About Us / Internship
Marquette Internship Program
by Ed de St. Aubin, Associate Professor, Marquette University
The connection between Project RETURN and Marquette University goes back nearly four decades. During the early 1970’s, Marquette students walked over to Cross Lutheran Church on North 16th street, then the headquarters of Project RETURN, to engage in tutoring, writing projects, social events, and other activities that resulted in mutual learning. The formerly incarcerated clients of Project RETURN gained academic skills, GEDs, and new friends. The students learned about criminology but also about redemption and resilience. Everybody participating learned about the great things that can be accomplished when folks work together with a foundation of respect and love.
And the relationship between these two institutions has been maintained over these many years via Service Learning, volunteering, research conducted by Marquette professors, and a scattering of internships. Further, Marquette has hosted the annual fundraising dinner gala – CELEBRATE THE RETURN - for the past two years and will likely continue to do so. It is a natural pairing, for the work Marquette students do is completely aligned with the social justice values that define this Jesuit University. Further, Project RETURN has always depended on the involvement of non-paid helpers. Part of the Project RETURN’s mission is to educate the public regarding the damaging stereotypes many have of those who spent time in prison. These various student-client interactions help achieve that goal as students get to know whole and real individuals, not just an image of person A who committed crime B.
As a member of the Project RETURN Board of Directors and also a professor in the Psychology Department of Marquette, I have seen the value of this connection and tried to sustain and strengthen it. This semester marks the beginning of a formal and extensive internship program. We hope to consistently have three to five Marquette students each working 10 hours a week for the agency.
Four principles shaped the design of this program. First, it must be mutually beneficial to both the students and to Project RETURN. Second, it must combine applied work, academic exploration, and personal discernment. This is why we meet weekly to discuss the student’s experiences and scholarship regarding the reentry process. Third, the director – that’s me – must be integrally involved in a way that seamlessly integrates the academic mode with community engagement. We did not want to make this a two-worlds experience for students who are expected to work “out there” in the community and then to return to campus for separate and disconnected discussions. It helps that I am on the Board and so intimately aware of the agency’s inner-workings. Further, our weekly meetings occur at Project RETURN, not on campus. Our final principle is that the program must evolve – through continuous assessment, discernment, and discussion – such that it meets the changing needs of the program and of the students.
I’m delighted that you can read about the four Marquette students who are Project RETURN Interns this semester. Each is amazing in his or her own way. Even though we are not yet halfway through the semester, the students are already talking about how much they are learning and growing in this role. And the staff is appreciative of the much-needed help. Details regarding the specific activities of the interns will be provided in a future newsletter.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any comments or questions about this endeavor: Ed de St. Aubin at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call me at (414) 288-2143.