Experiential Learning Opportunities

The Public & Professional Writing program offers and supports a range of experiential learning for students looking to expand and complement their studies, as well as prepare for the professional world.


Check out our searchable internship database!

PPW internships are distinct from many other internships offered at the University. These internships are designed to focus closely on the theory and practice of writing, integrating a significant intellectual exploration of the Public and Professional Writing internship experience.

We recommend that you register for Handshake, the University's comprehensive career services platform. They have a large internship database, and provide you direct information about upcoming career fairs, networking events, and on-campus interview information.

What will I learn during a PPW internship?

PPW interns keep a journal, prepare a major project about their experience, attend a weekly class (ENGCMP 1900: Internship in PPW), and prepare a speech and letter recapping their internship experience. When establishing internship agreements with agencies and companies, we agree that our PPW interns will spend at least 50 percent of their time on the job writing. Students commit a minimum of 10–15 hours per week to the internships and are expected to perform as reliable and responsible professionals.

On site, you can expect to have a productive, substantive writing experience where you will learn from and contribute to the sponsoring agency, company, or project.

Who is eligible for PPW internships?

PPW internships are available only to PPW majors or students who have been accepted into the PPW Certificate program. Internships are offered during the fall, spring, and summer terms (if you have an out-of-town internship, arrangements can be made to allow you to complete ENGCMP 1900 online).

How do I register for a PPW internship?

First, read the requirements and guidelines for all English department internships. Email internship coordinator Sarah Leavens. She can answer your questions, tell you when the internship class (ENGCMP 1900) will meet, and may even be able to suggest sites that are looking for good interns. Check out our searchable internship database and see what opportunities interest you. Contact potential sites to find out how they want you to apply for an internship. Some sites may want to interview you. When you have found a site that has agreed to accept you as an intern, download and complete this learning agreement, which spells out your responsibilities on the job and at school. Deliver the learning agreement to Brenda, who will then register you for the internship through the ENGCMP 1900: Internship in PPW course.

Are PPW students eligible for financial assistance?

Yes. Several endowments provide grants for Pitt undergraduates pursuing various internships. Awards are given on a competitive basis to provide grants for internships and support for living expenses for out-of-town internships. For more details and an application for funding, please visit the English Department internship page.

Who do I contact with additional questions?

Reach out to Sarah Leavens, the internship coordinator for the English Department. Whether you're on the market for your first internship or have general questions after reading this page, Brenda can recommend great internships based on your interests as well as answer any questions you may have.

Independent Study

The point of an independent study is to allow you to propose a course of study (not just a project) in an area for which we do not currently offer courses.

The director of the PPW program can support you in your independent study or you can ask a faculty member who teaches in the program to serve as your academic sponsor.

You may not propose an independent study that replicates a course that we already offer. The number of credits you register for is determined by the number of hours you will invest in the course:

Number of Credits to Be Earned Hours of Student Effort (reading, research, meetings)
1 3-5 hours/week
2 6-10 hours/week
3 12-15 hours/week

Most students propose 3-credit independent studies.

Please write a proposal in memo format that includes the below information:

The name of your course of study and the number of credits you want to earn. The name should indicate a larger set of concerns, not just the project you want to do. (For example, we offer a course called “Grant and Proposal Writing,” not “A Proposal to Fund a New Children’s Program at the Pittsburgh Zoo”). Two or three paragraphs that explain why this is a relevant study for Public and Professional Writing. The specific material (books, articles, blogs, interviews) you will use to learn about this topic in general or to prepare for one or more of the projects you will create. Your plan for how you will learn about writing and rhetoric in this area. Your exploration can include reading texts about writing in this field if they exist. Otherwise, you may identify examples of writing in this field that you will study and write a research project about those examples (the focus of this project could be on the features, style, research methods, appeals to authority, or more, for example). You may also include interviews with professionals or other appropriate strategies for learning about your topic.

Be sure that your academic sponsor approves of your plan. It is worthwhile to have a couple of conversations with them while you are drafting. Submit your completed proposal to the director of PPW. When it is approved, the appropriate number of credits (usually 3) will be added to your schedule.

When the term starts, you are responsible for following your syllabus and for meeting with your academic sponsor regularly (at least once a month). You may alter your proposed plan only with the permission of your sponsor.

Students’ final projects for the independent studies are often interesting pieces for others in the program to read, so we like to post them online. You can see the final projects of some past PPW students below. Keep in mind that these projects represent only part of their independent study work.

  • A description of the projects you will write. You need to revise as part of your work, but that doesn’t mean that you have to revise all your writing. For example, you can write two short papers that don’t get revised along with a longer project that does get revised.
  • A syllabus, with dates, that indicates when you will complete readings and writing projects or drafts. You cannot make all your writing due at the end of the term: writing projects (or drafts of writing projects) must be due throughout the term.
Undergraduate Research

Undergraduates are welcome to apply for research opportunities to pursue interests that they have developed while taking classes in the Composition program.

The Office of Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity (OUR) allows students to define and carry out research projects with the support of a faculty mentor. They also offer exciting field research opportunities and small grants. 

OUR's Spring, Summer, and Fall Undergraduate Research Awards give you a stipend the term you are doing your research. You can read more about deadlines and applications on the OUR site. 

The University Honors College (UHC) also supports undergraduate research. Browse the research opportunities that are available in the Summer, Fall, and Spring. These include fellowships based in the community, arts, interdisciplinary fields, health, archive work, and more. 

UTA: Undergraduate Teaching Assistantship

All such experiential learning in the Composition program must comply with the Guidelines for Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Teaching Experience. These guidelines will also help you to determine how many credits should be awarded for the experience.

You can work with an individual faculty member who wants a teaching assistant by using the ENGCMP 1901 UTA: Teaching and Tutoring Writing course number. Most often, you will be helping to support a class you took previously. To pursue this option, have a conversation with the faculty member you would like to work with, then obtain a form from the English Advising Office, which both you and the instructor will complete and sign. When you return it to English Advising, one of the advisors will assign it a “class number” (a five-digit number for registration purposes), and give you a permission number for self-enrollment.

Chancellor's Undergraduate Teaching Fellowship

All experiential learning in the Composition program must comply with the Guidelines for Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Teaching Experience. These guidelines will also help you to determine how many credits should be awarded for the experience.

The University Honors College administers the Chancellor's Undergraduate Teaching Fellowships, which award students $800 for joint student-faculty teaching projects. These fellowships are designed to enrich course offerings and to improve teaching through faculty-UTA collaboration in the planning and implementation of creative teaching projects. The fellowships are available for one term, either fall or spring. See the CUTF page for application details and deadlines.

Peer Tutoring in the Writing Center

All experiential learning in the Composition program must comply with the Guidelines for Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Teaching Experience. These guidelines will also help you to determine how many credits should be awarded for the experience.

Tutoring for the University Writing Center is a rewarding experience for anyone interested in the teaching of writing, literacy, editing and publishing, and working one-on-one with fellow students and writers. To become a peer tutor, you should

Enroll in the course ENGCMP 1210, Tutoring Peer Writers, offered in the Fall semester. Enroll as a Peer Intern in the Writing Center (using the ENGCMP 1901 course number) in the Spring semester for three credits.

The following year, you may apply for employment in the Writing Center for pay but not credit. For more information, visit the Writing Center's peer tutoring page.