W_Internship Program: Firm FAQ

What is the program?

This year’s pilot W_Internship program is a partnership between firms, students, and the university that seeks to place a group of third-year students in architecture offices for brief, immersive experiences, from January 2 through January 13, 2023.

Why should I participate?

We think this intensive program is uniquely positioned to use place-based professional practice to build our students’ knowledge, skills, and abilities for future success. We see the partnership as a chance to more intentionally merge the immersive professional experience many of our students gain from summer and semester-long internships with their curriculum here in Blacksburg. We also recognize the benefit of shorter experiences that can offer even more varied opportunities to embody and explore architecture praxis. 

We also expect the program to create closer ties between firms and the future professionals that will join their ranks, increasing your firms exposure, and generating partnerships that could result in ongoing collaboration. 

For more reasons see some testimonies from students and firms.

What kind of students will I work with?

Third-year students in the architecture program are encouraged to participate in this year’s pilot program.

Our third year students have a solid foundation in the theory and practice of architecture, incorporating aesthetics, history, materiality, tectonics, and spatial occupation. They have experience across different means of architectural communication, such as drawings, models, and other written and oral media. The third year curriculum is focused on technical concepts and applications, meaning the students will bring and build on their skills of site and programmatic analysis, constructive referential critique, and assessments of human occupation factors, user needs, and regulatory standards.

What can participating students do?

Our students are enthusiastic about contributing to project teams, conducting research, developing precedent and case studies, creating drawings, models, graphics, and design concepts (depending on their prior experiences). Attending client and consultant meetings, site visits, and exposure to other sectors and operations of your firm are also highly valued by the students.

What are each party’s expectations?

Employer responsibilities

  • posting job description on Handshake with eligibility criteria
  • reviewing resumes/conducting interviews
  • selecting student/tendering offer letters/documenting terms of employment
  • assisting student with the development of learning objectives
  • providing supervision & evaluation of performance.

University responsibilities

  • preparing students for the workforce via pre-on-boarding professionalism & etiquette training
  • creating relevant coursework to facilitate educational development
  • monitoring student progress and addressing any problems or concerns (employer- and/or student-facing).

Student responsibilities

  • signing pledge agreement to accept the position and attend the internship (accountability mechanism)
  • completing pre-on-boarding requirements before commencing the position (mandatory information, orientation, and enrollment sessions)
  • fulfilling expectations and duties assigned by the employer
  • completing all course assignments set up in Canvas (student educational platform).

What do length, hours, and compensation look like?

Over the two-week period, the students are expected to keep a full-time employment schedule (40 hours a week, for a total of 80 hours). Students should be paid an hourly rate or a stipend by for-profit firms for their work. Students may be able to get academic credit in lieu of payment for internships with non-profits and government agencies. 

How do I get started?

Architecture’s W_Internship program will be hosted as part of Virginia Tech’s Cooperative Education and Internship program. The pilot program will be operated through the University Career Services Handshake site. 

Regarding employer-facing interfaces and student-facing interfaces, Handshake is similar to most other job boards. Position postings will advertise the basic title (W_Internship, so it can be searchable to applicants), location (we will make a map of all the internships to share with the students), position description, and desired candidate qualifications (if any). Student profiles will be similar to a resume. Students will also prepare short portfolios (2 spreads, no more than three projects) for the firms to review. 

1. create a profile for your firm on Handshake (New to Handshake? Check out the Career Services resource for employers!)

2. create a posting for the position, using W_Internship in the title or as a keyword (see an example posting here)

3. view student profiles, interview applicants, and make offers

4. once the student has accepted the offer, they will upload the letter of agreement, sign up for the course, and direct the partnership from there

We are encouraging students to have their profiles completed by thanksgiving break, so that offers can be made early, and participants can enroll and prepare adequately.

If you have not heard from any applicants by Nov. 30th, reach out to Lauren Malhotra (laurcm6@vt.edu).

Who can I contact for more information?

For questions about the overall program and partnership, please reach out to Architecture Program Chair Margarita McGrath at mmcgrath@vt.edu and label your message “W internship”.

For specific questions about Handshake, please reach out to Communications and Events Coordinator Lauren Malhotra at laurcm6@vt.edu and label your message “W internship”.

What does the future of W_Internships look like?

Virginia Tech has a five-year plan to integrate experiential study into every undergraduate student’s course of study. The School of Architecture’s pilot W_Internships are aimed at providing students with a broad range of brief experiences in the profession.

In the coming years, we hope to expand this program and have a larger cohort, but for now, we are looking to pair about 25 students with 20 firms. We want to be able to provide our students with a wide and varied set of options, geographically and in terms of firm size and sector. A two-week internship in a related field (construction company, building department, interior design, non-profit community organization, real estate finance, contract furniture, etc.) would also be valued. One of the program’s priorities is to meet the diverse needs of our students, particularly those who may only be able to intern in their hometowns. Our sister university, the University of Virginia, has a comparable program, and we believe that by working together, we will be able to serve in-state students from major and small towns throughout Virginia, as well as out-of-state and international foreign students.