"The Trees Need Water"and the Students Need Authentic Responsibility

Learning almost-in-the-wild in a Community-Based Internship


  • Susan D. Blum The University of Notre Dame
  • Terri Hebert Saint Mary's College
  • Gabrielle Robinson
  • Kirill Gillespie
  • Maeve Mallozzi-Kelly
  • Melissa Norberg
  • Saliyha A. Webb
  • Jay Brockman The University of Notre Dame


Experiential learning in internships, a High-Impact Practice promoted in U.S. higher education, resembles “learning in the wild.” This mixed-method study, conducted by a faculty-student ethnographic team, presents the qualities of the experience, in Dewey’s terms, of a highly regarded community-based summer internship, with problem-led flexibility; bodily involvement and multimodality; respect for learners’ capacities; mentors rather than teachers; multiple forms of diversity in a community of practice; cooperative social relations; genuine responsibility; security of basic needs; connection to community and place; ample but authentic time constraints

Author Biographies

Susan D. Blum, The University of Notre Dame

Susan D. Blum is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame.

Terri Hebert, Saint Mary's College

Terri Hebert is Associate Professor and Director of the Center for Academic Innovation at Saint Mary’s College.

Gabrielle Robinson

Gabrielle Robinson is a PhD candidate in Human Development and Family Sciences at Auburn University.

Kirill Gillespie

Kirill Gillespie is a graduate of Skidmore College.

Maeve Mallozzi-Kelly

Maeve Mallozzi-Kelly is an AmeriCorps Volunteer with the Minnesota Farmers' Market Association in Minneapolis MN

Melissa Norberg

Middi Norberg is a Global Studies graduate of Saint Mary's College.

Saliyha A. Webb

Saliyha A Webb is a University of Notre Dame alumna.

Jay Brockman, The University of Notre Dame

Jay Brockman is the Director of the Center for Civic Innovation at the University of Notre Dame.