Guidelines and Illustrations of Journal

  • Interns must maintain a “weekly journal” of their internship activities. The journal should include the following:

    • A report of the intern’s weekly assignments and activities
    • An indication of what the intern learned while completing his/her tasks for the agency
    • A description of how the on-the-job experience relates to the academic preparation he/she has had
    • Brief reflections on the intern’s feelings about the job he/she is doing

    Interns are encouraged to report their frustrations and disillusionments, as well as their feelings of accomplishment. The weekly journal written after each week’s activities is a private document. It is seen only by the faculty supervisor. The internship journal has the following sections:

    1. A log (review of weekly activities)
    2. Recording of perceptions
    3. Recording of feelings
    4. General discussion about how you think the internship is progressing
    5. Identification and discussion of new terminology encountered or utilized

    There is no requirement concerning the number of pages necessary for the journal. During the first few weeks, it will be more voluminous. As time goes on, you may find that your days are more routine and your entries will diminish in length.

    Typewritten or word processed copies of the logs are submitted every three (3) to four (4) weeks to the faculty internship supervisor who will read them and provide comments to the intern.

    Guidelines for and Illustrations of the Journal

    1. The Journal (weekly)

      • The daily log entry requires the intern to concisely and specifically state what occurred each week during the internship. It is comparable to the who, what, when, where, and why of the lead paragraph of a news story.
      • Illustration:

        • 10/14/XX: Today, I spent the entire day at the library looking for current information--mostly journals and newspapers and newsletters--about how the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act is being implemented across the United States. Congress enacted the law in 1991 and requires that regional plans be completed and approved by the federal Transportation Department prior to funds being disbursed for projects. It is a totally different approach from that taken by the federal government over the last twenty years. It is anticipated that projects which are most important to the local areas will then be undertaken. I am doing the research as part of a larger project being conducted in conjunction with the American Public Works Association by the staff of the Southwestern PA Regional Planning Commission. I have been working mostly this week with the commission’s senior transportation planner.
    2. Questions (weekly)

      • The recording of questions gives both the student and faculty supervisor an opportunity to think about what the internship is providing in terms of experience for the student.
      • Illustrations:

        • Why would the federal government change its approach to funding major transportation projects in 200X?
        • The ISTEA legislation from my research today has infuriated state transportation officials who have essentially been bypassed by the federal government in the transportation planning and project implementation process. Why would Congress, the President, and the Department of Transportation create a program that would cause such controversy?
        • Why would the planning commission trust that I will be able to find the “right” information at the Carnegie and Hillman libraries to accommodate the needs of this special project?
    3. Perceptions

      • The detailed recording of perceptions in the journal will help the intern assemble, organize, and begin to make sense of his/her own observations and experiences. “What did you see? What did you observe? What patterns of activity and interactions begin to emerge? How does your placement fit into the political system?”
      • Identifying patterns helps link your perceptions with material learned in your political science classes. This permits the intern to examine hypotheses and discard or reinforce information learned in the classroom. Such recordings give the intern an opportunity to reflect and speculate about the alternative meanings of what has been seen, felt and/or experienced in his/her “real world” internship.
      • Illustrations:

        • Today, I learned the difference between learning first hand as opposed to learning from a textbook. The concept of “politics” is something which cannot be taught in class. The entire lifestyle of a politician is different from anything most people are used to. Politicians are constantly on the move—they never stop. Another thing which struck me was the uncertainty of every job around the capitol. No one can be guaranteed a job beyond the next election.
        • Today it really hit me just how much power a secretary has over her boss!
        • The people who controlled the two meetings I attended today struck me as being keenly aware of their respective departments. This in itself may not be remarkable, but no one crossed another’s boundaries. A man in charge of the lottery fund when asked a question regarding education referred the question to another department head when he certainly could have fielded the question.
    4. Feelings

      • Interns tend to go through several stages during their internships. A fairly typical sequence may be as follows an uncertain observer—a testing period.
      • Who are all these actors? Where do I fit in?
        • A special participant in the political process—feeling some power
        • An insider; part of the organization
        • Boredom and inertia
        • Renewal activities
      • What happens after the internship is completed?
        • Critical outsider—the intern assesses the internship, the political system, and his/her university preparation
      • Illustrations:

        • 1st Week: It was like an all day interview. I found myself remembering the secretaries and the staff and forgetting the Senators’ names. I was excited to see Senator ____, but on the same token, he hardly even acknowledged my presence.
        • 3rd Week: I did one constituency response today and was hailed as an expert letter writer.
        • 4th Week: I made a mistake today in some dealings with ____ office. Made me feel quite uncomfortable. I have to learn from mistakes—not dwell on them.
        • 5th Week: I had another experience with the ____ department today that tends to frustrate me. I try not to realize how busy that agency is and that their clientele are not the easiest to work with—but they continue to be the rudest and the most complex of the bureaucracies.
        • 8th Week: I ignored the office policy and decided to handle the case. I was able to do research on something I was interested in. The internship has given me the confidence that I am worthwhile and do have something to offer.
        • 10th Week: I don’t think I could run for public office. My skin is too thin. I love politics and government. I love the excitement, but I think I prefer working in the background.
        • 13th Week: Reminds me of high school. Senators can have an excused absence. I think the Senator should clarify _____’s responsibilities. It would be easier for all of us. Sometimes his head is turned off.
        • 14th Week: My meeting with ____ was confusing and exhilarating. He offered me a job if they can find the money.
    5. Discussion

      1. This section is designed to encourage the intern to take one facet of the week’s experience and discuss it in detail or to view the week’s experience in its totality.
      2. Illustration:

        1. This was the week that the association’s quarterly newsletter was written, word processed, duplicated and prepared for mailing. About six weeks ago, I sent notices out to each of the committee chairs and asked whether they had anything in the way of announcements or articles for the newsletter. The responses came in all shapes and sizes. I then had to revise or edit the material for the newsletter after discussing each with the association’s assistant director. In addition, I had to prepare a final draft of the lead articles about the federal anti-crime bill which is pending in Congress and the Pennsylvania state legislature’s action via the sunset law to eliminate the state Crime Commission. (Brilliant move!) The final copy for the newsletter was ready on Wednesday for the printer. I had to hand deliver it and review the work to be done with the print shop manager. He’s known for quick turn around so I had the newsletters back by Friday morning. I then spent the rest of Friday getting the newsletters ready for mailing. It is good that I had previously worked with the mailing label system on the computer because I found that the secretary who ran the labels selected the wrong code and only ended up printing about half of the membership. I found the problem fairly fast or we would have had a tremendous difficulty sorting through the entire list and figuring out who was missed. My final job of the process was to actually take the newsletter to the post office for mailing. It went a special bulk postage rate and I had to make sure all of the proper sorting and labeling was in place. After looking back on the week’s activities, I now have a greater respect for all the work that goes into publication and distribution of a newsletter. I had the chance to develop a work schedule for the project and had to make sure the schedule was carried out. I had to pay attention to lots of details and know when to ask others for help. I was pleased with the result(!) and believe that I can use this experience to handle other multi-dimensional responsibilities both here at the internship site and in the future.
    6. Terminology

      • By dealing with politicians, bureaucrats, lawyers, lobbyists, the press, and public interest advocates, interns soon learn that each placement has its own specialized language. What new terms have you encountered? What do they mean? How have they related to the work you have done?

      • Illustrations:

        • ISTEA: Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act

        • Disbursement: The actual payment of funds by one entity to another.—The federal treasury at the request and authorization of the U.S. Department of Transportation paid the 50 percent share of the cost of 31st Bridge rehabilitation project to the City of Harrisburg.

        • Infrastructure: a term used to encompass all of the roads, bridges, buildings, sewer and water facilities, equipment, etc., built and maintained by a government

    7. Evaluation of the Journal experience (once at end of internship)

      • Evaluation Question: How do you assess your journal experience in terms of your overall internship experience? Was it helpful to you? If so, in what way? If not, what changes would you recommend?

      • Illustration:

        • I must admit, I hate the journal. I believe that it takes up too much time to write, and with the other time consuming requirements of the internship is too much work for too few credits. But...it did force me to think and was probably the most valuable learning tool I’ve ever come up against. Without having to write down and develop my thoughts I would have lost much of what I learned during my internship. I think that the structure of the journal is too rigid. But then, you didn’t seem to mind when I would change the format a little.