Stockton University in New Jersey launched a pilot program this summer that offers undergraduates from primarily underserved populations the opportunity to engage in paid internships focused on workforce development exploration, that also benefit the local economy in Atlantic City, while earning college credit. The Atlantic City Summer Experience Live, Work, Learn (LWL) program seeks to diversify the racial and ethnic composition of students participating in experiential learning opportunities, which has been less than 15% among Black and Latinx students in service learning, study abroad, and internships.
To remove barriers to education and workforce development, Stockton partnered with several corporations in the Atlantic City hospitality and health care industries to provide employment opportunities and paid internships with college credits, which also addressed the summer labor shortage. The LWL program benefited from the relationships built through long-standing, robust community engagement and service learning in the Atlantic City area. As a result, qualified students received free campus housing in the city, four free college credits, and a paid internship or employment, as well as a discount on additional courses. Corporations partnered with the university, creating a scaffold for guided work experiences that encouraged students to network among local businesses and explore employment opportunities post-graduation. Employment opportunities ranged from accounting, marketing, IT, and hospitality to health care and a variety of other experiences.
To promote “diversity and inclusion” and “inclusive student success,” two of the university’s six themes in its 2025 Strategic Plan, Stockton recognized a barrier to student participation in summer experiential learning opportunities is limited funds and housing. These factors disproportionately impacted students with limited access to resources and students in the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) program, which assists low-income, New Jersey residents who are highly motivated and capable but lack adequate preparation and/or financial means for higher education. Many of the Stockton students cannot afford summer housing, either because it is not covered under financial aid or mitigates the use of summer earnings to afford school during the traditional academic year
To make the LWL program a reality, the university’s Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs and the Chief Operating Officer for the Atlantic City campus began work in February 2022, connecting with local industry in hospitality and healthcare. The university signed on AtlantiCare Hospital, Bally’s Atlantic City, Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, Caesars Atlantic City, the Claridge Hotel, FantaSea Resorts, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City, Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City, Ocean, Tropicana Atlantic City, Resorts Casino Hotel, and Steel Pier, which partnered in a joint employment and hiring process. The partners provided available job descriptions that were posted on a Stockton University webpage, webinars promoting the new program, and a digital application process for students. In turn, corporations interviewed and made offers to qualified students, collaborating with the university to provide mentorship through the internship course.
Through the LWL program, students received free assigned housing on the university’s Atlantic City campus on the Boardwalk and automatic enrollment in a free four-credit leadership and work-readiness course. For the duration program, students had to maintain employment at one of the approved businesses from mid-May to mid-August 2022, maintain presence in the course, and remain in good standing at the institution. Students in the program who wanted to take additional courses could do so for a 20% discounted tuition.
More than 700 student applications were collected for the program in its inaugural year; 153 students were accepted—substantially higher than the university’s anticipated pilot enrollment of 40 students. The participation data revealed that the LWL program is assisting students of color and students who are academically vulnerable: 64% students of color, 19% EOF program students, and 31% transfer students. Two-thirds of all participants are women.
Stockton recognizes the program’s potential. It expects to expand the LWL program by forging long-term partnerships with small businesses and more corporations in Atlantic City and the surrounding area, and offer the program year-round, not just during the summer months. With the anticipated success of the pilot program this summer and its likely growth, the LWL program is expected to contribute to the achievement of Stockton’s persistence, retention, and completion goals for its students, particularly students from underserved populations. In addition, the program seeks to increase students’ exposure, understanding, and appreciation for career opportunities locally and encourage them to live and work in the Atlantic City area post-graduation.
To build the LWL program, Stockton University leveraged the community relationships developed through its long-standing community engagements, cultivated through partnerships and service-learning work over the years. Identification of student needs and barriers is essential to creating programming this is a benefit to students and the community. The university is an active participant in state and national organizations devoted to service and earned the Carnegie Foundation’s Elective Classification for Community Engagement (CE). CE designation involves strenuous data collection and documentation of important aspects of Stockton’s mission, identity, and commitments, which was critical in identifying institutional and student needs to enhance student access and success.
In addition, the university’s marketing of the program and its plug as a boon to the local economy increased the number of interested industry partners and corporations. Stockton University only contacted three employers, but 13 reached out based on hearing about the LWL program’s benefits from other industry leaders.
“I saw this as the perfect opportunity to get my foot in the door. AtlantiCare has been very accommodating so far with training, and they covered my CPI [Crisis Prevention Intervention] and BLS [Basic Life Support] certifications. I want to be a doctor, so it’s been a great experience so far getting to work around doctors and nurses.”
Nashia Ara, a sophomore biology major working at AtlantiCare Hospital