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Determinants of Internship Effectiveness: An Exploratory Model

Article  in  Academy of Management Annual Meeting Proceedings · August 2006

DOI: 10.5465/AMBPP.2006.22898555

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V.K. Narayanan Paul Olk

Drexel University University of Denver


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姝 Academy of Management Learning & Education, 2010, Vol. 9, No. 1, 61– 80.


Determinants of
Internship Effectiveness:
An Exploratory Model
Drexel University

University of Denver

Despite the growing popularity of internships, surprisingly little research has investigated
causes of their effectiveness. We combine the findings from these studies with insights
from the personnel and knowledge transfer literatures to identify the different roles of
three actors—students, university, and business—and to propose a multistage model of
determinants of effectiveness. Exploratory analysis of a portion of the model on
Portuguese internships data reveals the importance of considering the respective roles of
the multiple actors and of the internship process in explaining student satisfaction, but
not project implementation. Using our conceptual model and these initial empirical
findings, we offer recommendations for actions each actor can take to enhance internship
effectiveness and lead to suggestions for researchers interested in identifying
determinants of internship effectiveness.

The relevance of business schools has been the tomized MBA courses (e.g., Tushman, O’Reilly,
focus of several recent articles and books (e.g., Fenollosa, Kleinbaum, & McGrath, 2007), and indi-
Bennis & O’Toole, 2005; Ghoshal, 2005; Khurana, vidual level relationships, such as consulting or
2007; Pfeffer & Fong, 2002). Although these discuss collaborative research efforts. Our focus here is to
a range of business school activities, most of the consider a particularly underexplored relationship
attention has been directed at the impact (or lack between business schools and companies where
thereof) of academic research (e.g., Pfeffer, 2007), knowledge is transferred: a student internship
and how this knowledge can be better transferred program.
to practitioners (e.g., Bartunek, 2007). Overlooked in There are a variety of internship forms, but con-
much of these discussions, however, is that the sistent across different approaches is that an in-
transfer of knowledge between academia and ternship involves a term-length placement of an
practice also occurs through other activities and enrolled student in an organization—sometimes
relationships. There are a number of ways in with pay, sometimes without pay—with a faculty
which business schools and companies interact supervisor, a company supervisor, and some aca-
and transfer knowledge, including organizational demic credit earned toward the degree. Internship
level relationships of training programs and cus- programs are a staple of many business schools,
as they provide students with an opportunity to
apply what they have learned in the classroom to
This paper was made possible by a Fulbright-FLAD grant from
the CIES and a research grant from the University of Denver. the “real world,” and work experiences that may
The authors gratefully acknowledge the contributions of Rui prove useful in finding full-time employment after
Santiago and (then) Rector Pedrosa at the University of Aveiro graduation (Fuller & Schoenberger, 1991; Richards,
in Portugal. Earlier versions of the paper were presented at the 1984; Hecker, 1992) and useful in their success in
Organization Science Winter Conference, Academy of Manage-
ment Conference in Atlanta, 2006, Drexel Research Day and
their initial jobs (Sagen, Dallam, & Laverty, 2000;
Denver University research workshop. We thank Don Bergh for Callanan & Benzing, 2004). The company receives
his thoughtful comments. the benefits of temporary assistance and the stu-
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62 Academy of Management Learning & Education March

dent’s knowledge and can even use internships as ing correlations, and very few providing formal
a screening device for future potential employees. hypothesis testing. Overall we found only a small
Thus, internships are often seen as a “win–win” number of studies report systematic assessments
proposition (Knemeyer & Murphy, 2002). of internships, and even fewer were grounded in a
Despite their popularity and extensive history, conceptual model in order to test hypotheses. De-
little is known about the effectiveness of intern- spite these shortcomings, two themes emerged: in-
ships. Literature on business school internships is ternship design and internship outcomes.
scant, lacks a dominant theoretical perspective,
and is largely descriptive in most empirical stud-
Internship Design
ies. In addition, although internships involve com-
plex relationships among three actors—student, Internship design research has investigated what
faculty or school, and company—most research on makes the experience valuable for the student, su-
internships has typically focused on only a small pervisor, or faculty member (Tovey, 2001). The signif-
part of the overall process. We attempt to address icance of mentoring and the sources of student
these gaps as follows. First, we summarize exist- satisfaction are two relationships discovered in in-
ing research on internship practices. Second, we ternship design research. Anson and Forsberg (1990),
integrate these findings with insights from the per- for example, identified the importance of the faculty
sonnel and knowledge transfer literatures to de- or work supervisor for internship effectiveness. Hav-
velop a preliminary conceptual model. Third, we ing a mentor was found to be critical even if the
report an exploratory analysis, conducted on data mentor–protégé relationship was limited to brief pe-
from a Portuguese University, evaluating a subset riods of time. For satisfaction, there was consistency
of the model. Similar to studies by Shepherd, Doug- in examining what students find rewarding about an
las, and Fitzsimmons (2008), and Armstrong and internship. The results are consistent with what em-
Mahmud (2008), our sample is drawn from a coun- ployees find satisfying in a permanent position, fol-
try outside the traditional stronghold of manage- lowing the job characteristics model: skill and task
ment education (i.e., The United States and the variety, autonomy, the work itself, and so forth (Roth-
United Kingdom). Finally, we discuss the results, man, 2003). These findings suggest that more atten-
including both conceptual and empirical implica- tion should be paid to the way the internship ex-
tions for research and practice. perience is designed.


Given the extensive use of internships in higher By far, most research on internships focuses on
education in general, and in business schools in student learning as the major outcome. Internships
particular, the absence of clear evidence of their may also help students acquire job relevant skills
impact on the students, the company, or the faculty (Garavan & Murphy, 2001) such as writing skills
member and, by extension, the school is somewhat (Freedman & Adam, 1996; Winsor, 1990), and help
surprising. Simply put, the literature on internship students put abstract concepts into context (Bowers
experiences is largely descriptive and anecdotal. & Nelson, 1991). A study of service learning, an-
The paucity of literature is illustrated in Table 1, other situation which puts students into real-world
which contains a brief summary of the 22 pub- settings, found that problem solving, critical think-
lished studies we found on internships. ing, and rhetorical skills are improved in nonaca-
A cursory review of the contents of Table 1 re- demic settings (Matthews & Zimmerman, 1999).
veals a number of theoretical bases used in the Finally, internship experiences can overcome pre-
study of internships. Socialization theory is the sumed shortcomings such as the lack of specific
most popular, providing the framework for five of preparation, sometimes called “deficit reduction
the studies. Learning theory is used as a founda- theory” (Herr & Cramer, 1988). Beyond skills train-
tion for three, and another three are based on hu- ing, internships also help socialize and accultur-
man resource theories. The remaining studies use ate (Tovey, 2001). They improve career decision
a variety of foundations, and six articles have no making and perceptions of self-efficacy (Brooks,
obvious theoretical foundation. In methodology, Cornelius, Greenfield, & Joseph, 1995; Taylor, 1988).
half of the articles report either no data or obser- Students who have completed an internship dis-
vational data of a limited number of cases. Nine play greater ambition (Pedro, 1984). In the same
studies use survey data. Within this group there vein, other research indicated that internships re-
were varying analytical approaches, with some duce reality shock for students (Paulson & Baker,
primarily offering descriptive data, others present- 1999; Taylor, 1988).
2010 Narayanan, Olk, and Fukami 63

Summary of Internship Studies
Citation Theoretical Base Method Sample Major Findings

Anson, C., & Social view of Qualitative— 6 seniors enrolled in 12-week Results showed a consistent pattern of expectation,
Forsberg, L. (1990) writing process Participant-observer internship and associated frustration, and accommodation as the interns
case-study data. writing class. adjusted to their new writing communities.
Aviva, F., & Christine, Situated learning Qualitative— Novices learning written When students move from the university to the
A. (1996) Observational and genres in two institutional workplace they have to learn new ways to learn
textual analysis. settings. the new genres as well as the new genres
Beard, D. F. (1997) n/a Survey—descriptive. 316 surveys of accounting Increase in internship programs. Most programs
internship program are fairly young, are for credit only, occur during
administrators. the junior year, are paid rather than unpaid, and
require a written project. Most programs in
accounting do not have full- or part-time
coordinators, most do not require on-site visits,
and most share the responsibility for identifying
internship sites with students and others.
Brooks, L., Cornelius, HR—Career Survey—correlation. 165 seniors with and without Internship experience is related to higher levels of
A. et al. (1995) exploration career-related experiences. self-concept crystallization, but is not related to
amount of occupational information, self-efficacy,
decidedness, vocational commitment, or
tendency to foreclose. Internship characteristics
of task variety, feedback, and opportunities for
dealing with people were significantly
associated with self-concept crystallization,
amount of occupational information, and self-
Cannon, J. A., &. Update and Survey—correlation. 164 undergraduate Students place greater emphasis on meaningful
Arnold, M. J (1998) comparison to marketing majors, 3 internship experience to gain competitive edge
results of Hite & universities. in job market. Less emphasis on internship as
Bellizzi (1986) furthering their education.
Clark, S. C. (2003) n/a Opinion piece. n/a The educational value of business internships can
be enhanced through academic assignments.
Seven assignments are suggested.
Coco, M. (2000) n/a Opinion 242 Assoc. of Collegiate The high cost of education increases the pressure
piece—Survey Business School and in education to ensure employability. Internships
Descriptive report of Programs (ACBSP) schools. have increased in popularity because they
national survey provide real-world experience that enhances
results. employability.
Cook, S. J., Parker, n/a Survey—descriptive 351 student interns from 12 Students perceive the value of internships largely
R. S., & Pettijohn 10-yr longitudinal. colleges and universities. in the social and people skills acquired and only
(2004) weakly related to improved academic skills.
Freedman, A., & Situated learning Observational. 25 students in an Students learn differently in the classroom than
Adam, C. (1996) undergraduate finance they do in the workplace.
course and 7 students
serving in an internship.
Garavan, T. N., & Socialization Qualitative— Six students from business Internship socialization is individualistic and
Murphy, C. (2001) unstructured studies, humanities, and complex. Three phases and associated specific
interview. engineering. issues are identified: (1) getting in, (2) breaking
in, and (3) settling in.
Little, S. B. (1993) Experiential Survey—content 52/114 programs for Program directors, industrial supervisors, and
learning theory analysis. professional technical student interns had mostly entirely different
writers. perspectives of the internship experience.
Concludes that more systemic procedures and
standards will enhance the internship as a
credible learning experience.
Knemeyer, A. M., & n/a Survey. 98 companies that hired There are differences between student and
Murphy, P. R. interns and 137 students company perspectives: Students assign higher
who served as interns. ratings than employers to internship issues.
Knouse, S. B., Tanner, Learning-skill Survey in 2 waves; 1,117 alumni of business Internships were correlated with better college
J. R. et al. (1999) development graduation and 6 college, large southern performance and receiving a job offer. Whites
months post university. were more apt to have an internship than Blacks:
graduation— No difference by gender. Students with
correlation. internships had a higher overall GPA, were
somewhat younger upon graduation, and were
more apt to be employed upon graduation.
Paulson, S. K., & Socialization In-class experience 66 students previously Review an experiential in-class exercise to
Baker, H. E. (1999) follow-up survey. exposed to anticipatory facilitate socialization. Survey results of several
socialization exercise. applications of the exercise. Suggests procedures
that may be used to facilitate the exercise.
Pedro, J. (1984) Institutional cycle Quasi-experimental, 90 students in retailing Students changed self-perceptions, preferences,
preinternship; major who completed some instrumental values, and work-specific
postinternship. internships. needs following their internship experiences.

(table continues)
64 Academy of Management Learning & Education March

Citation Theoretical Base Method Sample Major Findings

Pianko, D. (1996) HR—recruitment n/a n/a Describes the use of structured power internship
programs to recruit the best college-age talent.
Power internships allow companies to find talent
earlier, track them and provide a ready supply of
new college hires. Describes on a case basis the
characteristics of different power internships.
Rothman, M. (2003) Job characteristics Content analysis of 143 senior- and junior-year Reports the answers to the question, “What did you
model survey. business school students like most/least about your internship position?”
in an internship course.
Scott, M. E. (1992) HR—recruitment n/a n/a Business students and corporations consider the
student intern program as the most effective
approach to college recruitment. Suggestions are
provided on how companies can effectively
implement internship programs.
Taylor, M. S. (1988) Self-concept, Quasi-experimental. Compares 23 interns from 5 Partial support for greater crystallization of
socialization, Measures at academic programs with vocational self-concept and work values. Strong
employability preinternship, matched cohorts. support for better employment opportunities.
postinternship, Level of ‘autonomy’ moderated outcome variable
college graduation, relationships. In a 2nd study, college recruiters
and rated students with internships significantly
postemployment higher than those without internships.
Tovey, J. (2001) Socialization n/a n/a Discussion of internship program at ECU.
Comments upon issues of socialization,
acculturation, motivation of student employees,
and the relationships between education and
Williams, H., & n/a Survey, paired 13 teaching interns engaged The study indicates that teacher preparation
Alawiye, O. (2001) sample. in a year-long internship, 9 institutions need to align their programs to what
master teachers. is actually happening in the public schools.
Clear requirements are necessary and
expectations need to be agreed upon.
Winsor, D. A. (1990) Socialization, Case study, grounded 2 students in cooperative The process of learning to write to a specific
learning theory. engineering internship. community is necessarily embedded within that
community and not fully teachable within the

Limited Consideration of All Three Actors and interorganizational learning literature, related
streams of the more widely discussed issue of knowl-
The above review reveals at least one more inter-
edge transfer. We draw upon two central ideas in
esting gap in internship research: No internship
this literature to set up our conceptual framework:
study simultaneously addresses the roles of the stu-
personnel and knowledge transfers involve multiple
dent, university, and company. Studies that consid-
actors, and these transfers should be conceptualized
ered more than one actor have provided valuable
as a process rather than as an event.
insights. For example, Knemeyer and Murphy (2002)
found significant differences between student and
employer perceptions of the effectiveness of intern-
Three Sets of Actors
ships, suggesting the importance of managing the
varying needs and expectations of each party. In- One aspect of internships analogous to personnel
cluding all three relevant actors within one theoret- transfer is that it comprises three sets of actors—
ical model is an important element in adequately sender, receiver, and carrier; the university, indus-
assessing the internship experience. try, and student, respectively. In the transfer liter-
ature, each actor has distinct objectives, and hence
is pursuing different outcomes. The sender and
receiver also often have different organizational
cultures. Indeed, when the transfer is from a uni-
versity to a private firm (this is true of most of the
To overcome the above limitations in our under- literature cited in Narayanan, Yang, & Zahra, 2009),
standing of internships, particularly the lack of a the situation is close to the internship case studied
prevailing conceptual approach, we looked for al- here, and the (organizational) cultural differences
ternatives that could guide the development of may pose additional challenges and occasions for
an integrated model. We noticed the similarities learning for the carrier. Thus, each stakeholder is
between an internship and the personnel transfer likely to enter the internship with different goals,
2010 Narayanan, Olk, and Fukami 65

and the extent to which those goals are aligned puts, processes, and outcomes (Narayanan, Yang &
leads to positive outcomes for each party. Zahra, 2009)—and that there is the need to treat
In addition to multiple actors, from a knowledge transfers as a process rather than an event. Rogers et
transfer point of view, the role of individuals is al. (1998), in their study of how federal laboratories
significant (Corey, 1997). As Rogers, Carayannis, transfer research findings to companies, argued that
Kurihara, and Allbritton (1998) illustrated, in knowl- transfers occur over a period of time. The case for a
edge transfers, individuals act as the carriers of cul- process perspective is made most emphatically by
ture and reflect the organizational procedures of the Autio and Laamanen (1995), who argued that for un-
respective organizations to which they belong, and derstanding and enhancing knowledge transfers a
they are the principal agents of learning. Similarly, focus on the input and output indicators but also
Cutler (1989), in comparing transfer practices of Ja- process indicators of the transfer is necessary.
pan and the United States, emphasized personal
communication and tacit knowledge transfer as im-
portant factors in the Japanese success. Finally, re-
search into expatriate transfers— considered a type Drawing from the above, we developed a conceptual
of knowledge transfer (e.g., Downes & Thomas, 2000; model for understanding the determinants of intern-
Hocking, Brown, & Harzing, 2004; Riusala & Suutari, ship effectiveness, which appears in Figure 1. Along
2004)—suggests that success is affected by an indi- the top of the figure, we distinguish the antecedents
vidual’s preparation for the new role (Black, Menden- to the internship from the internship process itself
hall, & Oddou, 1991). and each of these from outcomes. Within each col-
umn, we identify the activities of the actors.
A Process Perspective
A second idea relevant to internships from the per-
sonnel and knowledge transfer literature is that it The model begins with the antecedents in the in-
comprises three sets of factors—antecedents or in- ternship context. Research into the transfer of


Employing firm’s preparedness for the Employing firm’s interaction with Employing firm’s tangible benefits and
internship university and student enhanced capabilities
Awareness of university’s interests Communication with and commitment to the Proximal
- Prior ties university - Project completion*
- Careful screening or matching* - Arms length or embedded - Project productivity
- Similarity in strategies Managing the process - Potential recruitment
Internal organizational context - Feedback to student and supervisory - Initial inflow of ideas
- Size* support* - Student satisfaction*
- Resources available Distal
Internship structure formality - Continued inflow of ideas
- Project definition* - Stronger linkages with academic
- Selection of students* institution
- Matching the project with students*
Student’s commitment to the internship
Student’s ability to transfer and apply Motivation
university knowledge to internship - Task and knowledge challenges Student’s skill development and career
General academic preparedness * - Initial student learning* enhancement
Internship readiness Communication Proximal
- Awareness and choice about project - With faculty and employer - Student satisfaction*
- Choice about faculty advisor - Student placement
University’s preparedness for the University’s interaction with employing - Career prospects
internship company and student
Awareness of company’s interests Communication with and commitment to the
- Prior ties employer University’s enhanced capabilities and
- Careful screening or matching* - Arms length or embedded* facilitation of student development
- Similarity in strategies Managing the process Proximal
Internal organizational context - Feedback to student and faculty - Student satisfaction*
- Size mentoring* - Student placement
- Degree - Quality of student programs
- Program design Distal
Internship structure formality - Inflow of research ideas
- Faculty preparedness - Stronger linkages with employing firm
- Faculty selection role* - Reputation for student placement
- Selection of students*
- Matching the project with students*

Internship Model. (Items marked by an asterisk have corresponding measures in the empirical model.)
66 Academy of Management Learning & Education March

knowledge across organizational boundaries (e.g., and the more structured the internship—including
Geisler, Furino, & Kiresuk, 1990; Inkpen & Dinur, initial design—the better the outcomes.
1998), shows the importance of the relationship be- Turning to the student, research on knowledge
tween the two organizations as well as the indi- transfer recognizes individuals’ preparedness; that
viduals involved in the process. is, individuals must be able to interpret and make
For the employing firm, we argue that the pri- sense out of knowledge in order to transfer it to
mary relationship issue is how prepared it is for others and help to institutionalize the knowledge
internships. We surmise that preparedness can at the organizational level (Crossan, Lane, &
be captured by three sets of factors: awareness White, 1999). Therefore, we focus on a student’s
of university’s interests, internal organizational ability to transfer and apply university knowledge
context, and formality of structure for intern- to the internship, as determined by two compo-
ships. Interorganizational research has shown nents: general academic preparedness and spe-
that the greater the awareness of two collaborat- cific internship readiness. The former reflects the
ing organizations’ respective interests, the more coursework the student has taken prior to the in-
likely they will be able to transfer knowledge ternship. Although we could not locate any studies
between them. Whether the awareness comes that have examined this relationship, we surmise
from prior ties, from careful screening of poten- that the general coursework (e.g., simulation mod-
tial partners (e.g., Uzzi & Lancaster, 2002), or from els), functional knowledge (e.g., design of experi-
a priori similarity in the company’s strategies ments), and even administrative preparation for
and knowledge (e.g., Faems, Janssens, & van working in an organization may influence stu-
Looy, 2007), each should lead to a greater level of dents’ interest in specific internships and their
cohesion between the partners and a greater ability to transfer knowledge to the firm. For in-
likelihood for knowledge transfer (Reagans & ternship readiness, we consider the student’s in-
McEvily, 2003). Also of relevance for the employ- volvement in becoming aware of the project and in
ing firm will be its internal context—its size and selecting the project and the advisor. As described
resources available to manage the internship— earlier, the more an individual is prepared and
and the formality of its structure, which includes ready for a learning experience the greater the
how internships for the company are determined learning is likely to be and, eventually, the better
and the process for selecting and matching its the internship outcomes.
students. In firms where a formal structure is in
place, often a designated individual is in charge
of the internship program, and clear procedures
for the selection and management of projects The second stage in our model consists of the pro-
and interns are also. Both enable communication cesses of the project. For the employing firm, the
with the university and the interns and facilitate processes focus on managing the relationship with
knowledge transfer to the firm. A formal structure the university while overseeing the student intern.
may be one characteristic of the program that Between the company and the university, the pro-
makes a firm ready for knowledge infusion from cess centers on communication and commitment to
internships. By contrast, when firms do not have building a relationship. Drawing from the distinc-
designated internship managers in place or have tion found in organizational network research, at
unclear procedures, they may host an intern but one extreme will be an arms-length relationship,
may not make good use of the person’s abilities. in which the companies communicate sparingly
The three sets of factors are relevant for captur- and have limited commitment to building the rela-
ing the preparedness of the university as well. For tionship. At the other will be an embedded relation-
the university, besides awareness of the compa- ship characterized by high levels of communication
ny’s interests, the general factors of internal con- and commitment to continuing the relationship. In
text and formality of structure will also be impor- terms of overseeing the internship, for the com-
tant. Here, however, the operationalization will pany this entails providing supervisory support
instead focus on (1) university size, degrees of- and feedback to the student during the internship.
fered, and program design for the context, and (2) For the university, besides its commitment and
the process by which internships are identified communication to the company, overseeing the in-
and supported and how students hear about and ternship similarly involves mentoring and provid-
get matched with a particular internship for struc- ing feedback to a student during the internship. As
ture formality. While the literature that examined noted in the internship review, and reflected in our
internship design did not consider specificity, it model, the more involved the mentor the better the
seems likely that the more resources dedicated internship outcome.
2010 Narayanan, Olk, and Fukami 67

For the student, the critical process is commit- the limited knowledge about internships with re-
ment to the internship. Important in understanding search into personnel and knowledge transfers be-
an individual’s effect on knowledge flows is the tween organizations. While the paucity of research
person’s commitment to the job or role (Ettlie, 1980). into internships encourages a model-building ef-
Internship commitment, a student’s identification fort, the lack of extensive empirical data also sug-
with and willingness to exert considerable effort in gest there will be benefits from testing at least
the internship role, will likely stem in part from the some of the relationships proposed in the model. In
motivation of the student. Earlier we noted that particular, as part of our theory-building effort, it
prior work on internships found that satisfaction would be beneficial to explore the impact of the
with an internship reflects the job characteristics two ideas imported from the personal and knowl-
model. The more the position provides challenging edge transfer literature: Internships involve three
work, permits autonomy, and provides an opportu- actors and are a process. Specifically, we propose
nity for learning, the more motivated the student two sets of relationships. In the first, we argue that
should be. Further, we anticipate that the process relationships among internship variables will re-
will include the communication with both the fac- flect the different levels of analysis of the respec-
ulty sponsor and the employer, as both serve to tive actors. The second is that the internship pro-
mentor the student during the internship. cess variables will have a relationship to outcome
variables that is separate from the effect of the
antecedent variables on outcome variables. In or-
der to make this second contribution, we now turn
We propose that the outcomes from the internship to data that provide preliminary evaluation of
may be of three types. Paralleling the outcomes these two basic ideas as well as of some parts
that have been found in other knowledge transfer of the full model. (These items are identified by
activities, such as expatriate assignments (e.g., asterisks in Figure 1.) In this way, we can provide
Edstrom & Galbraith, 1977; Hocking, Brown, & guidance to future researchers as they attempt to
Harzing, 2004), we argue that outcomes of interest evaluate the full model.
include (1) organizational benefits from the com-
pletion of the internship project, (2) enhanced ca-
pabilities of the company and the university, and, METHODOLOGY
at the student level, (3) skill development and
Data Collection
career enhancement. For the employing firm, the
important immediate benefits may include project Our data come from an internship program at a
completion, efficiencies due to using cheaper la- university in Portugal. This program was studied
bor, potential screening of and recruitment of the because its formality provided access to the expe-
intern and, perhaps, an inflow of ideas (e.g., best riences of the students, the faculty, and the com-
practices) from the university to the company. panies, and its administrators had an interest in
Longer term benefits may include a stronger tie evaluating the program. Portugal also has the ad-
with the university, thereby encouraging students vantage of having an extensive history of using
to apply for future internships, as well as a contin- internships in higher education. As noted, there
ued inflow of ideas. For the university, completion have been few systematic studies of the effective-
of the project will likely result in student satisfac- ness of internship programs. While these data are
tion and possibly student placement. Longer term, limited by coming from a single university, the
one might expect to see the university enhance its experiences of which may not necessarily gener-
capabilities by having greater knowledge about alize to other universities, they offer the opportu-
the challenges companies address as well as a nity to examine some determinants of a good in-
reputation for placing students in good internship ternship experience.
positions. The University’s internship program had a his-
For the student, the outcomes will mostly focus tory of over 2 decades and was well entrenched in
on skill development and career opportunities. the institution. The internship model involved stu-
Satisfaction from the internship experience, possi- dents in the undergraduate program (Licenciatura)
ble employment, and less career shock may be working on an industry-sponsored project during
likely proximal outcomes. Longer term outcomes the 4th or final year before graduation in a typical
will be perhaps better career decisions and career 5-year program. Unlike the co-op model in the
prospects. United States, where the students alternate be-
We have developed a model of possible deter- tween the workplace and the academic institution,
minants of internship effectiveness, by combining sometimes beginning in their sophomore year, the
68 Academy of Management Learning & Education March

internship model we tracked involved more or less TABLE 2

a specific project to be undertaken by students Characteristics of Respondents
after completing well over 80% of their education.
N Percentage
In other words, the intended emphasis in the in-
ternship program was to give students a firsthand Age (Years)
experience in applying the knowledge gained dur- 22 9 13.85
ing their first 3 or 4 years of education to a specific 23 14 21.54
24 8 12.31
work situation. A secondary objective was to keep
25 9 13.85
the faculty up to date with the developments in the 26 6 9.23
industry, by creating an institutional mechanism 27 7 10.77
to link them with the industrial sector. 28 5 7.69
The core data in this empirical analysis were 29 2 3.08
30 3 4.62
student responses to a questionnaire constructed 31 1 1.54
for this purpose. Four sets of activities were under- 33 1 1.54
taken to construct the questionnaire: (1) interviews
with a set of employing firms to get their perspec- F 37 56.92
tive on internships; (2) interviews with the two M 28 43.07
senior-most university officials and with a number
Intern’s Program Background
of faculty members; (3) two focus groups with Industrial Management 37 56.92
alumni of the institution; and (4) literature review Services 22 33.85
of available items. The questionnaire was cri- Other 6 9.23
tiqued in terms of wording and intelligibility to the Internship Industry
student population by an administrator-faculty Financial Services 1 1.54
before administration. Services Other Than 10 15.38
A total of 130 questionnaires were distributed to Financial
Manufacturing 29 44.62
the graduating undergraduate students who com- Electronics 3 4.62
pleted internships during the previous year.1 Re- Other 2.2 33.85
sponses were received from 65 students who com-
prised the sample for this study. The 10-page
questionnaire, written in English2 (in which the Analysis
respondents were fluent), inquired about the in-
Because of the exploratory nature of the research
ternship project, preparation for and assistance in
question and the relatively small sample size, we
selecting the project, progress of the project, out-
conducted a partial least squares (PLS) analysis
comes from the project, and personal information
using the software PLS-Graph version 3.0.3 Partial
about the student. Table 2 reports the age, gender,
least squares is a structural equation modeling
and program background of the intern and the
(SEM) program suited for exploratory studies that
industries in which the internships occurred. Stu- seek to develop theory. Compared to other SEM
dents on average were 25 years old, 57% were programs, PLS has the benefits of being able to use
female, most were enrolled in the Industrial Man- data samples with relatively few observations and
agement program, and 45% reported their intern- many variables. Thus, this method is particularly
ship occurred in a manufacturing company. appropriate for the present study. (See Anderson &
Gerbing, 1988; Chin, 1998; Fornell & Bookstein,
1982; and Hulland, 1999, for discussions of the
Because all the graduating students had completed their in-
methodology; and Birkinshaw, Morrison, & Hul-
ternships during the previous year, it was not feasible to tie the land, 1995; Doz, Olk, & Ring, 2000; and Sarkar,
survey into the internship reporting requirements in attempt to Echambadi, & Harrison, 2001, for examples of re-
increase the response rate. Conversations with the department search using PLS to analyze management issues.)
head suggested that the alumni relations function in the uni- An additional benefit of PLS is that it permits not
versity is less well developed than in many U.S. universities,
and surveys may not have reached potential respondents be-
only reflective indicators of a construct (i.e., each
cause of a host of reasons, including change of address. item loads highly onto a single factor) but also
In this Portuguese university, students are expected to learn formative indicators, where each measure cap-
English, and many of the classes are held in English. Nonethe-
less, we pilot tested the instrument with a group of Portuguese
alumni, and modified it in terms of words and phrasing to This is a beta-test graphical user interface software program
clarify our meaning for the target sample. developed by Soft Modeling, Inc. It is used with permission.
2010 Narayanan, Olk, and Fukami 69

tures a different dimension of the factor, but when gument that internships should be considered as a
combined represent the construct. process, we propose that the process variables will
As described by Chin (1998), although each pro- have a significant relationship with the outcome
posed path in a model should be theoretically jus- variables beyond that explained by a direct rela-
tified, it is not necessary to provide explicit hypoth- tionship between the antecedent and the outcome
eses for each structural path. Instead, we focus on variables. This leads us to propose the model pre-
the general expected relationships and then eval- sented in Figure 2 for evaluation.
uate multiple paths that represent each relation- Using the Portuguese internship data to evalu-
ship. As an indication of the validity of considering ate a portion of our proposed model first required
internships as involving multiple actors, we antic- the development of three types of constructs: in-
ipate there will be differences across the actors in puts, or antecedents to the internship, internship
the relationships among input, process, and out- process, and outcomes. The specific items used
come variables. Specifically, we propose that stu- and the entire construct development process ap-
dent level inputs will be related to student level pear in the Appendix. In practice, some of the vari-
processes and outcomes, while university and ables may reflect joint action (e.g., project selection
company inputs will be related to organizational represents efforts by both the company and the
level processes and outcomes. To evaluate the ar- university), and so a specific variable may be as-



Feedback Project
Focused of
Scope to Implement-
the Project ation

Advisor Advisor
Selection Role

Size of


Tested Model
70 Academy of Management Learning & Education March

sociated with more than one item in the conceptual three formative indicators: project understanding
model. Further, while we recognize that some ac- and interest of the student, project knowledge, and
tions may include efforts by the student and by the company communication. At the individual level,
university or company, we focus in our classifica- Student Learning is represented by two types of
tion on who should be the primary actor. For the learning: general learning and project manage-
inputs to the internship, we developed six con- ment learning. These are combined as formative
structs: Helpfulness of University Studies, Project indicators to represent Student Learning. For out-
Awareness, Project Selection, Advisor Selection, comes, we used two constructs. At the university
Size of the Company, and Focused Scope to the and company levels, Project Likelihood of Imple-
Project. Expatriate research (e.g., Black, Menden- mentation is a composite of two measures: did the
hall, & Oddou, 1991), which focuses upon a similar subject have knowledge about project implemen-
form of knowledge transfer, classifies individual tation, and if yes, was the project implemented.
level inputs as involving training and previous The second outcome is Student Satisfaction, a com-
experience, while at the organizational level are posite of three underlying factors: satisfaction with
activities related to selection and criteria. We use the project, satisfaction with the company, and sat-
this distinction and classify Helpfulness of Univer- isfaction with the university. Since satisfaction in-
sity Studies as an individual level construct of cludes a student’s evaluation of the actions of the
training and the remaining, which are related to company and the university, this was coded as
criteria and training, to be at the university and involving all three actors.
organizational levels. Helpfulness of University
Studies is a composite of three factors representing
Tests for Biases
the type of studies that produced useful knowledge
for the internship: general knowledge, functional We conducted a series of analyses to determine
knowledge, and production knowledge (see the whether these data might be biased by respondent
Appendix for a list of the specific items). Project information. We first correlated respondent age
Awareness measures how the student became with the factors that make up the input, process,
aware of the internship project and is indicated by and outcome variables. The results found a signif-
four formative indicators: lecture, written policies, icant relationship with only two factors: Age was
formal notification, and curriculum. For Project Se- negatively related to both Functional Knowledge,
lection, we used a single-item response to the in the construct Helpfulness of University Studies,
question of how the project was selected. The and General Learning, in the construct Student
choices of student initiated, departmental advis- Learning (see Table 2). Since these items were
ing, faculty advisor initiated, company initiated, found to be strongly weighted in creating the re-
someone outside the university, and other, were spective construct, it suggests that age may affect
coded into dummy variables that form the under- these particular input and process factors.
lying construct. Advisor Selection is also a single- We also conducted an ANOVA for respondent’s
item response that was recoded as dummy vari- gender and program background. We found no dif-
ables for student selected advisor and requested ferences on these factors associated with an in-
department to assign him/her, assigned by the de- tern’s gender. For program background, we found a
partment, asked instructor to be the advisor, and few minor differences associated mostly with the
other. These four variables represent formative in- Industrial Program. Most of these were for vari-
dictors of Advisor Selection. Size of the Company is ables that had low weighting in representing the
a single-item factor ranging from small to large. underlying construct. Specifically, the variables
Finally, we evaluated whether there was a Fo- Production Knowledge in the construct Helpfulness
cused Scope to the Project. Research on internships of University Studies, Formal Notification in the
has noted that the nature of the task affects student construct Project Awareness, and Company Initi-
satisfaction (Rothman, 2003). We included a mea- ated in the construct Project Selection were rela-
sure of the characteristics of the internship project, tively less important than at least other variables
in which the higher the value, the more focused or in creating the respective construct. Two excep-
practical the project. tions to this are General Learning and the con-
For the process stage, we developed three con- struct Project Progress Feedback. General Learning
structs for the two levels. For the university and is the most weighted variable in the construct Stu-
company levels, Project Progress Feedback, con- dent Learning and industrial program participants
sisted of four items that reflected a single under- reported a higher level of learning. For Project
lying dimension of project structure and communi- Progress Feedback, similarly, industrial program
cation. Second, Faculty Advisor Role consisted of participants reported higher scores than service or
2010 Narayanan, Olk, and Fukami 71

other types of internships. This indicates that our construct. Each of the relationships is significant
findings about student learning and project at the p ⬍ 0.05 level except for Focused Scope to the
progress may be biased by the greater number of Project (Arrow E) and Advisor Selection predicting
industrial internships in the sample. As a final test Faculty Advisor Role (Arrow F), which were signif-
for biases in the data, we examined whether col- icant at the p ⬍ .10 level. Although PLS does not
lecting our antecedent, process, and output data provide indicators of an overall model’s reliability,
from the same survey questionnaire leads to a one generally accepted approach is whether the R2
common method variance. The presence of a bias for each dependent measure is at or above the
would be reflected in having a common loading in level of .10 (Falk & Miller, 1992). Each of our ex-
a factor analysis (Podsakoff & Organ, 1987). Our plained constructs meets this criterion.
analysis revealed 11 different factors, with the The analysis reveals that each antecedent indi-
largest factor making up only 15% of the overall cator helped to predict process constructs, except
variance, suggesting that the factors do not repre- for Size of the Company, which was not related to
sent an underlying construct and that our findings any process or outcome constructs. Consistent with
are not due to a common method. our expectations, Project Awareness, Project Selec-
tion, and Focused Scope to the Project were posi-
tively related to Project Progress Feedback (Arrows
Model Evaluation
B, C, and D, respectively). Examining the weights
Because of the exploratory nature of the analysis, in Table 3, we see the importance of Student Initi-
we used an iterative process to develop a model of ated for Project Selection and for having Written
the relationship among the various latent con- Policies and Procedures for Project Awareness.
structs. Consistent with a 2-stage approach for us- Similarly, Focused Scope to the Project and Advi-
ing structural equation models to develop theory sor Selection were positively related to Faculty
(Anderson & Gerbing, 1988), we first estimated a Advisor Role (Arrows E and F). The individual
“full” model and revised it based on the findings. weights reveal that while Asked Instructor to be
However, we did this in a sequential step of esti- Advisor was most heavily weighted for Advisor
mates between earlier activities and later ones. Selection, the choices of Department Assigned Ad-
We did not simultaneously examine all possible visor and Student Selected were also important.
paths, as is typical in 2-stage PLS analyses, be- Faculty Advisor Role mostly reflected Project Un-
cause of our sample size. Rather, we built the derstanding and Interest in Student. Finally at the
model in stages. We initially examined the rela- individual level, Helpfulness of University Studies
tionship between each of the antecedents’ con- was positively related to Student Learning (Arrow
structs and the process constructs. This included G). As the weights in Table 3 suggest, the more
tests of our expected model but also revealed the studies focused on Functional Knowledge,
whether unexpected relationships existed. We the more the student’s learning. In total, six of the
trimmed nonsignificant paths between these first proposed 11 relationships between input and pro-
two stages, and the revised model consisted only cess constructs were significant. Of interest, com-
of the significant paths that emerged from the test. pany size was not related to either of the two or-
We then added the relationship between each of ganizational level constructs, and three input
the antecedent and process constructs to the out- constructs were related to only one process con-
comes of student satisfaction and implementation, struct. Important, however, is that no significant
retested the model and again trimmed nonsignifi- relationships between the student and the univer-
cant paths. This second stage evaluated if an an- sity and company levels were found.
tecedent construct had a direct relationship with Turning to the process constructs relationship
either of the two outcome constructs as well as if with the outcomes, we found Project Process Feed-
the process constructs also had a direct relation- back, Faculty Advisor Role, and Student Learning
ship with the outcomes. Thus, we examine all pos- were each positively related to Student Satisfac-
sible relationships among the constructs in our tion (Arrows H, I, and J, respectively). Examining
model but did so in two stages. the individual weights, we found faculty knowl-
edge of the project and interest in the student and
a student’s general knowledge were important in-
dividual items in determining student satisfaction.
Figure 3 reports the final trimmed model. The co- However, neither Project Process Feedback nor
efficients listed on the pathways represent the Faculty Advisor Role was related to Project Imple-
strength of the relationship between the two con- mentation. Taken together we conclude that these
structs, and the R2 is reported for each explained findings generally support our contention of the
72 Academy of Management Learning & Education March

Project A Likelihood of
.321 tation
B R2 = .10

Project Progress
Selection C Feedback
R2 = .38
Scope to
the Project
.23 Faculty
Advisor I
Role Student
F R2 = .15 .668 Satisfaction

Advisor .30 R2 = .69


Helpfulness G Learning
of Size of
University 2 Company
.472 R = .22 (Not related to
Studies any process or
Internship Outcomes From
Antecedents to
Internship Process Internship

Resulting Model

importance of focusing on multiple actors. Even finding highlights the importance of the internship
though the roles may interact or overlap, and that process for understanding Student Satisfaction but
our data come only from a student’s perspective, not for Implementation.
we found generally different relationships across
the levels.
Our second issue focused on exploring the im-
portance of the process for understanding out- Our goal here was to investigate the determinants
comes. Evidence for this approach would be a di- of internship effectiveness. Although internships
rect relationship between process and outcome are widespread throughout business schools, our
constructs and limited ties between input and out- understanding of what makes for an effective in-
put constructs. The results revealed that the ante- ternship is limited. Extant research provides min-
cedent construct Project Awareness had a direct imal guidance for how to design an effective in-
relationship with Implementation (Arrow A). From ternship. To contribute to this understanding, we
the weights, it appears that having Written Poli- conceptualized an internship as a transfer of learn-
cies and Procedures is associated with a higher ing and knowledge. This led us to apply two cen-
Likelihood of Implementation of the project. In ex- tral ideas found in the transfer literature. The first
plaining Student Satisfaction, however, each input is the importance of viewing internships as a
construct had only an indirect relationship. There knowledge transfer process, and distinguishing
was no direct effect from the input constructs. This between internship antecedents, processes, and
2010 Narayanan, Olk, and Fukami 73

Weightings of Factors

Construct Factor Weight


Helpfulness of General Knowledge ⫺0.2517

University Studies Functional Knowledge 0.9989
Production Knowledge ⫺0.3906
Project Awareness Lecture 0.0523
Written Policies and Procedures 0.7006
Formal Notification 0.5150
Curriculum 0.1248
Project Selection Student Initiated 1.1914
Departmental Advising 0.5472
Faculty Advisor Initiated 0.3038
Company Initiated 0.7968
Someone Outside the University 0.4195
Other 0.0848
Advisor Selection Student Selected Advisor 1.0410
Department Assigned Advisor 1.0358
Asked Instructor to be Advisor 1.6287
Other 0.1530
Size of the Company Single Item 1.0000
Focused Scope to the Project Single Item 1.0000

Internship Process

Project Progress Feedback Single Item 1.0000

Student Learning General Learning 0.8499
Project Management Learning 0.3311
Faculty Advisor Role Project Understanding and Interest in Student 0.6642
Project Knowledge 0.2167
Company Communication 0.3634


Implementation of the Project Dummy Variable–Did not know 0.5835

Likelihood of Implementation ⫺0.5061
Student Satisfaction Satisfaction with Project 0.3790
Satisfaction with Company 0.0601
Satisfaction with University 0.8461

outputs. The second is the three actors involved in research, a partial test of the model reveals ad-
the internship: the company, the student, and the ditional, albeit limited, insights into internship
university. We then combined the insights from the effectiveness. The most significant finding in our
transfer literature and the results for the limited analysis appears to be the two generally sepa-
internship research to develop a broad conceptual rate sets of predictors for the outcomes of Project
model. Thus, our first contribution is a model that Implementation and Student Satisfaction. For
categorizes the critical activities by each actor in the former, only the antecedent of Project Aware-
each of the internship stages. Our hope is that this ness was significantly related. Examining the
model will provide guidance to researchers and weights of the factors that make up the construct
practitioners in thinking about how to evaluate the showed the importance of Written Policies and
effectiveness of an internship. Procedures and Formal Notification. Future re-
Our second contribution stems from our subse- searchers should consider why such formal pol-
quent test of parts of the proposed model using icies are highly related to implementation. One
data from Portuguese internships. The test sug- explanation may be that such internships are
gests the importance of capturing information from more routinized, and not only is notification done
and about each of the three actors and the impor- through formal mechanisms, but the universities
tance of the internship process for understanding and companies have developed stronger rou-
student satisfaction. Turning to specific findings, tines for designing implementable internship
we found that because of the paucity of internship projects. We offer this possibility tentatively,
74 Academy of Management Learning & Education March

since our measure of implementation is self- tured interviews we conducted both with the firms
reported by students. and the faculty members provided valuable in-
For Student Satisfaction, each antecedent was sights into the internship process, which were not
indirectly related to it, and each process variable apparent in the scant literature on internships.
was directly related. There are several noteworthy This may signal the importance of such prelimi-
aspects about this finding. First, it raises the im- nary data even in well-developed economies.
portance of examining the internship process for
understanding student satisfaction. None of the
Implications for Theory Building
antecedent constructs had a direct relationship to
student satisfaction. Each was indirectly related to Although we have employed a knowledge transfer
satisfaction by way of the process variables. Sec- perspective to discuss the internships in Portugal,
ond, student satisfaction was the result of three our conceptual framework can be theoretically an-
process constructs: Project Progress Feedback, the imated by other perspectives. For example, one
Faculty Advisor Role, and the Student’s Learning. could derive hypotheses from a human capital per-
These three processes relate to the three primary spective: Companies engage interns to acquire in-
actors in an internship. Project Progress Feedback expensive human capital, and internships offer
reflects the design of the internship and feedback employees the opportunity to observe an intern on
from the company, the Faculty Advisor Role ad- the job. The knowledge economy and human cap-
dresses the university’s role, and Student Learning ital explanations may offer differing predictions
stems from, in part, the motivation by the student about the specific outcomes of interest to the em-
to learn. This reinforces our model’s conceptualiza- ployers, and perhaps differing predictions about
tion of the internship as consisting of the three the linkages between antecedents, process, and
actors. However the coefficient for Faculty Advisor outcomes. As we noted before, the University’s in-
Role is much larger than the other two, suggesting tent was to facilitate 2-way knowledge transfer,
the relative importance of faculty mentoring in de- and our evidence suggests that transfer to the uni-
termining student satisfaction. Third, by multiply- versity (via faculty) was minimal.4
ing the coefficients along the various paths from Although the participants in the sample we
the antecedents to student satisfaction, we can tracked were undergraduates, it is clear that in
determine which antecedents have more of an im- many science-based industries (e.g., pharmaceuti-
pact on satisfaction. The analysis showed that Ad- cals), internships extend to postdoctoral work as
visor Selection—multiplying links F and I together well. We suspect that the framework we have of-
(i.e., .30* .668 ⫽ .20)—and Focused Scope of the fered may be able to accommodate interns of vary-
Project—first multiplying links D and H (i.e., .251* ing educational attainment. Indeed, it is more
.21 ⫽ .053) and then paths E and I (i.e., .23* .668 ⫽ likely that knowledge transfer explanation may
.154) and then adding these two scores together have greater explanatory power for interns of ad-
(i.e., .053 ⫹ .154 ⫽ .207)—were more important than vanced educational attainment. This opens up fur-
the other antecedents and had roughly equivalent ther opportunities for theory building and empiri-
influence. cal testing.
Finally, a unique facet of this study is that our
exploratory sample was drawn from an emerging
Implications for Practice
economy—Portugal—which is not typically consid-
ered to be a stronghold of management education. That the predictors of these two outcomes are not
There seems to be a growing interest in these lo- identical and the importance of the different pro-
cations for data (Shepherd et al., 2008; Armstrong & cess constructs in determining student satisfaction
Mahmud, 2008). A number of implications from this offers several suggestions for administrators, busi-
experience may be worth commenting upon, as we ness representatives, faculty, and students in de-
move to more traditional settings for research on signing internships. The multiple goals that one
internships. First, although we had the support of typically finds in an internship program (e.g., pro-
the university, and thus had relatively easier ac- moting student development, company productiv-
cess to the names of the individuals we wanted to ity) have different predictors. The factors that in-
survey, the institution’s alumni function was not fluence the actual project and work on that project
well developed, and this led to gaps in information are generally separate from those that predict
needed to locate individuals for our surveys. This
may not be problematic in U.S. institutions, but this
factor needs to be considered in deliberations of 4
We are thankful to one of the anonymous referees for this
sample size determination. Second, the unstruc- getting us to think along these lines.
2010 Narayanan, Olk, and Fukami 75

whether a student is learning from or satisfied internship preparedness, the internship project’s
with the experience. success depends in part upon company actions. In
Examining some of the specific relationships selling an internship program, universities should
and weights reveals additional insights into the make this clear as well as each party’s role in
management of internship programs for each of internship effectiveness. They can also encourage
the three actors involved: the student, the school or companies to provide periodic feedback to the stu-
university, and the company. The data suggest dents as it may lead to student satisfaction. The
that students should seek to have a voice in the lack of significance of company size suggests
internship. Doing so appears to enhance the stu- schools need not worry too much about this factor
dent’s overall satisfaction. in selecting which company to focus on. Finally,
For the school, (1) the selection of the advisor, although we could not assess reverse knowledge
and (2) preparing students for the internship expe- flows (from the firm to the university) in our study,
rience are important elements of internship de- faculty interviews generally suggested that almost
sign. For the instructor/advisor, besides setting up all faculty members pursued research agendas in-
a structure, which provides a student with a higher dependent of their involvement in internships.
level of input into the internship, taking a personal Stated differently, they viewed advising students
interest in the project and the student are impor- as part of their teaching responsibility, not as an
tant. Future research should explore the nature of input to their research efforts. Future research
this relationship. It may be that a faculty member might examine whether this view is held by
should carefully screen students so that their in- broader range of faculty members.
terests overlap with the faculty member’s. Alterna- For businesses, they too should be aware of the
tively, a faculty member might maintain a broad two outcomes (student learning and project imple-
array of interests, which will permit him or her to mentation), and of their role leading to project im-
be interested in any one student’s project. Unstruc- plementation, and not expect that a project that is
tured interviews with the Portuguese University’s implemented leads to student satisfaction. Further,
faculty members tend to suggest that the first ap- to enhance student satisfaction, it will help to
proach was preferred by the junior faculty mem- spend time on developing a project with a focused
bers, whereas senior faculty members, especially scope, one that provides the student with an op-
those with industry experience, tend to prefer the portunity to learn specific knowledge. Future re-
latter approach. To paraphrase one faculty mem- searchers may want to consider additional returns
ber, senior faculty can afford to spend time with a business may receive in addition to implemen-
the students and thus actually mentor them on how tation of the project. For example, the degree to
to go about interfacing with the (internship) firm which a student has learned or is satisfied may
and its bureaucracy and politics, whereas the jun- affect his or her likelihood of seeking subsequent
ior faculty members, who are in the early stages of employment with the company. This may also in-
building their careers, have neither the time nor fluence the reputation of the company among stu-
the maturity to mentor students on organizational dents and affect the pool of future internship and
issues. Which approach is more effective is worthy job candidates. Similar to the findings for the
of additional research. schools, businesses also should not be too worried
Similarly, our conceptual model posits that about their size or the degree to which the project
students transfer knowledge from the university is focused.
to the company. One of the reasons internships These findings have implications for the litera-
are encouraged is that it is likely that students ture on internships. Prior research has shown the
will learn from the company and transfer knowl- importance of mentoring (e.g., Anson & Forsberg,
edge from the company to the university. Future 1990). Our findings reveal that mentoring is impor-
researchers should examine the directionality of tant for student satisfaction but—at least from the
this relationship. student’s perspective— does not appear to be as
Also for the school, the model reveals the impor- important for student learning or implementation.
tance of preparing the students for the internship Further, studies that examine only student satis-
by focusing on functional knowledge. Knowledge faction or learning may not capture the range of
that the student can use in the internship leads to benefits that a student may gain from an intern-
stronger learning and then to satisfaction. Schools ship. Finally, our findings indicate that whether a
should also be aware of the two unrelated out- project the intern worked on was implemented is a
comes of student satisfaction and project imple- separate outcome from student level benefits.
mentation, and that they are not entirely responsi- It is also important to consider the major limita-
ble for both. While universities can enhance their tions of this study. As noted, these data only per-
76 Academy of Management Learning & Education March

mitted testing a subset of the possible relation- sequences not only for effective internships, but
ships proposed in our general model. Further, the also for the role of business schools in knowledge
data only come from students, are about one uni- creation and transfer to businesses.
versity’s experiences, and have a relatively small
sample size. The performance data of student sat-
isfaction and project implementation were self-
reported. Although there is no evidence of common APPENDIX
method variance, future research will benefit from
Construct Development
testing the predictors of internship outcomes by
collecting data on different types of internships, In developing indicators of the constructs represented in Figure
from more than one stakeholder to overcome per- 1, we first performed a series of factor analyses to reduce the
number of variables and to create reflective and formative
ceptual differences (Knemeyer & Murphy, 2002), indicators. Reflective indicators are similar measures of a la-
from more than one university, and from more than tent construct, and each should load highly onto the construct.
one country. Additionally, while this study, like In this way, a reflective indicator is comparable to items in a
others (e.g., Eyler, 1992; Hite & Bellizzi, 1986) used factor analysis. Alternatively, formative indicators may or may
students’ perception of learning, this may not not relate to one another. Rather, they each represent a different
dimension of the latent construct, and when used together as a
translate into actual learning or improved perfor- composite, collectively represent the underlying construct (Falk
mance (e.g., Gault, Redington, & Schlager, 2000; & Miller, 1992). The factors, or in the terminology of PLS,
Sweeney, Huth, & Engel, 2001). Examining the im- “manifest variables,” by design are meant to complement
pact of an internship on these outcomes—and col- one another—like different coefficients in a regression equa-
lecting data from sources other than survey ques- tion—and collectively represent the construct. Table 2 reports
each factor and its weighting in representing the underlying
tionnaires—is worthy of future research. Finally, construct. Following the description of the development of
our analysis also fails to address our entire gen- these constructs, we provide a list of the individual items
eral model. A primary goal for subsequent re- from which the constructs were built.
search will be to address these untested portions.
In addition to a fuller testing of the model, spe-
cific issues for research to explore include the rea- Antecedent Constructs
sons for the generally separate paths and out-
There were six antecedent constructs. The first, Helpfulness of
comes. For the variables we studied, only the University Studies, derived from nine questions. A factor anal-
antecedent construct of Project Awareness was re- ysis revealed three factors each with an eigenvalue greater
lated either directly or indirectly to the two out- than 1.0. Each of the nine items loaded at the 0.6 level or above
comes. Second, the weights of individual measures and was retained in the analysis. Since the three factors rep-
resent different dimensions of the underlying construct of Help-
suggest the importance of active involvement by
fulness of University Studies, they are treated as formative
the student and the advisor, but that the school indicators. The factors are General Knowledge (2 items), Func-
needs to have clear guidelines. This suggests that tional Knowledge (5 items), and Production (2 items). For each
a school’s responsibilities lie mostly in creating respondent, the item score was first multiplied by the factor
the context in which the student and faculty oper- analysis weighting before adding to other items. The higher the
score, the more helpful the university studies.
ate, but that there is an active role for individual
Project Awareness, which represents how the student be-
initiative. The balance between these two forces is came aware of the internship project, was derived from factor
worth additional research. How much clarity in the analyzing 10 questions. Nine of these items loaded onto four
school’s guidelines is needed? Does strong clarity factors, which become formative indicators of the Project
by the school limit the amount of initiative by a Awareness construct. These are via Lecture (2 items), Written
Policies and Procedures (2 items), Formal Notification (3 items),
student or a faculty? These are just a few of the
and Curriculum (2 items). The 10th item was dropped. The
questions future research could consider about higher the score, the more important the mechanism for creat-
this topic. ing awareness.
As the relevancy of business education and re- Project Selection was a single-item response to the question
search continues to be discussed in the manage- of how the project was selected. The options were Student
Initiated, Departmental Advertising, Faculty Advisor Initiated,
ment literature (e.g., Bartunek, 2007; Khurana, 2007;
Company Initiated, Someone Outside the University, and Other.
Pfeffer, 2007), we anticipate there will be increased These responses were turned into dummy variables for each
interests in the role of internships. Designing ef- alternative. Forty-eight percent of the selections were by the
fective internships will not only have relevance to student contacting the company, with 20% initiated by the Fac-
the specific students, faculty, schools, and busi- ulty Advisor, and 13% each for Departmental Advertising and
Someone Outside the University. The 6 dummy variables were
nesses involved in the internship, but will likely
treated as formative indicators of the underlying construct of
shed additional light on the overall relationship Project Selection.
between universities and companies. Pursuing the Advisor Selection was also a single-item response, this time
aforementioned research questions will have con- to the question of how the faculty advisor was selected. The
2010 Narayanan, Olk, and Fukami 77

options were Student Selected Advisor and Requested Depart- sponse, we did not want to lose this information. Because a
ment to Assign Him/Her (3% of the cases); Assigned by the student may not know if the project would be implemented for
Department (63%); Asked Instructor to be the Advisor (32%); and a variety of reasons, and these may not be related to the like-
Other (2%). Each was recoded into a dummy variable and these lihood of implementation, we treated these as separate vari-
four variables represented formative indicators of Project Se- ables. The first variable we created was a dummy variable that
lection. Focused Scope of the Project was a single variable noted whether the respondent had knowledge about the imple-
derived from four items evaluating the project in terms of its mentation. This was coded a 1 if the student responded that he
practical focus, theoretical focus (reverse coded), implementa- or she ‘did not know’ about project implementation and a 0 if the
tion, and feasibility. A factor analysis revealed that the four student provided a response about the likelihood of implemen-
items were highly related, and we combined them into a single tation. The second variable was the specific response from
variable in which the higher the value, the more focused or those respondents who knew about the likelihood of implemen-
practical the internship project. tation. For this variable, respondents who recorded a ‘did not
Finally, Company Size was a single-item measure. It was know’ were coded as missing. We treated these as formative
derived from a question which asked the respondents to note indicators of implementation and our coding resulted in each
the category that represented the size of the company, based on case having either a 1 for not having knowledge of implemen-
number of employees, from 0 employees, 1–9, 10 – 49, 50 –249, tation or a score of 1 (currently implemented) to 5 (will not be
250 – 499 and 500⫹ employees. The most reported response was implemented). We then reversed coded these variables so that
50 –249, with a majority of the cases falling between 10 –249 a higher score for Project Likelihood of Implementation sug-
employees. gested that the student did know and that the project was likely
to be implemented.
Student Satisfaction represented an additional outcome.
Process Constructs This is considered a later outcome than Student Learning be-
cause the items inquired about the student’s satisfaction with
There were three constructs developed to evaluate the process earlier project outcomes, such as learning, the advisor, and the
of the internship: Project Progress Feedback, Student Learning, company. A factor analysis revealed three factors each with two
and Faculty Advisor Role. Project Progress Feedback was de- items: Satisfaction with the Project, Satisfaction with the Com-
rived from a factor analysis of five questions. The analysis pany, and Satisfaction with the University. These three factors
revealed only one factor with an eigenvalue greater than 1 and were treated as formative indicators of student satisfaction
that four items loaded above 0.6 while the fifth did not and was with a higher score representing greater satisfaction.
dropped. Because of their similarity, these four items were used Because most of the above are formative indicators, and they
as reflective indicators of the construct of Project Progress Feed- each represent different dimensions of the latent construct, we
back, with a higher score reflecting greater clarity in the expec- did not conduct tests for convergent validity for all of them. For
tations and feedback on the project. Student Learning was de- the one that was a reflective indicator (project progress feed-
rived from a set of eight questions that asked students about back), as noted we found good internal consistency. We also
learning from the internship project. A factor analysis revealed tested for discriminant analysis. For reflective indicators this
two types of learning. The first, General Learning, consists of entails examining the variance shared between a construct and
two items addressing practical and theoretical learning in the its measures (e.g., Sarkar et al., 2001), while for formative indi-
area. The second, labeled Project Management Learning, con- cators we ran a series of factor analyses to determine if an item
sists of six items that capture learning about various chal- loaded highly with items that make up a different indicator. We
lenges associated with the project, project management, and found good support for discriminant analysis on all of our
other functions not in the area. These two factors make up the constructs.
construct of Student Learning, with the higher the score, the
greater the reported learning. For Faculty Advisor Role, an
analysis of 11 items found three underlying factors derived from
nine items. The two items that did not load above 0.6 were Individual Items
dropped from the analysis. The first factor, Project Understand-
(The associated item(s) in the conceptual model appear in pa-
ing and Interest in the Student, consisted of five items with a
rentheses after the variable name)
higher score reflecting greater understanding and interest.
Helpfulness of University Studies (General academic pre-
Project Knowledge, the second factor, derived from two items
reflecting greater knowledge about the project. Finally, two
To what extent did your studies in the University help you in
items created the final factor, Company Communication, with a
the project?
higher score reflecting more communication with the company.
(1⫽ Not at all, 5 ⫽ Absolutely)
These three factors form the construct of Faculty Advisor Role.
Theoretical Knowledge
Practical Knowledge
Operations of a firm
Outcome Constructs
Machinery and equipment
We employed two constructs of internship outcomes: Project Production
Likelihood of Implementation and Student Satisfaction. The Informatics
construct Project Likelihood of Implementation was derived Marketing
from asking respondents the likelihood of the project being Finance
implemented, on a scale of 1 (It is currently being implemented) Tourism
to 5 (Will not be implemented). There was also an option for the Project Awareness (Careful screening or matching)
respondent to state that he or she ‘did not know’. Thirty-one How did you come to know of the various facets of the
percent of the respondents did not know, while 9% of the project?
projects were being implemented, 15% will not be implemented, (1 ⫽ Not at all, 5 ⫽ Absolutely)
and 49% had varying degrees of possibly being implemented. The university manuals clearly presented the role of the
Since a ‘did not know’ response is not the same as a nonre- project in the program
78 Academy of Management Learning & Education March

I came to know about the project informally through my Various functions not directly in your area
friends Organizational challenges
There were special lectures on the topic by former Human issues
students Managing projects
The department communicated through written material Economic challenges
There were lectures by instructors on the role of the Social challenges
project Faculty Advisor Role (Arms length or embedded)
There were special lectures by guests from industry Each question asks you your opinion about the way you see
The university/department has written procedures for things
doing the project (1 ⫽ Not at all, 5 ⫽ Absolutely)
There are clear policies regarding the evaluation of Helped (is helping) me to structure the project
project Had (has) meetings with the company officials in the
Courses in the curriculum influenced the choice of the beginning
project Is keeping in touch with the company officials throughout
Project Selection (Selection of students) the project
How did you choose the project you are working on? (check Has frequent meetings with me
one) Has knowledge that was useful to my specific project
You contacted the firm yourself Helps me with solving the technical problems of the
The department advertised the project in the university project
Your faculty advisor asked you if you are interested Has relatively little knowledge of the area of the project
The firm contacted you for the project Helps me understand the human issues in the project
You knew someone outside the university who helped Shows interest in my problems on the project
you to get the project Shows interest in me as an individual
Other (please specify) Shows interest in my career
Advisor Selection (Faculty selection role) Project Likelihood of Implementation (Project completion)
How did you choose the faculty advisor for the project? (check What is the likelihood that your project will be implemented
one) in the firm? (select one)
You picked the advisor and then requested the depar- It is currently being implemented
tment to assign him/her Very likely
The department assigned you an advisor without your Somewhat likely
input Somewhat unlikely
Asked an instructor to be your advisor Will not be implemented
Other (please specify) I do not know
Size of the Company (Company size) Student Satisfaction (Student satisfaction)
In what kind of firm are you doing your project ? (check one) To what degree are you satisfied with various facets of your
A very large company (500 or more workers) project?
A large company (250 – 499 workers) (1 ⫽ Not at all, 5 ⫽ Absolutely)
A medium company (50 –249 workers) The firm you are working in
A small company (10 – 49 workers) The advisor in the firm you are working in
A micro company (1–9 workers) Your faculty advisor
A start up (0 workers) The support from the university/department in the
Focused Scope to the Project (Project definition) project
How will you characterize your project? The learning from the project
(1 ⫽ Not at all, 5 ⫽ Absolutely) Overall satisfaction with the project
Theoretical (reverse coded)
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V. K. Narayanan (PhD, University of Pittsburgh) is associate dean for research, and Stubbs
Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship in Drexel University. His articles have appeared in
leading professional journals. His most recent work is The Encyclopedia on Technology and
Innovation Management (Blackwell-Wiley) coedited with Gina O’Connor.

Paul Olk (PhD, University of Pennsylvania) is professor of management and director of

Academic Research and Accreditation at the Daniels College of Business of the University of
Denver. His current research interests focus on strategic alliance formation process and
performance, entrepreneurial alliances, and social networks.

Cynthia Fukami (PhD, Northwestern) is professor of management at the Daniels College of

Business, University of Denver. Fukami is a Fellow of the Carnegie Foundation, and her
current research focuses on the scholarship of teaching and learning. She has recently
coedited The SAGE Handbook of Management Learning, Education and Development.

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