Department of Health

The Environmental Health Program

Charles V. Shorten Ph.D, P.E.
209 Sturzebecker Health Sciences Center
West Chester, PA 19383
610-436-2825


ENV 456: Environmental Health Internship

Instructor: Charles V. Shorten, Ph.D., P.E.

Associate Professor, Environmental Health Program
Department of Health, West Chester University, West Chester, PA 19383
Office: 209 Sturzebecker Health Sciences Center
Phone: (610) 436-2360/2231 Fax: (610) 436-2860 Email: cshorten@wcupa.edu


Within the Environmental Health program at West Chester University, students complete preparative course work in the sciences, including chemistry, biology, physics, and geology. Additionally they complete required courses in Environmental Health (toxicology, epidemiology, and seminar) and elective courses in areas such as industrial hygiene, hazardous waste management, risk assessment, and water quality. Both qualitative and quantitative aspects of Environmental Health are covered, and oral and written communications are stressed as well. As a capstone experience, students in this program complete a 540-hour internship with industry, government, or volunteer organizations at the completion of their course work. Students receive 12 academic credits for their services during this internship. Student pay is independently negotiated between the internship supervisor and the student, and is not a requirement of the internship.

Before the internship may begin, the student, internship supervisor, and faculty advisor must agree, in writing, to the terms and conditions of the position. This document serves, in effect, as the "syllabus" or contract for the internship so that all parties, but particularly the student, know in advance exactly what is expected of him or her. In order to earn these credits the intern must complete the following:

  1. 540 hours (13.5, 40-hour weeks) of service or employment.
  2. A daily log of all activities, tasks, persons with whom he or she worked, goals met and objectives identified. Such logs must be signed by the student, the internship supervisor, and forwarded to the faculty advisor on a weekly basis.
  3. Two on-site meetings between the student, the internship supervisor, and the faculty advisor.
  4. Final reports, summaries, or deliverables requested by the internship supervisor (as per original contract document) must be delivered as promised.
  5. A final summary report, signed by the student and the internship supervisor, to be forwarded to the faculty advisor.

The role of the student intern is to work in an occupational setting, at an entry level, while bringing his or her skills and education to bear on a pressing, real-world environmental health problem. The intern at this point of his or her career should be immersed in both the academic and occupational environment, with constant feedback from both the faculty advisor and the internship supervisor. Ideally, the internship experience will culminate in the development of a useful skill or a completed project which the student can cite as a noteworthy accomplishment.

The internship supervisor's role is that of daily oversight of the student intern, as he or she would supervise any employee. This includes assignment of duties, tasks, and priorities as well as the conduct of advisement, encouragement, and disciplinary action if necessary. The internship supervisor should serve in a professional mentoring capacity to the student, where possible, allowing the student to both learn from mistakes and build professional confidence from successes.

The role of the faculty supervisor is to make sure that the position is suitable for academic credit at the senior undergraduate level, that the working environment is stable and that the personnel structure is in place to help guide the student through a learning experience. The faculty advisor will visit the site, the internship supervisor, and the student (once placed) to make sure that all conditions of the internship are being met. The faculty advisor acts as liaison between the student and the internship supervisor, as needed. Ultimately, the faculty advisor assigns the course grade, in consultation with the internship supervisor.