Whither Interns?

In an end-of-summer ritual that's as predictable as the return of heavier traffic to the Beltway, thousands of college students have abandoned their photocopiers and cubicles for classrooms and dorm rooms.

They leave behind grateful but stressed-out bosses, partially finished projects and permanent employees about to pick up the work that the interns handled all summer.

Intern withdrawal hits and hurts all sorts of workplaces, especially as interns have increasingly taken on serious tasks.

At the American Association of University Women in Washington, about eight interns worked this summer on research, legal advocacy and public policy to promote education and equity for women and girls.

The intern in the AAUW's research department helped with a project on sexual harassment on college campuses and brought a fresh perspective to the data.

"They'll jump right into cold water, where I'm careful to measure what the temperature is," said Catherine Hill, an AAUW senior research associate.

But now the intern and her ideas have headed back to Brandeis University, and Hill and the remaining staff continue with the research.

"When fall comes, the offices are a little quieter," said Hill.

The big hope for overburdened workers and bosses: Fall interns, many of whom start in mid- to late September.

-- Vickie Elmer