As a national leader in graduate education, Rackham Graduate School is pursuing a historic shift in how doctoral students are trained and prepared for their careers. For decades, students have acquired professional experience as research assistants and teaching assistants. The Rackham Doctoral Intern Fellowship Program introduces a third approach by giving students the chance to translate their research expertise into practice. Through internship opportunities that are available during the academic year as well as the summer, this program offers students maximal flexibility for incorporating these vital experiences into their doctoral education. Students apply their skills in a range of sectors, from biotechnology and national laboratories to information technology and cultural institutions.
The University of Michigan was among the very first American universities to award the research-based Ph.D. By establishing internships as a new cornerstone of doctoral education, we affirm the university’s commitment to preparing our students as research and scholarship leaders who are ready to meet the challenges ahead.
The Rackham Doctoral Intern Fellowship Program provides a crucial experiential learning opportunity for students, while demonstrating the value of their advanced abilities and knowledge to employers in a wide array of fields.
Why Is Rackham Launching This Program?
- To prepare students to be successful in a variety of careers.
- To meet students’ needs for direct experience with practical applications of research, collaborative problem solving, and communication to broader audiences.
- To establish the value of Ph.D. training for potential employers in a wide variety of organizations and industries.
- To connect doctoral students with organizations working on projects that address the challenges of communities and societies, locally and globally.
- To support innovation in advanced, research-based training that is relevant—and even crucial—to the work of diverse industries, organizations, and communities.
What Is Different About This Program?
- It is geared exclusively to doctoral students. Internships have long been accepted as a part of the educational experience for undergraduates and master’s students. But doctoral professional experience has traditionally focused on research and teaching in the academy, rather than non-academic settings. This program offers doctoral candidates the opportunity to broaden their career horizons through internships, where they apply their academic skills and expertise to real-world problems in nonprofit, government, start-up, and corporate sectors.
- It expands the traditional model of summer internships to the academic year, providing full fellowship funding for doctoral students to undertake an internship in either fall or winter term (as well as the summer). Such timing provides students with maximal flexibility in incorporating an internship experience when it makes sense during the course of their doctoral training.
- It provides full semester funding for doctoral internships, thus integrating professional development experience with the student’s academic work, and allowing candidates time for deep career exploration and the application of their skills outside of academia. The internship experience is intended to complement the professional learning students gain through teaching or research positions.
- It provides a cohort experience for all doctoral student interns in a given term. Rackham has designed a wrap-around program of support (including orientation, check-in meetings, workshops, and final debrief) that enables students to get the most out of their internship and connects them across disciplines. This programming encourages students to treat their internship as a form of experiential learning, helps them grasp the transferable skills they are acquiring, and prepares them to network and conduct informational interviews.
- It is a campus-wide program that is open to all doctoral candidates.
- It will broaden students’ perspectives and prepare them equally well for jobs both in the academy and beyond.
Benefits for Doctoral Candidates
- Provides increased flexibility and alignment of internships with graduate program curricula.
- Integrates internships into doctoral training so students are not forced to choose between this unique professional development experience and making progress on their degree.
- Exposes students to and prepares them for a broader set of career possibilities and professional aspirations.
- Provides access to employer engagement, coaching, mentorship, and a supportive cohort of peers.
- Legitimizes career exploration beyond academia by tying internships to a major source of graduate education funding.
- Offers opportunities for social impact through public and community engagement.
Benefits for Graduate Programs and Faculty
- Offers an important and rare professional development experience that will make doctoral training at U-M distinctive and help attract outstanding prospective students.
- Provides an additional fellowship-level funding opportunity for their students.
- Includes a cohort experience, designed and led by Rackham, that accompanies the internship to provide students with professional development expertise and broaden their perspective on possible career pathways.
- Supports individual programs by helping to maintain partnerships with site partners, make internship opportunities visible to more students, and manage internship logistics.