A Review of the Literature on Internships for Latinx Students at Hispanic-Serving Institutions: Toward a Latinx-Serving Internship Experience

WCER Working Paper No. 2021-2

Matthew T. Hora, Adrian Huerta, Anita Gopal, and Matthew Wolfgram


April 2021, 31 pp.

ABSTRACT: Internships are a widely promoted high-impact practice (HIP) across the postsecondary landscape, particularly among minority-serving institutions (MSIs), where internships are seen as potentially transformative vehicles for students’ career success and social mobility. However, little research exists on how the design, implementation, and ultimate effects of college internships vary (or should vary) according to the unique institutional contexts of MSIs and students’ racial identities and cultural backgrounds. This idea is based on research demonstrating that a “one-size-fits-all” approach to classroom teaching and student advising, and broader approaches to student engagement, ignore historic and structural inequalities while also overlooking the unique needs, circumstances and potentials of a diverse student body. Our main goal in this paper is to review the literature on internships in Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs) and with Latinx college students to determine if internship program design, implementation, and student experience vary based on the unique institutional contexts of HSIs and/or the racial and cultural attributes of Latinx college students. We conducted an integrative review of the literature on HIPs in general and internships in particular as they relate to Latinx students and HSIs. Results indicate a small but growing body of empirical research on these topics. Some studies highlight how specific features of HSIs (e.g., institutional missions, “servingness”) and Latinx students (e.g., their family capital, cultural perspectives on work) influence how HIPs and internships are designed and experienced. These insights underscore the importance of accounting for cultural, structural, and historic factors when studying and designing internship programs. We conclude the paper with a review of existing theoretical frameworks for studying HSIs and a proposal for a new research agenda that pays close attention to the role of culture at individual, group, institutional, and societal levels. Ultimately, we contend that while certain universal principles of internship design and implementation are likely to be applicable for HSIs and Latinx students, there are critical differences and opportunities for internships in these institutions and for these students that should be acknowledged and incorporated into HIP-related policymaking and practice.  

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keywords: Hispanic-Serving Institutions, Latinx students, internships, higher education, work-based learning, cultural models, institutional culture, culture theory, career and technical education