Tarleton president funds innovative RELIEF project

TSU Newsroom

STEPHENVILLE — Tarleton State University students in the College of Liberal and Fine Arts who land an unpaid internship may now apply for funding to help offset some of the costs.

Assistant Professor Dr. Cessna Winslow created the program — Real-world Experiential Learning Internship Education Fund, or RELIEF — with $25,000 awarded through President James Hurley’s Presidential Fund for Excellence, an initiative for faculty, staff, students and administrators to submit proposals that advance academic innovation, student success, research and scholarly activity.

Maddie McMillan, a Tarleton intern, makes a presentation to the Rough Creek Lodge management team.

“Helping more of our students gain hands-on and real-world experiences is exactly what makes us the premier comprehensive regional university in the nation,” said COLFA Dean Eric Morrow. “We are thankful for President Hurley’s Presidential Fund and all that it does for our Tarleton family.”

Numerous benefits attend having an internship, such as the ability to network with professionals, develop hands-on skills and build a résumé and portfolio. However, a student who takes an unpaid internship sacrifices the opportunity to work a paid job elsewhere and incurs related expenses such as for travel and food.

“RELIEF has been a passion of mine for a long time, and it’s wonderful to see it come to fruition through the support of President Hurley’s fund,” said Dr. Winslow, who teaches courses in public relations and social engagement. “Unpaid internships, while providing valuable experiences, are not always an option for some students. Funding these experiences opens doors for more of our students and allows them a head start on the job market and their career path.”

Many small businesses and nonprofits cannot pay an intern because of tight operating budgets. But they still need help growing their organizations. RELIEF can boost the local economy and assist not only students but nonprofits and other businesses in the Cross Timbers.

“Tarleton is a very special place, a first-choice destination for the brightest minds,” Dr. Hurley said. “We are committed to doing everything we can to ensure these students receive the best education. Unpaid internships are an integral part of a university degree that will change their lives and the lives of their families for generations.”

Students may receive up to $750 for a semester-long internship. They apply through Career Services; requirements include having an unpaid internship opportunity, a GPA of 2.5 or higher, and financial need.

After the internship ends, the students write a paper on how they used the money and what they learned from the experience.

“We are very proud of the work of Dr. Winslow, our community partners and our communication students and alumni,” said Dr. Christopher Gearhart, Communication Studies Department Chair. “Internships are one way to promote student socio-economic mobility, career readiness and gainful employment — all strategies in our Tarleton 2030 plan.”

RELIEF also welcomes donors, with the goal of establishing a perpetual funding source. The College of Liberal and Fine Arts is the incubator for the program, which eventually could be available to students across the university.

A dinner will be held in March at Rough Creek Lodge, a longtime partner with the Communication Studies Department, to celebrate RELIEF and Tarleton’s support of students in unpaid internships. More information about the dinner and RELIEF will be posted on www.tarleton.edu/communications.

The department has over 200 undergraduate and graduate students across six academic programs in Stephenville and Fort Worth, with classes offered in journalism, broadcasting, social media, sports communication, public relations, travel and tourism, hospitality and digital video. The department strives to provide a hands-on education through real-world learning with a focus on internships.