New internship program promotes social innovation

Wednesday, October 5, 2016
Dana Gringras

Dana Gingras '17

Dana Gingras '17 was struggling to figure out how she could afford to do an internship, which she believed would help guide her future, and still earn the credits she needs to graduate on time. A new UNH internship program provided the answer.

Semester in the City is a partnership with the College for Social Innovation, whose aim is to help students discover their passion and become leaders in areas of social change. UNH is the first university to team up with the Boston-based nonprofit. This semester — the first — has 12 UNH students participating in the 16-credit program. The internships are unpaid.

“With the Semester in the City program, I am able to participate in a full-time internship while gaining credit.

“With the Semester in the City program, I am able to participate in a full-time internship while gaining credit, and I will still be able to graduate in May,” says Gingras, a communication and women's studies dual major interning with a relationship-building nonprofit, Social Innovation Forum. “I'm so happy that I now have a taste of what postgraduate life looks like, and I now know a little better where I am heading in the months to come.”

Semester in the City includes a 30-hour workweek, an intensive evening course and a series of Friday seminars and workshops. Students pay the same tuition that they do for a regular semester at UNH; sometimes, less. Housing is offered by the College for Social Innovation at the same price as UNH campus accommodations. 

Students have been placed with Massachusetts businesses and nonprofits working in such areas as community development, education, health and social justice.

College for Social Innovation co-founder Eric Schwarz, recognized as UNH’s Social Innovator of the Year in 2015, was on campus recently extolling the benefits of the new program.

Sean Fogarty '17
Sean Fogarty '17

“Internships impact a student’s ability to get a great job,” Schwarz says, adding that the unpaid internship he did 36 years ago with then-U.S. Sen. Gary Hart changed his life. “I was a rarity; my parents had means. Not everyone can afford to take a semester off. We want to make internships accessible, not rare.”

Sean Fogarty '17 was one week into his internship with Green City Growers, a Somerville company that turns unused space into urban farms, when he realized he had made the right decision. A nontraditional student who had been attending UNH part-time, Fogarty decided to participate in Semester in the City even though it is a full-time program.

“Semester in the City offered me a chance to do hands-on learning in a real-world setting while being paired with an organization that matches my goals and interests,” says Fogarty, a sustainable agriculture and food systems major. “My position at Green City Growers will help me to get a handle on some of the social and systemic aspects of the food system that I would like to change. 

“In only a week of intensive training, I’ve gained an immense amount of confidence in my ability to find gainful employment upon graduation. Because of this, I am planning to again take a full course load in the spring and graduate next December.”

“The structure of Semester in the City is powerful because it combines a high quality and rigorous internship with the structure to support students in their work through mentoring, skill development and reflection,” says Fiona Wilson, executive director of the UNH Center for Social Innovation and Enterprise. “It also allows students to consider their career aspirations, build their resume and build a professional network that will help them for life after graduation, all while earning a full semester worth of academic credit toward their UNH degree.”