JMU staff discuss work to implement state bill requiring student internships at public universities

Published: Nov. 20, 2023 at 12:41 PM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - In April of 2022, Governor Glenn Youngkin signed 700 bills into law. One of those was SB 1280, which requires public baccalaureate institutions to adopt policies that require internships or work-based learning experiences to be integrated into degree programs for all students.

JMU’s Associate Dean for research and scholarship in the College of Science and Mathematics Steve Whitmeyer said the university’s efforts to enhance these opportunities began back in 2022 before the enactment of SB 1280, with the creation of a task force.

“Faculty and administrators from across colleges and several key other units like research economic development and innovation, the career center, student affairs things like that. Really to better understand the landscape of internships and work-based learning experiences at JMU,” Whitmeyer said.

Last spring, the task force surveyed graduating seniors, and Whitmeyer said 60% of students confirmed they had participated in a work-based learning experience.

“Student teaching experiences, health-related practicums, student research supervised by faculty members so there’s a pretty wide landscape,” Whitmeyer said.

The bill also required the creation of a work group by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia to make recommendations on strategies and development and adoption of policies. Whitmeyer is the representative for JMU among others from colleges around the state, and said each school is in their own step of the process.

“JMU is reasonably well-positioned to move forward I would say. But we do recognize that there are challenges,” Whitmeyer said.

Challenges which Whitmeyer said include a three-credit work-based learning experience on students’ transcripts upon graduation and the suggestion that these experiences be paid.

“Health-based practicums are typically not paid, student teaching experiences by the state mandate are not paid,” Whitmeyer said.

The work group will have until June 30th, 2024 to submit recommendations which the state legislature will use to determine how to move forward.

“Everybody recognizes the value of these experiences and the opportunity to work toward enhancing these experiences at JMU and get our students better prepared to enter the workforce is something we all want to try and achieve, the challenge is figuring out how to do that,” Whitmeyer said.

SB 1280 has a delayed effective date until July 1, 2025, contingent upon a determination by the SCHEV work group that the adoption of the policies is logistically and fiscally viable for each college.