IAIA Internship Program Key to Student Success

By Nancy Beauregard

Internships for both credit and non-credit at the Institute of American Indian Arts provide students the opportunity to explore career options in their areas of interest. Students are placed in the organizations of their choice and although many internships do not offer compensation, there are two paid programs to take advantage of for credit. These are the Great Lakes Project Success and the Journey Home, both are paid opportunities.

Internships are valuable experiences for students in creative writing, cinematic arts technology, Indigenous liberal studies, museum studies, and studio arts. Internships can be taken in galleries, museums, film industries, and numerous other organizations. According to Karen Gomez who is from Laguna Pueblo, and is the Internship and Career Director for Student Success, there have been a total of 26 internships from 2017 to the present for the Great Lakes Project Success Internships. “Internships are helpful in the sense that they help students adjust, learn, and adapt. They gain valuable work experience in their field,” said Gomez.

Jessie Ryker-Crawford, Ph.D., is White Earth Chippewa, and an Associate Professor in Museum Studies. She helped implement some of the internships at IAIA which started in 2004. It took a lot of work, outreach and partnerships with host sites and students to see what each internship could offer.

“You have to make sure that the experience is beneficial to both sides. Sometimes interns are stolen away and are hired. But it’s important to finish school first,” said Ryker-Crawford.

The Great Lakes Project Success is a three-year paid internship focused on career readiness. This grant is geared for students who have a financial need and who cannot afford to work in an unpaid internship. Students are paid $10 dollars an hour and can work up to 20 hours a week. The internships are 14-weeks in duration and can be taken in the spring, summer, and fall semesters. This project fulfills the student’s academic requirements for a three-credit hour class in their major.

The Journey Home Internship is designed for students who want to help in their tribal communities where they will be paid and receive credit for a three-hour class. This is a summer opportunity and presents $52,000 to cover tuition, credits, and stipends for 10 students, equaling about $5,200 per student. Students who are looking to work in their own tribal communities are considered a high priority. Students need to identify the type of work they want to do, the location and their area of interest. Lara Evans is Cherokee and the Associate Dean of Academics at IAIA. She sees the importance of the internships for both the students and their tribal communities.

“We are making it possible for tribal organizations that don’t have funding for internships to host interns who are paid by IAIA for their work. Several students are working for their tribe as a result,” said Evans.

Melissa Shaginoff, Ahtna, Paiute, is an IAIA alumni who took advantage of the Journey Home Internship when she was an undergraduate student. She traveled to Chickaloon Village, located in South Central Alaska, below the Matanuska Glacier where many of her relatives lived. The village was opening its first health clinic for its tribal citizens and the surrounding communities. Shaginoff proposed a community reflection through art which is now an installation in the health clinic. This project led her to a position as Cultural Development Coordinator in the village. Shaginoff is presently working in her dream job as the Curator of Contemporary Indigenous Art and Culture at the Anchorage Museum. She values the Journey Home Project.

“It gives you the opportunity with financial freedom to explore and establish yourself in your home community. It forces you to talk to your elders and tribal council about different things that your community doesn’t have. It gives you the opportunity to do something innovative and new.” Said Shaginoff.

Currently, some of the internships taking place through multiple programs are at the Authentic Traditions Gallery, Patricia Michaels (PM Waterlily), Blue Rain Gallery, New Mexico State Film Office, Site Santa Fe, Wheelwright Museum, Santa Fe Reporter, U.S. Forest Service, and the Balzer Contemporary Edge Gallery. Past internships sites have included the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian and the Peabody Essex Museum.

To be eligible for an internship, students must be currently enrolled full time with a satisfactory academic progress and are degree seeking undergraduates. Students employed at IAIA or in a work study are not eligible for a paid internship with the Great Lakes program. Students are encouraged to talk to with their advisers and contact Karen Gomez, the Internship and Career

Director to discuss internship possibilities and to fill out the required applications. Gomez can be reached by emailing her at [email protected].


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