As a parent of a college student seeking her own place in the world, I am more mindful than ever of the value of a professional internship, which offers participants a deep learning experience, meaningful work, a chance to build skills and knowledge, and an opportunity to explore career pathways. This is something I get to see unfold through our internship program at the Humane Society of the United States, and there is almost nothing that raises my spirits like meeting with our interns several times a year. These encounters give me a glimpse of the next generation of advocates, the ones who will inherit the responsibilities and the opportunities to do good for animals that my colleagues and I now experience. I love hearing about their backgrounds, their aspirations and their goals for their time with us. I am counting on these dedicated people to step up as animal advocates and caregivers in the future. 

Our dedicated interns at Black Beauty Ranch support many facets of our direct care work with animals.

In recent years, we’ve strengthened our internship programs and our approach to them. Above all, we don’t keep our interns in the background or on the bench. We make a point of putting them right into the game, whether it’s analyzing the devastating impact that the EATS Act will have or researching other legislation; building a media list for a news release or checking out a new social media platform investigating captive animal exhibits in key states; or, in the case of interns at our Black Beauty Ranch sanctuary, supporting facets of our direct care work with animals.      

We ask a lot of those who participate in our programs. Each internship role has specific learning objectives and a tailored training plan. We are serious about making sure that our interns receive exposure to all aspects of our work, not just the goings-on in the divisions with which they are associated. This year, I was pleased to read one intern’s feedback that the organization “does a great job connecting interns with the broader organization, showing us what our work is doing out in the real world and making our work as interns feel substantial and worthwhile.”  

After learning more about how unpaid internships exclude many qualified candidates from applying and gaining this important foot in the door, we decided last year to pay all our interns, to show that we value them and their work, and to enable a wider range of individuals to apply. We’re also striving to make our internship program more diverse and inclusive, understanding that this will benefit animal protection now and in the future. And we’re offering more remote internships to accommodate those candidates who may not be able to relocate. 

This year, we felt confident enough in our progress as an internship sponsor to join in celebrating National Intern Day (Thursday, July 27, this year) and putting our name into consideration for inclusion among America’s top 100 internship programs. It’s too early to know whether we’ll be honored in that way, but when it comes to our interns, year after year, we already know that we’re winners.  

A movement that is serious about its future must think about recruiting young people to the cause and replenishing its ranks. As an organization, we certainly do. Once they’re on board, we view and treat our interns as colleagues, because we hope and believe that somewhere down the line, they will also be our successors.