Internships help students gain confidence and connections.

Thursday, September 1, 2016
The 2016 social innovation interns ready to present at a showcase held at UNH's Paul College. Liberal Arts student Edith Allard gives the thumbs up.

“I am standing in a crowded elevator, steps away from reporting for my first day as a summer intern. I remember feeling similarly my first day of college: intimidated, excited and completely out of place. I try not to let the first jitters get the best of me as I remind myself to breathe and be confident. ‘Fake it until you make it,’ I repeat to myself.”

So began Stephanie Morales’ internship this summer at the College for Social Innovation in Boston, Mass., a non-profit that coordinates internships for college students in the social sector. Hers was one of 13 paid nine-week internships offered by the similarly named UNH Center for Social Innovation and Enterprise, a joint initiative of Paul College and the Carsey School that provides opportunities for UNH students and faculty to engage in activities aimed at solving social issues. Five liberal arts students were among the interns who worked at a variety of non-profit and for-profit businesses.

After the internship, Morales, majoring in journalism and international affairs, said her jitters were a thing of the past. She had successfully drafted a student guide, designed student activity programs and wore many other hats, “not all fashionable,” that are required in a small non-profit. Reflecting in her blog:

“…discomfort was what pushed me to grow and what sharpened my critical thinking skills … after my experience this summer, the future seems like less of a scary place and more so a place with endless opportunities and fulfillment.”

Internships. Study abroad experiences. Funded research trips. Co-curricular activities such as national competitions in scholarship and creativity. These are forms of experiential learning that can connect what students study in the classroom to the larger world — they amplify learning, build confidence and skills, and give graduates a leg up in the workforce.

Morales’ positive experience is a testament to the power of experiential learning. Her sentiments were echoed by the other student interns, all of whom gave public presentations about their work.

Edith Allard, studying journalism and international affairs, interned for the second year in a row at the Manchester, N.H. publication, New Hampshire Business Review (NHBR). She published a number of articles, including one on a partnership between the N.H. company Dyn, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and UNH Manchester that’s tackling the skilled worker shortage problem in New Hampshire. Allard has parlayed her careful work into a part-time paid position for NHBR, with articles now in the works on sustainability initiatives in New Hampshire businesses and New Hampshire towns that are helping immigrants secure jobs.

“[These] internships have really played a pivotal role in my educational development here at UNH” said Allard. “After working on the internship last summer, I started contributing regular articles about sustainability to UNH’s school paper, and I am planning to continue that work.”

By pursuing internships, students have taken responsibility for their career success and personal development, said Fiona Wilson, executive director of the UNH Center for Social Innovation and Enterprise. However, the experiences themselves create the momentum for success – a wave that students ride into the future.

Consider Gabrielle Greaves, an English and women’s studies major inspired by her internship to increase her engagement back in her home state. Greaves worked with the Post Landfill Action Network (PLAN), a leading non-profit in the zero waste movement on college campuses, co-founded and directed by UNH alumnus Alex Freid ’13. She drafted manuals and guides for member campuses, and worked alongside 1000-pound bales of textiles while developing the partnership between Goodwill Northern New England and PLAN. From Brooklyn, N.Y., Greaves said she wouldn’t have had this opportunity had she attended college in New York. But now, through her experience, she’s learned of an environmental organization in Brooklyn at which she’s eager to volunteer next summer.

“One of the most important things about this experience is networking, allowing us to make connections,” said Greaves. “Many of us interns have either gotten part-time or full-time jobs in the social sector, which is growing a lot faster than people expected.”

The social innovation internships are just one opportunity among many at UNH. Students in every major in the College of Liberal Arts can pursue an internship. For liberal arts students who may not yet see a clear career path, internships are an important tool for exploring interests. UNH Career and Professional Success offers regular internship information sessions and maintains a list of opportunities. And departments are ready to help. Intern Dana Gingras, a communication and women’s studies major, said her liberal arts departments have been “nothing but supportive…they very much have the success of the student in mind.”

Information about the summer 2017 Social Innovation Internships will be available in January. To receive updates, visit the Center for Social Innovation and Enterprise website.

September 2016