken part in this year's Urban Policy Internship Program. It's time worth making. Undergraduate internships are such a valuable part of an undergraduate's education. Medical students complete their education in mandatory internship programs, no doubt following the sage adage that practice makes perfect. But because internships are usually extra-curricular activities for non-medical students, undergrads, especially, often are obliged to spend some of their non-classroom time at jobs that help them pay the rent. "What's so great about the institute's internship seminar is you can get the practical education as part of the class, without having to choose between money and education," says Josh Greenberg, a sophomore from Oyster Bay, N.Y., majoring in the Writing Seminars. Students should be encouraged at every step along their academic career to get real world experience. While it's invaluable to hit the books, nothing beats hitting the streets, wherever in the world they may be. Even more than volunteering, these opportunities give students a chance to see firsthand the problems and promise of various career paths they may be juggling in their mind. Greenberg knows that after graduation he wants to be, most of all, an effective writer. But he's so not sure in what profession he wants to apply it. "I'm interested in public policy, and I'm considering going into law or graduate school in public policy or a think tank," he says. "I just want to try as many things as I can before I have to make a decision." It's a process that certainly beats job-hopping and career-shifting. "I wish I had had this kind of opportunity when I was in college," says Bill Cunningham, a third district councilman from Baltimore City, a researcher at the policy institute and Greenberg's mentor this semester. "I might have stayed out of politics," he laughs. Internships also benefit those, like Councilman Cunningham, who take on the students. And they most often get out of an intern what they put in. "The internship I offer in this course is definitely not just clerical," Cunningham says. "I'm staff poor down at City Hall, and the interns I have been lucky to have from Hopkins allow me to pursue issues important to me. Their work becomes the foundation for legislation I introduce in the City Council. They are my auxiliary staff." This semester, Greenberg developed a survey to find out what is and is not working in the city's Enterprise School initiative, a program that makes principals, rather than the central school administration, responsible and accountable for the management of their schools. "I had to call all the principals and conduct the survey," Greenberg says. "Now I'm tabulating the responses. And depending on the results, I think Bill expects to use this to propose legislation. That's pretty exciting for me." Josh Greenberg feels he is getting more from the internship because it is part of his seminar. "I get to do the work downtown and then talk about it in the classroom," he says. "It's exciting to be a 20-year-old and to be able to walk around City Hall, see the mayor. And it makes the week a lot more interesting, too." He plans to do an internship each fall, spring and summer. He figures by the time he graduates, he'll have a real sense of not just the kind of work that might suit him, but also the sort of place he'd like to work. He also knows he will have made important contacts in the real world to complement the academic connections he will have made after four years at Hopkins. "It all fits together for me," he says. "It's all important for a total education." That kind of sense is certainly worth celebrating.
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