Grants help students take unpaid internships

By: Mary Jarvis,  A&S Communications
September 14, 2015

In an effort to help students who can't afford the expenses of an unpaid internship, the College of Arts and Sciences’ Career Development Center partnered with the Student Assembly this summer to offer the Summer Experience Grant, which offered money for living expenses so that students who can’t afford to take an unpaid internship in another city can have that experience.

This year $47,000 was awarded to 22 students from the College of Arts and Sciences and two from the College of Architecture, Art and Planning.

The effort began when Arts and Sciences student Danyoung Kim ’16 circulated a petition, bringing to light the issue of affordability when pursuing an unpaid internship. Student Assembly members Emma Johnston ’16, Franklin Yang ’17 and Matt Henderson ’16 spent the fall working with Kim.

“What if you can’t work an unpaid internship because you had to work a paid job, and five years down the line this is the only thing that separates you from another applicant in the job pool?” Johnston said. “… [and] you didn’t get the job because you had to earn extra cash in the summer while your peer who didn’t was able to gain valuable experience in his or her field.”

In the end, the Assembly agreed to use the Students Helping Students (SHS) fund, a program funded by a $1 per student allocation from the Undergraduate Student Activity Fee. An endowment has been established to make SHS self-sufficient. “The fund itself had grown to over $1.6 million, and we wanted to give that money back to the students,” Yang said.

Linda He, a senior economics major and grant winner, spent the summer on the Knowledge Team for Ashoka’s Changemakers program headquartered in Washington, D.C. Ashoka supports social entrepreneurs with the hope of being a catalyst for social change. She supported the impact evaluation processes for the organization, collaborative partnerships with foundations and corporations, and research related to driving social change.

The internship changed her.

“Because Ashoka operates under a vision of not just helping individuals and communities but really changing the systems and structures that our society operates within, I learned so much about critically analyzing the frameworks that we are currently in,” He said. “In just a few weeks alone, I heard so many different definitions of social change and change-making that will constantly challenge me to refine and be intentional about my work.”

She also learned how to work in a professional atmosphere, think critically and be an active participant in meetings – all skills that will benefit her in the workforce.

“Because of the Summer Experience Grant for students in the College of Arts and Sciences, this opportunity became financially feasible for me,” He said. “The grant helped cover all of my major expenditures related to housing and transportation.

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