Practicum Guide for Corvallis/Ecampus Students:

Purpose: The SUS DD program requires a practicum experience that takes you beyond the classroom and allows you to put your sustainability learning to work.  This experience looks different for every student – it can be an internship to give you a taste of a future job, an international experience that immerses you in sustainability in a new setting, or a deep dive into research that ties together the pillars of economics, society, and the environment. This guide is meant to help you decide which experience might work for you and help you prepare to meet this requirement.

The practicum is a meant to be a culminating experience in your sustainability studies.  It’s important to start brainstorming about what you would like to do early on in your academic career. Think of it as an opportunity to dig deeper into a topic that you loved in a core class, a chance to learn new skills, and a way to form relationships with key contacts in your field.

Prerequisites: SUS 304: Sustainability Assessment and SUS 350: Sustainable Communities

Preparation:  We strongly recommend preparing in advance for your practicum experience.  To this end, we have a deadline to submit your idea for your practicum during week 6 of the term prior to beginning your practicum.   Your first step should be to contact Erica Elliott, the SUS Academic Advisor, to discuss potential projects and learn more about requirements. You can book an appointment or contact her at sus.advising@oregonstate.edu. Once you have spoken with Erica, you can fill out the Practicum Proposal Form.  Your proposal will be reviewed by the SUS Curriculum Committee.  If you submit an acceptable proposal, Erica will enter an override for you to enroll in the appropriate credits (SUS 410 or SUS 401).

How many credits?

SUS DD recommends a practicum experience of at least 3 and no more than 6 credits.  Exceptions to the maximum may be made in the case where the student is involved in an extensive research project, or if they are receiving substantial sustainability training through their internship experience.

Requirements:

3-credit supervised SUS 410 practicum:

Find an internship, fill out the Practicum Proposal Form, wait to receive an override, and then enroll in SUS 410 credits. These credits will cover both the time you spend at your internship; on an Alternative Break; or on your study abroad program and the time you spend working on assignments for the SUS 410 course. You will keep a timesheet during your internship and complete a minimum of 60 hours at your internship site. Before you start work, you will complete a Practicum Agreement Form with your internship supervisor. You will also spend roughly 30 hours on coursework. The course will require some readings and assignments related to representing yourself as a sustainability professional. You will be asked to submit an evaluation completed by your internship supervisor at the end of the term and to present what you learned.

3-credit supervised SUS 401 practicum:

Find a research mentor at OSU. Define a research question together with your supervisor. The research can be part of a project your supervisor is working on or it can be your own idea, provided the supervisor approves it. Fill out the Practicum Proposal Form, wait to receive an override, and then enroll in SUS 401 credits. These credits will cover both the time you spend on your research project as well as the time you spend working on assignments for the SUS 401 course.  You will spend roughly 80 hours on your research and will complete a Practicum Agreement form with your supervisor before you begin your research. The SUS 401 course will require about 10 hours of work. The course will require some readings and assignments related to your research. You will also complete a 10-page paper or academic poster about your research and be asked to present your findings. Your research supervisor will evaluate your work at the end of the term.

Forms

SUS 401 and SUS 410 Practicum Agreement forms

Options for Practicum

Internship (SUS 410): An internship is a great choice if you want to gain work experience, make contacts in your field, or define your career goals.

Learning outcomes associated with an internship are:

  • Practice and demonstrate systems thinking skills.
  • Identify and apply qualities, tools, and practices needed for leading in sustainability (sustainability change agent skills).
  • Describe the business case for sustainability from environmental, economic and social perspectives.
  • Evaluate sustainability frameworks, principles and initiatives.
  • Evaluate sustainability business leaders and successful sustainability initiatives.
  • Demonstrate communication skills to build trust, understanding, and collaboration.
  • Identify and design resources to help achieve career goals.

SUS students find internships with businesses, nonprofits, government agencies, and other types of organizations. An internship should help you develop new skills, allow you to apply what you have learned in the SUS major to actual work experience, and help you grow your professional network. Your internship can be completed in-person or virtually, depending on the needs and preferences of the organization. It may also be paid or unpaid.

A good place to look for internships is on Handshake. Internships credits can sometimes be “shared” with another major. Occasionally, students will complete an internship at their current workplace. Please talk with the SUS advisor for more details about these two possibilities. A third possibility is the Oregon Applied Sustainability Experience, which offers terrific summer opportunities. If you are interested in completing an internship in another country, look into the options offered by OSU’s IE3 Global Program

Financial assistance for internship expenses such as travel and lodging and supplemental income for low or non-paying internships is available through the E.R. Jackman Internship Support Program. Global Experiences Fund provides resources in support of students and faculty gaining global experiences related to food and agriculture.  More information about the fund can be found at the link below.  To be considered for the Global Experiences Fund opportunity, please fill out the E.R. Jackman Internship Support Program application.

Research (SUS 401): Research may be a good option for students who want to do a deep-dive into a particular area of study. Learning outcomes for the research option are:

  • Practice and demonstrate systems thinking skills.
  • Identify and apply qualities, tools, and practices needed for leading in sustainability (sustainability change agent skills).
  • Demonstrate communication skills to build trust, understanding, and collaboration.
  • Design resources to help achieve career goals.

 If you would like to gain lab, field, or data analysis experience, or if you think you would like to apply to graduate school, research may be helpful to you. SUS students often develop research projects with instructors in their primary major. If you are a Natural Resources major, for example, you might work on a project with an instructor from the College of Forestry. You may also choose to approach a SUS instructor about working on a project relevant to their research interests. To find a research experience, you might consider approaching an instructor with whom you have taken a class or taking advantage of various programs on campus that support research, such as those offered by the College of Agricultural Sciences or the URSA Engage Program. You might also look at OSU’s student job postings.

Study Abroad (SUS 410): Study abroad can open your eyes to the bigger picture of sustainability—the connections across countries that are home to different natural resources, cultures, and economic situations. SUS students often participate in OSU Faculty Led Programs that examine sustainability issues like resource management and agricultural sustainability. These programs are shorter than the typical, term- or year-long study abroad program, and they allow students to study with OSU professors and their fellow OSU students. Some examples of Faculty Led Programs that students have completed in the past are Ridge to Reef: Sustainable Resource Management in Palau and Forest to Frame: Sustainable Manufacturing and Design in Alpine Europe.

The Office of Global Opportunities can help students find other relevant study abroad experiences. Please see their Advising Guide. You may also contact the SUS advisor or other OSU faculty to ask for recommendations about programs that might interest you.

Alternative Spring Break Trip (SUS 410): OSU’s Community Engagement and Leadership department offers Alternative Break trips each year in the spring. The Alternative break trips “aim to develop the capacity for students to lead for social change. [They] enable students to immerse themselves in a community to learn its historical, cultural, and political background.” Students who are interested in social sustainability issues may be especially interested in these programs. The programs are relatively low-cost and typically last about a week (though there are also pre- and post-trip meetings). Please see the website for more information about upcoming offerings.