Founding intern spreads program info at UNH

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Carolyn Riley

Starting in the fall of 2016, UNH will be the first university to partner with the College for Social Innovation in Boston to offer semester-long internships in the city. The nonprofit’s aim is to help students discover their passion and go on to become leaders who will solve the world’s most critical problems.   

Semester in the City

UNH undergraduates have the opportunity to spend a semester in Boston working for the public good in a rigorous internship with leading social change organizations in the areas of community development, social justice, health, education, the environment and others.

The 16-credit Semester in the City program includes an intensive evening course that examines the theory and practice of various social change approaches and a series of Friday seminars and reflective workshops.

The deadline to apply (priority status) is Oct. 2, 2016, and the general deadline to apply is Oct. 23, 2016.

Apply here 

Carolyn Riley may well be one of those leaders. During the summer of 2015, through an internship with UNH’s Center for Social Innovation and Enterprise, Riley ’16 served as the new nonprofit’s “founding intern.” She sat in on meetings with the branding agency crafting the messaging for the Semester in the City program, offered input on the logo design and developed its website.

A communication and women’s studies dual major who is completing her undergraduate work in just three years, Riley is president of Lambda Pi Eta, UNH's chapter of the National Communication Association, and is a member of Net Impact, an organization that fosters the use of business skills to support social and environmental causes.

Next semester she will spend two weeks at The Washington Center in the nation’s capital studying political media communication. Meanwhile, she is serving as ambassador for Semester in the City here at UNH. All proof that, if she’s not a changemaker yet, she is well on her way.

“I was their first employee so I got to be really involved,” the Newmarket native says of her summer with the College for Social Innovation. “During market testing there was a lot of discussion about whether it should be the ‘College of’ or the ‘College for.’” After they decided on “for” Riley came up with the nonprofit’s slogan, “What Are You For?”

“I really felt like I was part of it all,” she says, noting that she was sick when several logos were presented by the branding agency but they were not decided upon until she returned. “They said ‘We didn’t want to make too many decisions without you there.’ I felt pretty proud.”

As the then-sole employee, Riley worked closely with co-founder and CEO Eric Schwarz, attending meetings where she was exposed to the process of getting an organization started and learning the ropes from the ground up. The two met frequently to assess her work.

“It was my first internship experience, so there were a lot of areas where I needed constructive criticism. My work ethic and quality of deliverables dramatically improved and I feel 10 times more confident interacting with business professionals through being pushed to rise to the occasion,” Riley says.

“Carolyn exemplifies our interns – passionate changemakers who are hungry to work across disciplines and to tackle the world’s pressing social and environmental problems,” says Yusi Turell, co-director of the Center for Social Innovation and Enterprise, which coordinates the eight-week paid summer program.

Now, Riley is helping to spread the word about Semester in the City among UNH students, managing social media around the program and helping to supervise outreach. Even though the internships don’t start until fall 2016, UNH students have already been expressing interest, attending information sessions Riley helps coordinate.

The program will offer internships to students around the county at leading Boston social change organizations in such areas as education reform, social justice, community development and the environment. Components of the 16-credit semester include four days working at an organization, an evening course aimed at helping students build what Riley calls a “social innovation toolbox,” and a weekly daylong workshop where they will learn about social change.

“They’ll be able to develop a digital portfolio that they can put on their resumes,” says Riley, who also happens to be a standup comic.

When she graduates in May, Riley hopes to parlay her first office experience into a full-time job in Boston. And she’s not worried about starting with an entry-level position.

“Being in a business environment, I found I like being the youngest person in the room,” Riley says. “It motivates me.” 

Spoken like a true future leader.