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Psychology major Kandace Thomas

Psychology major Kandace Thomas '13 at the annual Celebration of Undergraduate Research. Practical experiences for psychology students are the impetus behind new internships. (photo by Donn Young)

Carolina’s psychology undergraduates will soon have the chance to apply for semester-long internships in the Triangle area, thanks to a recent major gift from a Carolina alumna and her husband.

The Karen M. Gil Internship in Psychology Program honors Karen Gil, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and the Lee G. Pedersen Distinguished Professor of Psychology and professor of psychiatry. Gil’s scholarly work is in health psychology, and she has published extensively on the topics of pain, stress and childhood illness.

“I am deeply honored that this exciting new initiative will carry my name,” Gil said.

The $500,000 gift will provide experience for 10 to 15 student interns per semester starting in fall 2014, as well as funds for program administration. The donors — who wish to remain anonymous — say the idea is to help UNC differentiate itself from other universities.

“Because of this generous gift, students will obtain work experience that will help them integrate their classroom studies with practical professional experience,” said Beth Kurtz-Costes, director of undergraduate studies and professor of developmental psychology. “It will also help them start to decide on future career goals.”

The alumna behind the new fund got the idea from her own experience at UNC. As a psychology major, she found an internship in a local hospital and calls the experience “priceless.” She hopes that the Gil Psychology Internship Program will prompt other departments to offer similar opportunities.

“From the beginning, Dean Gil embraced with zeal our idea and challenge of implementing a pilot psychology internship program. The fund pays tribute to her service to the College as dean and to her background as a clinical health psychologist, distinguished professor, and department chair,” the alumna said.

Students could work as an intern in a clinical setting such as a mental health center, hospice or program for the autistic or learning-disabled. It could be a job assisting school guidance counselors, or doing school testing and evaluation. It could mean conducting lab research at a pharmaceutical company. Or it could be work in marketing or another field that attempts to change human behavior.

While the type of workplace will vary widely, only those that offer superior oversight and training will be accepted, said Steve Buzinski, faculty director of the program.

The students will work eight to ten hours a week. They will also meet weekly with Buzinski for a class to review psychology proficiencies and for professional skill development. Competition for the 20 to 30 internships per year will be intense. The department will require a cumulative GPA of 3.4 or higher, plus an interview and strong letters of recommendation from faculty.

“The idea is to offer a high-quality experience,” Buzinski said. “Our interns are going to be making a significant impact on the workplace and gaining important skills.”

For more information about the Gil Psychology Internship, contact Dana Ripperton, internship manager, department of psychology,, (919) 962-4155.  

[ By Rah Bickley ’86 ]


Published in the Spring 2014 issue | The Scoop

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