The Practicum Requirement

What is it?

The Political Science department faculty believe strongly that engagement in civic life, while an undergraduate student, enriches your learning and better prepares you for life beyond college. Our practicum requirement is not merely an “internship requirement” that you must check off, but a cohort-based experience, designed to help you reflect on your skills, goals, and professional development.

How can it be fulfilled?

All Political Science majors will complete the practicum requirement in one of three ways:

1) Enroll in POLI 213, Politics in Action, a 2-credit course offered each fall and spring semester alongside a 2 to 4 credit internship (POLI 622 or 624) supervised by the instructor of POLI 213.  Working with the designated faculty advisor, students can set the direction and goals of their internship. For some, the internship will be about exploring potential careers. For others, it will be an opportunity to test theory in practice or to move from the abstract to the applied. Whatever the goals, we believe that the process of actively thinking about what you are doing, while you are doing it, alongside your peers, will make the experience richer. As the American philosopher, John Dewey, wrote in 1938, “We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.”

•Note that all students enrolled in Legislative Politics (POLI 216) should consider simultaneous enrollment in POLI 213 and POLI 622 for a combined 8 credits.  Those in Legislative Politics who do not also enroll in POLI 213 and POLI 622 should plan to meet the practicum requirement as described above or below.


2) The Chuck Green Civic Engagement Fellowship, POLI 290, which includes a 4-credit course in the Spring with a full-time summer project that fulfills the practicum (with 1 academic credit, see below).

3) Internships completed while on study away may also fulfill the practicum. Check with your advisor or the department chair.

Does my summer internship count toward the practicum requirement?

No. The requirements for the major include a 4-credit practicum experience (either POLI 213 and POLI 622 /624 OR POLI 290, Chuck Green).  All students must complete their practicum during the fall or spring semester.  Students may also register a summer internship for 1 credit if any of the following apply (however, none of these 1-credit internship options fulfill the practicum obligation):

  • You are an international student who requires continuous enrollment
  • You have received a Macalester Summer Internship Grant
  • Your internship site requires that you receive academic credit.

How Do I Get a Faculty Supervisor for my Summer Internship?

Students should consult the chair or their advisor to be assigned a summer internship supervisor if one of the above conditions apply.

Other Questions

What counts as a “political science” practicum? Will any internship count?

We employ a broad understanding of what constitutes an appropriate site or opportunity for a political science practicum. Certainly, many types of internships easily qualify, such as election campaigns, offices in any branch of government, advocacy groups and lobbying organizations, legal practices, and most non-profit community organizations. But the work that you are doing for an organization is more important than the nature of the organization itself. Tending to the Rose Garden as the White House summer gardening intern might get you very close to the center of power, but may not provide as meaningful political work as something, say, more “grassroots” in the Twin Cities.

Also, the writing and reflection that you do in POLI 213 can go a long way toward making an internship an appropriate practicum experience. Filing papers in a law firm might not itself appear very “political,” but with guided reflection can help you bring meaningful issues into focus. We encourage you to discuss potential internships with Career Exploration and the POLI 213 faculty advisor.

How do I find an internship?

Begin with a visit to the Academic Internships section of the Career Exploration website and follow up with a visit to their office on the first floor of Kagin. They have many resources tailored to Political Science, such as lists of sites where students have worked. The Director of the Internship Program, Jinna Johnson, also has a wealth of knowledge about opportunities. Because of Macalester’s experience with so many students over many years, you will be able to get good advice about internships that have provided particularly good opportunities. Not only that, you’ll find that there are many organizations that have enjoyed strong relationships with Macalester and are actively seeking out students like you.

How many internships can I do?

The practicum is the minimum requirement for the major, but many students have gone on to complete two or more internships, or have established great relationships with an organization and have continued there for more than one semester. Any time you complete an internship for credit, you will need a faculty supervisor. You do not need supervision for any not-for-credit internships completed after your practicum is fulfilled.

Does a study away internship count as one of my two courses from outside the department?

One of the requirements of the major is that no more than two of your nine courses come from outside the department. A study away internship is an exception: it does not count as one of those two courses. So, in your study away semester, you could take two courses that could be approved for the major, and also complete an internship in fulfillment of the practicum requirement. Check with the department chair for approval.

How many hours do I need for a 2-credit v. 4-credit internship (POLI 622 v. 624)?

4 credit internships are 140 hours (approx 10-12 hours per week), and 2 credit internships are 75 hours (approx 6-7 hours per week). A credit and hourly requirement breakdown is available at this link from Career Exploration.