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Practicum Sponsor Guidelines

Master’s Practicum Project Sponsor Guidelines

The SILS capstone practicum project allows small teams of master’s students in their final semester to apply their learning to a real-world problem or area of need. As a project sponsor, you will play a critical role in ensuring that these students successfully design and implement their projects in ways that will benefit the students, your organization, and the communities it serves. This site provides an overview of the practicum project and outlines your role as a project sponsor. For additional information, please contact Lori Haight or Brian Sturm.

Thank you for your interest in becoming a Practicum Project Sponsor. Here is a link to submit your project.

What is the practicum? What counts as a project? 

The practicum is intended to provide the opportunity for SILS master’s students to apply the professional skills and knowledge they have gained at SILS in a team-based environment to a real-world problem or area of need. As a potential project sponsor, your first role will be to propose a project that could be completed within your organization by a small group of SILS students. A project could be many things and is not limited to the creation of some physical or digital artifact. For example, a project might be something like:

  • Designing and implementing a library program or service,
  • Conducting a usability evaluation of a tool, website, or app that your organization maintains,
  • Conducting assessment of an existing library service or collection,
  • Creating a professional development experience for practitioners in your organization,
  • Developing a database or web-based tool to organize and/or share data,
  • Spearheading an advocacy or marketing campaign, or
  • Creating data visualizations to communicate with organizational stakeholders.

Please note that while projects should be specific and achievable, your organization is not obligated to implement any initiatives or programs suggested by our students. This opportunity is meant to be a way for our students to practice and develop their skills and gain hands-on experience while working collaboratively.

Students will form teams (of 3 to 5 students), choose their project, and complete the planning stages of their project in their third semester in consultation with their project sponsor (potentially you!) and under the supervision of a SILS faculty project supervisor.  The project team, project sponsor, and SILS faculty project supervisor will negotiate a reasonable scope of work and specific learning outcomes.  This will be codified into a project contract that outlines the scope of the project, the frequency of meetings between the students and project sponsor, and timing of meetings for the faculty project supervisor to conduct check-ins and evaluate deliverables.

In students’ final semester, they will actually complete the project with supervision from the project sponsor and guidance from a SILS faculty project supervisor who will serve as a point of contact and evaluator for all student project teams. Exact project timelines for each semester may vary and will be communicated to you once a student team has chosen your project. Students may not receive compensation for their participation in practicum projects.

We want project sponsors to propose projects that will be valuable for their organizations and communities, and we also want to be able to offer our students a wide variety of options that will allow all our students to find a project that aligns with their professional interests and skills. With that in mind, we are not imposing strict boundaries on what a project can or cannot be. However, all projects must share one feature: they must be feasible for a small team of students (3-5 people) to complete within about three months, with each student working approximately 12 hours per week on the project.

What would my responsibilities be as a project sponsor?  

If a student team chooses your project, they will reach out to you sometime early in their third semester (likely in September for projects that would be completed in the Spring, or January for projects that would be completed in the Fall).  Once a student team has chosen your project, your responsibilities will include:

  • Meeting with the student team in their third semester to discuss the project parameters and your organization’s needs.
  • Communicating with the students as needed in the third semester as they develop their project charter document, which will represent their detailed plans for the project implementation phase.
  • Reviewing the project charter document at the end of the third semester to ensure that the students’ plans are feasible and will meet your organization’s needs, and signing the charter document once these conditions are met.
  • Serving as the primary point of contact for the student team during their project work in their fourth semester, or designating someone else in your organization as the primary contact person.
  • Providing the students with the resources necessary to complete the project as designed. This may include things like access to data or software, or opportunities to meet with members of your organization or the communities it serves. You can expect that all students will already have their own laptop computer since this is required for graduate students at SILS, but if the project requires specialized technology, your organization may need to make that available to students. You should be prepared to spend time meeting with and overseeing the activities of the project team.  We want both the students and the sponsors to have a positive experience, so we expect that both sides will need to allocate sufficient time and resources.
  • In addition, the SILS faculty project supervisor who is overseeing the project will schedule a check-in meeting mid-way through the semester.
  • Evaluating the project deliverable and the students’ work at the end of the project semester (a form will be provided to you for this purpose).

At the end of the project semester, students will present their work in the form of a poster or demonstration session at a culminating event. All project sponsors will be invited to this event, though you are not required to attend.

What can I expect from students working on my project? 

In the project semester, students will receive three credit hours of course credit for their project work. At UNC, three credit hours is defined as approximately 135 hours of student work over the course of a 15-week semester. Since students will need to have completed their projects a couple weeks before the semester end date to allow time for evaluation, teams will actually have around 12-13 weeks to work on their projects. This means that each student on a project team should expect to spend about 10-12 hours per week on project work. You can require this work to be done on-site or remotely as appropriate for your organization and the project itself; the project proposal form will ask you to indicate whether student work will require in-person hours so that students are aware of that expectation when they are considering project choices. You can also require student teams to check in regularly with you or with others at your organization to monitor project progress. We do ask that you keep in mind that students will be taking other coursework during their project semesters and may have other part-time jobs as well, so their project work will need to be balanced with these other responsibilities.

What are the benefits for project sponsors?  

As a project sponsor, your organization and community may directly benefit from the work products that student teams create for your site. Sponsoring a practicum project can be a great way for your organization to address an area of need that your existing personnel may not have the bandwidth or expertise for, while also providing students with a valuable opportunity to apply their skills with scaffolded support from your organization, classmates, and SILS faculty.

Does my organization need to pay students for their project work? 

No. Students will receive course credit for their project work, but no monetary compensation. This is due to several considerations: 1) we want to make these project opportunities available for all types of organizations – private businesses, government organizations, non-profits, etc. – many of which may not have funds to pay students for project work; 2) having some paid and some unpaid project opportunities may create equity issues among our students; and 3) student compensation for project work would be considered “financial aid” by the University, which may cause problems for students with other sources of funding.

With that said, if your organization would like to financially contribute to the SILS practicum program, we would welcome sponsorships for our culminating project fairs (held at the end of each semester). If your organization is interested in sponsoring a project fair, please reach out to our Associate Dean for Development, Ty Cole.