With most return to office plans still in flux due to COVID, so too are architectural student summer internships. Based on the success of its inaugural year in 2020, Michigan Architectural Foundation (MAF) and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Michigan recently kicked off the 2021 MAF + AIA Michigan Internship Bridge Grants Program.
The goal of the program is to help bridge the current gap in available student architectural internship programs in Michigan, and preserve educational, experience, and career-boosting opportunities normally provided through the traditional internship experience. This year’s program, which began in early June and runs for eight weeks, includes seven total students from Michigan’s five architectural schools participating in largely virtual internships with Michigan architecture firms.
Each of the architectural schools nominated students for participation. The schools were then responsible for placing students with architectural firms, and securing commitments for firms to provide meaningful, supervised work experience for their interns, for 20 hours per week for the duration of their internship. Each student intern will receive a $1,600 educational grant for their program participation. Program funding is being provided by AIA Michigan, MAF, and past MAF Trustees and current AIAMI board members.
“While pandemic safety concerns continue to impact architecture students and architecture firms, everyone has learned to adapt and work smartly to stay safe, with addressing educational and project needs,” said Tim Casai, FAIA, 2021 MAF President. “The MAF + AIA Michigan Internship Bridge Grants Program is proving to be an effective catalyst to ensure architecture students receive critical professional learning opportunities, and for firms to work with emerging architectural talent.”
While all of the 2020 Bridge Internships were exclusively virtual due to COVID, 2021 participants will be primarily working virtually, with some having in-person experience opportunities with their internship firms intermittently throughout the summer.
This year’s program was expanded to eight weeks (up from six in 2020), and will have regular roundtables where students can check in with program and architectural school leadership, and with one another. The first was held on Tuesday, June 8. Norm Hamman, Jr., AIA, former AIA Michigan president and MAF Trustee, and Dan Pitera, FAIA, University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture Dean, co-facilitated the discussion, with several of the 2021 internship bridge participants in attendance.
“We learned during this primarily virtual environment that connection is critical,” said Norm. “As with working professionals, feeling isolated can be very challenging and lonely. Our intern roundtables are intended to counter some of those challenges, as well as foster community among the students who are going through the program at the same time.”
Norm continued, “The feedback we received from last year’s participants was extremely beneficial. Despite students missing out on the regular in person interaction they would have as part of a traditional internship, they became more productive and fluent in the virtual process. They also learned about communications software programs including Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Go To Meeting –which will benefit them greatly in their professional lives.”
“MAF and AIA Michigan remain committed to helping put Michigan architecture students on the path to future career success, and the Internship Bridge Program is successfully filling that critical current need.”