Cal State Fullerton has won a $130,000 federal grant to study how internships boost undergraduate education.
Internships involve placing students with businesses and companies for on-the-job training and learning.
"We want to find out if students who complete a co-op internship learn any more in terms of content knowledge or skills than students who simply complete a business degree," said B. Thomas Mayes, a Cal State Fullerton professor of management.
Students will be tested before and after their internships and compared with students who did not complete such on-the-job training.
In addition to Mayes, psychology professor Ronald E. Riggio and Carolyn R. Kubiak, director of the university's Center for Internships and Cooperative Education, are conducting the study. The U.S. Department of Education awarded the $130,000 research grant.
The study will involve junior-year business administration majors at Cal State Fullerton. The researchers will test students' knowledge of job skills by having them role-play some activities related to jobs.
"We're going to actually have them performing as if they're on the job," Riggio said. The study also will assess students on the basis of their leadership potential, communication skills, problem-solving abilities and creativity.
In addition to assessment by the university professors, the study will use feedback from the interns' supervisors at various businesses.
"What we're hoping for is eventually tying the business community into helping with the ongoing assessment process by expanding their role," Kubiak said.