The typical internship looks something like this: The peon follows the boss to a couple of mind-numbing meetings, fills out a spreadsheet destined for the waste basket, and turns her gaze to the clock with soul-killing frequency.
It is a particularly disastrous formula for a state like Rhode Island that wants so desperately to excite students about post-college possibilities here.
So it was with special urgency that, at an economic summit put together by Congressman James Langevin in April, a breakout group facilitated by RISD's Maeda moved to re-imagine the institution.
Under the "internpreneurship" model, the student would be viewed not as an empty vessel, but as a thinking person who might possess a unique perspective or set of skills.
And rather than sitting at the center of the company, alone and with little to do, she would be teamed up with other interns at the periphery and given a project of substance: help the firm make better use of technology, say, or develop a strategy for reaching younger consumers.
"These are things that college-age interns, particularly if they have an entrepreneurship gene, are good at doing," says Allan Tear, who was part of the group that studied the issue and has taken the lead in making it a reality.
Tear, a managing partner at technology and design incubator Betaspring, says the idea draws inspiration from IBM's Extreme Blue — a highly competitive program that has used teams of interns at offices around the world to develop dozens of patented products.
"It's not just an exercise," he says. "We know that it works."