The Advocacy Officers of the University of South Australia Students Association (USASA) are responsible for providing confidential and independent academic policy advice to UniSA students. This service supports students in processes relating to their academic performance and progress. The advocacy team recognised that amongst the student cohort they assist, there was an opportunity to further enhance student support and experience via an internship program.
The internship is a 14-week program in which each week the interns must grow different personal and professional skills through the scope of a pre-designed internship manual. During the first ten weeks interns sit in on advocacy appointments and meetings with permission from clients. During these meetings they can learn what the advocates do, including professional communication and the implementation and understanding of the Assessment Policies and Procedures Manual (University of South Australia Academic Policies). They are also given the opportunity to watch the advocates in a non-judgmental environment respond to often distressing situations for clients, and how to ensure that they have appropriate information to services such as counselling and the Student Ombudsman.
During these ten weeks the advocates spend a significant amount of time allowing the interns to ask questions and debrief, as well as learn and take case notes for clients. During weeks nine and ten the interns begin to lead client meetings with the advocates support, and an opportunity for direct feedback on their skills and interactions. Weeks eleven to fourteen are completely practical and the interns undertake a small caseload supervised by the advocacy officers.
The internship manual is innovative in that it not only focuses on improvement of academic policy analysis skills but on the professional personal skill sets and knowledge of the interns. The internship manual was developed after a year and a half of research. The weekly topics draw on the broad knowledge base of the advocacy team (law, social work and mediation) who mentor the students through each of the core learning areas. These include professional communication, body language, negotiating, mediation, mindfulness and preventing burn out, work life balance, goal setting and navigating workplace relationships among others.
Gain work experience knowledge from a client-based service.
Develop policy review skills and proper application from dealing with real cases.
Case analysis and review, including record keeping of cases.
Learn the importance of professional conduct.
Professional and personal skills development for the students.
Comprehensive work environment experience for the students.
‘The USASA internship is highly valuable on top of your tertiary studies as it combines practical skills and theory by working with students, advocates and advising through policy’. USASA Advocacy Intern 2017
‘This internship has allowed me to develop my teamwork, interpersonal and policy review skills, as well as many others’. USASA Advocacy Intern 2017
‘My time as an intern advocate with USASA was overall, a highly enjoyable and educative experience. The team are highly supportive, and in touch with the learning process. They encourage the interns to have a go and let them know they are there for support to fall back on if need be’. USASA Advocacy Intern 2018
‘Since I’m an international student, it was great chance of learning about the policies and their importance for the University. I can say most of the information written in APPM was completely new to me. Now I know more about my rights as international student and also the rules and I can explain those to other students’. USASA Advocacy Intern 2018
USASA Advocacy Internship opportunities re-open in SP2 Februrary 2020. Check back here to apply.