Open Pedagogical Design for Graduate Student Internships, A New Collaborative Model

Laurie N. Taylor and Brian Keith


Project Overview

Institution: University of Florida

Institution Type: public, research, land-grant, undergraduate, postgraduate

Project Discipline: Graduate Level, Multi-Disciplinary

Project Outcome: student-designed library internships

Tools Used: Institutional Repository

Resources Included in Chapter:

  • Internship Program Guidelines
  • Internship Application Template


Institutional Background & Context

The University of Florida (UF) is an enormous public, land-grant, sea-grant, and space-grant institution (16 colleges, over 52,000 students, over 2,000 acres for the main campus with offices in every county in Florida) and serves as the only Association of American Universities member in Florida. Logically then, UF’s libraries serve as the largest information network in the state of Florida, and its communities expect maximum information access and operations and facilities that best support UF’s massive scale. At the same time, libraries are adjusting to evolving academic and research environments. These adjustments require new technologies and services, and new ways of working. As a result, we need professional expertise and abilities from multiple disciplines.

Concurrently, the declining market for tenure-track academic positions and intense competition for other professional positions, particularly at the entry level, are challenging graduate students and their programs. Students need exposure to alternative careers to expand their professional horizons in addition to opportunities to gain marketable work experience and skills.

To address each of these issues in creative ways, collaborators within the libraries and in teaching departments came together to develop a new internship program tailored to graduate students.

In our experience as teachers, we design our classes to ensure students gain skills, portable knowledge, and experience in communication and collaboration as part of this work. As administrators in the libraries with broader programmatic responsibilities and leadership roles, we have also worked with student volunteers and interns. In these previous processes, we often saw fantastic work and learning outcomes for students. We also observed tremendous benefits to the internship directors in the libraries from supports for onboarding and orientation for the interns; support for their needs to best develop the internship and when problems arose; and for the overall outcomes and outputs from the internships with a more stable and simpler process for their work. At the same time, we saw uneven support for the internship directors, where too often people had to create orientations, seek grants to provide funding, and invest intensive work in addition to the work of leading and mentoring interns. The prior ad-hoc approach to internships disadvantaged potential directors with the additional work requirements. Internships often lacked consistent supports, experiences and well-defined learning and experiential outcomes for interns as workers and as students.

Within the nexus of library and graduate student needs, the innovative Smathers Graduate Student Internship Program remakes graduate student internships within the libraries through a design based on collaboration with teaching department faculty and library faculty. Through this program, launched in 2015, librarians propose and lead internships, based upon identified and specific needs for projects within the library, in collaboration with teaching faculty. With a new model for an institutionally-integrated, formalized program, the structures and process are enabling outcomes for interns, internship directors, and collaborators, with final work that can be showcased publicly by students and that benefits the library and its communities.

The program follows open pedagogical design. We ascribe three major considerations to this approach: flexibility, formal structures to support transparency and procedural justice, and openly available work produced by and for students.

Open Pedagogy & Critical Pedagogy

As two of the leaders creating the Smathers Library Graduate Internship Program, and as feminists, we developed a program oriented to the problems and needs facing libraries, graduate students, and academia more broadly. As two individuals, we are oriented and align our work with Open Pedagogy because of our experiences as teachers at the community college and university level, and as students, professionals, and workers; and this joins with the wealth of experience contributed by others on the Internship Program Committee.

As Robin Derosa and Rajiv Jhangiani (2017) discussed, Open Pedagogy has been defined for many years as an approach to teaching that relates to other pedagogies: “we merge OER advocacy with the kinds of pedagogical approaches that focus on collaboration, connection, diversity, democracy, and critical assessments of educational tools and structures, we can begin to understand the breadth and power of Open Pedagogy as a guiding praxis” (“Open Pedagogy”). Open Pedagogy is in direct alignment with the values of higher education and feminism; values which are threatened with the current privatization of higher education. By privatization, we mean the shift from societal support for education as a public program in support of the public good to a market-controlled, individual good, with the removal of public funds and support, as well as the removal of the expectation for community positive impacts from education. As Christopher Newfield (2016) explains, the greatest value of higher education is for the community and in nonmarket and social benefits. Yet, the shift to privatization forces students and institutions to focus on individual concerns and “the maximization of their own economic self-interest” because they have to when: “The converting of public funding into higher tuition focuses the student on assuring her future income to cover higher costs and debt” (p. 30). This shift “involves redefining the educated person.…reducing the full range of personal goals to the economic. Most forms of individual progress are non-economic, to become happier, clearer about the meaning of one’s own life, less emotionally confused, more creative, more coherently prepared for meaningful work” (p. 30). As teachers, our pedagogical work is deeply informed by our professional and personal ethics where we seek to support our students, including for their very real economic needs as well as to counter the devolutionary cycle of privatization of higher education. Our work thus includes finding ways to support our students (and colleagues and communities) as individuals and as members of our collective communities and society and positioning them to attain future goals and accomplishments.

Our perspectives are framed in the tradition of liberal education, which is supported through critical pedagogy. Russell Kirk (2007) explains the primary purpose of a liberal education to be “the cultivation of the person’s own intellect and imagination, for the person’s own sake…ordering and integrating of knowledge for the benefit of the free person—as contrasted with technical or professional schooling” (para. 3, para. 1). Kirk’s alternative conservative perspective argues a contrasting view that “genuine education is something higher than an instrument of public policy. True education is meant to develop the individual human being, the person, rather than to serve the state” (para. 3). Open pedagogical design offers the opportunity to engage with pedagogy, students, and intellectual work in ways that further the purpose of liberal education.

Of critical pedagogy, Sabrina Billings (2019) states:

Critical Pedagogy is an educational theory based on the idea that schools typically serve the interests of those who have power in a society by, usually unintentionally, perpetuating unquestioned norms for relationships, expectations, and behaviors. In order to combat these taken-for-granted biases in schools, teachers and students must constantly question their world, both inside and outside the classroom. (para. 3)

Thus, critical pedagogy offers the opportunity to build and model a better world which actualizes autonomy and interdependence, freedom and responsibility, and democracy and participation to uplift individual students for their immediate needs and our community needs to build capacity for procedural justice within our institutions and extending beyond. Procedural justice refers to the idea of fairness in the processes that resolve disputes and allocate resources (Cropanzano& Randall, 1993), and is thus an inherent consideration in designing the educational framework and overall work processes for Open Pedagogy.

Considering Open Pedagogy as a full praxis allows the focus to include OER and open resources as well as the related processes, procedures, and systems for collaboration, inclusivity, democracy, and critical evaluation. The Internship Program’s use of open pedagogical design draws upon the fullness of Open Pedagogy in implementing open pedagogical design for the immediate work of the internships, internship program, and for the broader impacts and outcomes from the program.

Creating the Graduate Internship Program

We recognized that the libraries’ decentralized model needed more structure to ensure students had support and that the workers in the libraries directing the internships had guidance, including articulated standards. Further, for procedural justice and equity, the libraries needed a program that provided systematic, consistent, coherent, and accessible support for potential internship directors and interns, resulting in just and intentional outcomes. At the same time, any new support had to provide for the space to explore that is inherent in mastery learning and mentoring processes. We took these considerations into account in designing the Program.

Collaborators within the libraries and in teaching departments came together to develop the new internship program. This process had to be as transparent as possible to gather feedback and insight to best develop the program, ensuring that the program could meet all needs. In developing the program based on these considerations, collaborators defined core goals:

  • Students need a portfolio of work experience based on the application of their discipline-based expertise, collaborative work experience, skill development, paid work, collaborators, and colleagues
  • Library faculty need collaborators in teaching departments, collaborators for their own work, and collaborators to support students together; opportunities to change campus culture and foster new relationships through collaboration that is deeply grounded in local expertise and practices; programmatic supports for students as workers and for student learning; and, funding opportunities for paying student workers a fair wage
  • Teaching faculty need collaborators in the libraries, collaborators for their own work, collaborators to support students, opportunities to change campus culture and foster new relationships through collaboration that is deeply grounded in local expertise and practices, programmatic supports for students as workers and for student learning, and funding opportunities for paying student workers a fair wage.

The libraries created the Program to address these needs, and to provide the apparatus to facilitate collaboration premised on the university as a system for individual attainment, economic and otherwise, and societal benefit.

To ensure immediate and ongoing support, the libraries started by creating an Internship Program Committee to support the Program. The committee, in consultation with collaborators within and external to the libraries then developed the program materials: program guidelines (“Program guidelines”), application template (“Application template”), committee listing (“Committee”), and email list for questions.

The committee created the timelines and processes wherein the committee solicits proposals twice a year and referees the proposals to ensure that the project best supports the internship director in the libraries, co-director from a teaching department, and the student.

The libraries award the internships via a competitive and iterative process. The outcome for the student must include an open learning experience (e.g., structured with learning outcomes and deliverables in the internship plan, and finalized with the student, based on the student’s needs) and a “cv-worthy” accomplishment (e.g., a completed research project with information openly available online for the student to cite and reference in their CV; online exhibits with the student as the named designer). The Internship Program Committee, comprised of library faculty, evaluates each internship proposal according to established criteria, which include benefits to the student (e.g., experience with tangible work products and credit related to developing and launching a marketing program with resources for the full process), teaching faculty collaborator, and internship director (the library professional managing the internship). The focus of each internship is unique, having been conceived of by the faculty partners, but it becomes clearly articulated through this supportive peer-led process. Within this flexible framework, internships take a variety of approaches, and result in various outputs and outcomes relevant to the specific internship work and stakeholders. The Program requires learning outcomes in the proposals, with these providing space for open pedagogical design oriented towards outcomes.

The committee designed the review process to be iterative and supportive. After proposals are submitted, the committee meets and discusses the proposals, and then shares questions, comments and suggestions with the potential internship director who then has the opportunity to revise and refine the proposal, and then submit their final version.

Committee members are available to discuss proposals prior and during the submission process, and deliver regular presentations on the Program to engage in productive dialogue. The committee uses the explicitly written and openly available evaluative criteria for evaluating proposals (“Program Guidelines”) to ensure transparency (and fairness) for the evaluative process. Additionally, the program requires that all awarded proposals be posted for Open Access for worldwide access through UF’s Institutional Repository, to serve as examples for others in developing internship proposals and to promote the work of each project.

Once an intern is recruited for a project, the work processes and learning outcomes are finalized through collaboration with the students. Interns cap each semester by presenting the results of their projects to the libraries and to larger audiences relevant to the project such as the impacted academic unit.

This work in program design and development, and documentation creation, along with establishing the peer support model was time consuming and thus represented a challenge. However, design, documentation, and the supportive review process are necessary to afford space for open pedagogical design, where different internship directors, collaborators, students, and the projects themselves have vastly different needs. Further, the program supports internships designed to cover one, two, or three semesters, and so the goals can vary dramatically based on this scope. Whether the project is for one, two, or three semesters, the proposals require a plan of activities for each semester. The application template also includes required sections for goals, objectives, deliverables, learning outcomes, and a section explaining the benefits, for each stakeholder: the intern, libraries, and collaborating academic unit. The program framework to support open pedagogical design includes:

  • the template for the proposal
  • program design with required collaborators and commitments from stakeholders
  • program support with the committee comprised of experts in the libraries for directing internships and administration
  • supportive review and development processes
  • all program materials as Open Access
  • all prior awarded internship proposals as Open Access
  • student-produced resources as Open Access whenever applicable

With these to support a flexible structure, each internship could be uniquely customized to meet the needs for student learning and for the project. While each faculty team might propose very different projects and goals, the program provides a framework to ensure the open pedagogical design aligns with the goals and needs of all stakeholders.

With the open pedagogical design for each internship project proposal, the student learning outcomes and project deliverables, again, vary substantially across projects. The program requires that all interns deliver a public presentation, which may be promoted mainly within the libraries and the collaborating teaching department or more broadly. The public presentation provides the intern with the opportunity to share about the project work and results, in their own words, and relying on their academic discipline’s perspectives. It also provides attendees with the opportunity to learn about and consider different project examples and methodologies.

Project Examples

For example, librarians Hélène Huet and April Hines collaborated with faculty member Christopher McCarty (Anthropology Department), on a graduate internship in Visual Anthropology (2018). They designed the internship to provide an opportunity for a graduate student in visual anthropology to apply their methods and theory “to assist library staff in better understanding how students view and utilize library spaces and resources.” In this collaboration, thus, the library is part of a research team with the intern, wherein the project provides a successful means for reciprocal gains. The libraries sought out this opportunity to better assess current work, and to inform future efforts. The libraries identified the need with hundreds and thousands of images of the libraries posted on social media using library hashtags, and with the libraries lacking a way to engage or work from this significant information and feedback resource. The team hired the intern, Hannah Toombs, to analyze and code photographs based on themes, and to conduct a focus group session to gain insight. The full team, in collaboration with the intern, used the applied work of the internship to develop a report that analyzed trends and themes (e.g., students describing and depicting the library as their first/main home, students describing and depicting the library as a work and a social space, and a space to be seen) as they specifically relate to the local UF context, with the report then informing the libraries for regular assessment needs, both as related to shared trends and unique local circumstances. Toombs utilized the internship to apply what she had learned in classes on Visual Anthropology, gain experience in presenting, and to learn about libraries and community or client relations.

Because the Program supports open pedagogical design, the examples all vary widely in theme and process for the specific work, while all are also supported by the overall framework. For example, librarian Colleen Seale led the proposal for an “Internship in expanding affordable UF initiatives on campus” for developing more Open Educational Resources (OER) at UF (2019). This ambitious internship is still in process, as of our writing this chapter. The internship is designed to support a graduate student in gaining “outreach and marketing skills, knowledge related to affordable resources in higher education and to exercise their own creativity.” Further, the internship is specifically to support Affordable UF. The Affordable UF initiative seeks to increase student learning and success by providing affordable access to education through student access to quality, reasonably priced course materials, and by raising awareness of textbook affordability issues and providing support and guidance for UF faculty seeking to address these issues in their courses. The internship includes the creation of a new web portal, and social media work. Additionally, the intern is working with campus stakeholders to help develop a methodology to track OER use and adoption across campus, calculate savings, and disseminate this information to the broader campus community. This work is in concert with collaborators at UF and with statewide groups who are developing and coordinating support for OER.


The Smathers Libraries Graduate Internship Program serves as a case or model for open pedagogical design with resulting student-developed projects that are openly accessible online. The Program also fills the connected gaps in libraries for expertise and in graduate education for paid professional internships. It transforms the library into a career laboratory and professional learning space for meeting reciprocal needs. In doing so, it maximizes benefits for graduate students, the libraries and their faculty, and teaching department collaborators.

As of January 2020, the program has served 40 students for 65 semesters of internships (multiple students each semester), with funding totaling over $155,000, with foci such as: Public Relations; Preservation; 3D printing; Data Management; Archives and Wikipedia; Collaborative Grant Seeking; Assessment; Digital Humanities; Digital Pedagogy; Digital Scholarship; Instructional Design; and Exhibits (Awarded internships). In large part because of the open pedagogical design, these internships resulted in cultural change within the libraries and transformative partnerships with academic units.

For outcomes from the Graduate Internship Program, multiple former graduate student interns—who are pursuing MLIS, MA, MS, PhD, and other types of degrees—have accepted faculty or professional positions in libraries and academic institutions.

The Smathers Library Graduate Internship Program achieved a highly successful open pedagogical design because of the combination of flexibility and structure: the team designed the program to be flexible enough to support the diverse array of work activities, with this flexibility supported in a formal program structure with discrete elements and open processes. The critical learning outcomes of the unique internships are well-defined and articulated in advance as part of the proposal development, and then students are selected with these defined. The process is flexible based on the student and their skills and experience. Further, the program is designed to best support individual needs, transformative collaboration, and the true community and cultural work that recognizes and supports a world that extends beyond individual economic outcomes.

As a result of the successful graduate internship program, the Smathers Libraries Undergraduate Student Fellowship was conceived based upon a longstanding desire to enhance diversity in the field of librarianship. This new program, being piloted in 2019-2020, will connect current Smathers student employees with opportunities to learn more about the work of academic libraries while enhancing their personal skills, knowledge, and abilities. This new undergraduate fellowship program has been created to offer opportunities to expose student employees, including those from under-represented groups, to career opportunities in academic and research libraries – with the goal of contributing to diversity, equity, inclusion, and awareness. The paid fellowships will be hosted by library units. Unlike the internships which are uniquely developed prior to the selection of the intern, the fellowships will be individualized to reflect the interests and aspirations of the awardee student. This is a student-centered, interest and aspiration-driven program. It continues to expand the library’s role as a career laboratory and professional learning space, and maximizes benefits for students. An initial pilot fellowship will provide the undergraduate student with experience with social media management, account analysis, and methods for engagement and outreach to support DEI, including for bilingual and Spanish-language postings on Latin American and Caribbean related content, programming, and other areas for engagement. This impactful work, directed by the libraries’ social media staff, will enhance the student’s skills to succeed in a variety of careers, including academic careers in libraries and in research.

The Smathers Library Graduate Internship Program itself continues to evolve with feedback from interns, internship directors, external collaborators, and library administration. For immediate benefits and ongoing development for procedural justice, all program materials are openly available online, including, as applicable, results of the internship projects. As leaders for the Program, we are actively seeking collaborators in other libraries who are planning or administering paid internship programs so that we can share experiences and develop our community of practice.


Billings, S. (2019). Critical pedagogy. Salem Press Encyclopedia. Hackensack, NJ: Salem Press.

Cropanzano, R., & Randall, M. L. (1993). Injustice and work behavior: A historical review. In R. Cropanzano (Ed.), Justice in the workplace: Approaching fairness in human resource management (pp. 3-20). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Derosa, R., & Jhangiani, R. (2017). Open pedagogy. In Elizabeth Mays (Ed.), A guide to making open textbooks with students. Rebus Community.

Huet, H., & Hines, A. (2018). Graduate student internships in an academic library: A case study at the University of Florida [Conference presentation]. Digital Library Federation Forum, Las Vegas, NV, United States.

Huet, H., Hines, A., & McCarty, C. (2018). Graduate internship in visual anthropology. Smathers Libraries Graduate Internship Program.

Kirk, R. (2007). The conservative purpose of a liberal education. The Classical Teacher, (Spring).

Newfield, C. (2016). The great mistake: How we wrecked public universities and how we can fix them. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP.

Seale, C. (2019). Internship in expanding affordable UF initiatives on campus. Smathers Libraries Graduate Internship Program.

Smathers Graduate Internship Program Committee. (2019). Resources and awarded internships. George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida.

———. (2019). Smathers graduate student internship program: Committee charge. University of Florida.

———. (2019). Smathers graduate student internship program: Guidelines. University of Florida.


Contact Information

Author Laurie N. Taylor may be contacted at Author Brian N. Keith may be contacted at

Feedback, suggestions, or conversation about this chapter may be shared via our Rebus Community Discussion Page.



Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Open Pedagogy Approaches Copyright © by Laurie N. Taylor and Brian Keith is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book