Marcia Layton Turner
University of Wisconsin–Parkside

You know your new multidisciplinary internship program is going to be a hit when, early on, a graduating intern posts his résumé on and lands a job right away— followed by weeks of hounding by rabid recruiters. He had to change his phone number to get the calls to stop.

What made him such a hot commodity? His experience at the App Factory, a year-round paid internship program at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.

Established in 2014 as a way for students at the Kenosha university to apply what they learn in the classroom to local business challenges, the App Factory now employs 20 interns who work anywhere from 10 to 200 hours per semester.

The App Factory is distinctive in a couple of key ways:

  • It operates year-round rather than on a semester basis.
  • Instead of putting professionals in charge, as is common in traditional internship programs, fellow students train up-and-coming interns.

“The best pedagogical teaching tool is teaching others,” says Dirk Baldwin, dean of the UW-Parkside College of Business, Economics, and Computing. “It reinforces skills.”

Interns earn course credit while getting paid to develop mobile apps and web tools for community clients that have so far ranged from businesses to museums to radio stations to the local transit authority, among others.

Computer science students are hired to write software while art students tackle design tasks, communications students work on marketing, and business students manage projects and pursue new clients.

Students must identify resources needed and track the schedules they have developed for each client.

“Word of mouth attracts new projects,” says Baldwin, “and we’ve had repeat customers too.”

Success data points

  • To date, the 18-month-old App Factory has completed more than 13 paid projects and generated more than $150,000 in revenue, which goes directly to student salaries. This year, all 13 student interns are graduating with jobs, thanks to their time at the App Factory.