On the Intersectional Amplification of Barriers to College Internships: A Comparative Case Study Analysis

WCER Working Paper No. 2020-5

Matthew Wolfgram, Tamanna Akram, and Brian Vivona


May 2020, 26 pp.

ABSTRACT: Research shows that college internships yield academic, economic, and professional benefits. However, the ability to locate and participate in internships is not equitable across all student demographic and socioeconomic spectrums. There are multiple complex barriers to internship participation for students with low socioeconomic status, and for those who are minoritized by race, gender, or other factors. Contextual factors such as finances, work responsibilities, travel, and gendered familial obligations intersect to amplify the challenges to internship participation. In the research described in this paper, the research team conducted focus groups among 24 students from a comprehensive federally designated Hispanic-Serving Institution. The team explored the data using intersectionality theory and comparative case study analysis; and in this paper we present a comparative case study analysis of five students in our study. We determined that delineation of barriers into types, such as financial, social, and cultural, runs the risk of misconstruing students’ actual experience when they struggle to access internships and other educational opportunities.

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keywords: barriers to internship participation, Intersectionality, minoritized college students, Comparative case study analysis