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Northwestern University

Grants Expand Summer Opportunities

Hundreds of students are pursuing unpaid professional internships this summer with the help of grants of $3,000 or more

Thanks to grants of at least $3,000 from Northwestern Career Advancement’s Summer Internship Grant Program, 255 students across seven Northwestern University schools and colleges – including more than 120 students from the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences – have been able to pursue unpaid internships this summer with organizations such as National Public Radio, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Institute for Public Health and Medicine.

“We want to give students an opportunity to pursue the career of their dreams without financial pressures,” Northwestern Career Advancement executive director Mark Presnell says of the awards.

The 255 grants are nearly four times the amount of awards the department doled out in 2014 and the first time in the program’s nine-year history that more than 100 students received grants.

Presnell credits the growth of the program to a pair of key programmatic changes.

First, Northwestern Career Advancement eliminated its longstanding rule that relegated students to one award during their time at Northwestern, which compelled many students to postpone applying until later in their academic careers. With that restriction removed, applications increased from 287 in 2014 to 411 this year.

Second, the grant prize rose from $2,500 to $3,000-$6,000 thanks to increased funding from the Northwestern University President and Provost’s offices as well as alumni donations, including a gift from Roberta Buffett Elliott’54 and The Buffett Institute.

The grants, Presnell says, make it possible for students to participate in rich real-world learning opportunities related to their prospective careers, particularly for those in fields in which paid internships are rare, such as nonprofits and government agencies.

“It’s about leveling the playing field and making sure opportunities are available for all of our students regardless of their backgrounds,” Presnell says, adding that all applicants were evaluated based on the quality of their application and individual need.

For the 255 recipients, Presnell hopes the summertime internships provide students an opportunity to build the professional track records so many employers prize,  and to gain added insight into potential career fields.

“I hope each of these students learns what it’s like in a particular field firsthand, so they can make more informed decisions about their career path,” he says. “As an institution of higher learning, I think these are the types of experiences we should be promoting to our students.”

Alison Brockman ’17: An experience in the British Embassy

With the recent passing of her father, Weinberg College student Alison Brockman knew finances were tight at home.

So even though Brockman has long been intrigued by government work, she dismissed the idea of a public sector internship this summer, given that such opportunities rarely pay.

“It’s hard to get an idea of what it’s like working in the public sector unless you get that direct opportunity and, truthfully, I just didn’t think that was possible this year given our family situation,” Brockman says.

Northwestern Career Advancement’s $3,000 Summer Internship Grant Program award, however, opened up a new world for Brockman, a triple-major junior studying economics, political science and international studies at Northwestern.

Rather than a summer back home in Omaha, Brockman is tackling lead generation work for the United Kingdom’s Government Trade & Investment Division as an intern in the British Embassy’s Chicago office. Every day, Brockman is contacting both U.S.- and U.K.-based companies interested in bringing their products or investing overseas.

“The grant allowed me to take a shot on an internship that offered an incredible opportunity,” Brockman says. “I really feel like I’m working for people who care about what’s going on in the world around them and that the work I do has an impact.”

Navin Gopaul ’18: Learning at Nibbly

If not for Northwestern Career Advancement’s Summer Internship Grant Program, Navin Gopaul would likely be working a retail job or putting in hours at a local tutoring space.

Instead, the $3,000 award propelled Gopaul into a summer internship with New York-based Nibbly, an ambitious startup developing a Tinder-like app for restaurants.

“The grant has freed me up to focus more on learning and building important career skills without having to worry about outside responsibilities like a part-time job,” says Gopaul, a computer science major who recently finished his first year at Northwestern.

Gopaul’s eight-week summer internship consists of transferring features from Nibbly’s existing iOS app onto the Android platform, a role that has the New York City native collaborating with other professionals and various computer codes in a fast-paced, real-world setting.

“I feel this experience is setting me up for my career because I’m learning how to work with others and adapt,” he says. “I’ve been able to really dig in and learn about the field, which is important for a young student like myself who has so much to experience and learn.”

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