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Arts and Sciences alumni triple gifts for experience grants

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Rebecca Valli

College of Arts and Sciences alumni have donated $75,000 to help students in the college who are taking unpaid summer internships.

For the past two years, the college’s Career Development Center has managed the summer experience grant program, using funds from alumni donations as well as funds from the Student Assembly to help students with unpaid internships afford housing, travel and transportation. This year, several more alumni donors stepped up to help.

Steven Isko ’86, an economics major who went on to Harvard Law School and is partner and general counsel at JW Levin Management Partners, contributed to the fund. “Internships are an important part of a person’s education because they provide a firsthand opportunity to explore different careers,” Isko said.

Apply for grants
Student grant applications are due April 19. More information and the application can be found on the Arts and Sciences website.

Last year, grants helped 19 Arts and Sciences students boost their resumes and gain career-related experience. The expanded funding should allow staff to help 30 to 35 students this year, said Jennifer Maclaughlin, assistant dean and director of the Career Development Center.

“At Cornell, we’re lucky because there are a lot of paid internships for students,” Maclaughlin said. “But there are some industries where internships will always be unpaid no matter what’s happening in the economy or in the country.”

Those industries can vary, she said, but often include government work, nonprofits, international groups, think tanks, social justice organizations, and health or medical fields.

“The best way for government to operate effectively is for smart people from diverse backgrounds to come together to solve the complex policy issues facing us,” said Ellen Gertsen ’02, whose gift supports summer experience grants. “Internships provide students with great insights into the inner workings of the various branches of government beyond what they learn in the classroom. Through summer grants, more students are encouraged to become involved, which hopefully will lead them to pursue careers in government.”

Gertsen, who was a science of earth systems major, is a senior operations research analyst with the Office of the Chief Financial Officer at NASA.

Last year, 81 Arts and Sciences students applied for the grants, Maclaughlin said, noting, “It is my goal to someday be able to fund every student who has an unpaid internship.”

Jeff Fine ’85, who supported the grants, is an investor and the former CEO/president of CIBT, a travel visa and passport company.

“To think about the world, you can simply read a book, but to truly understand the nature of the world, you need to travel,” Fine said. “Meeting people, asking questions and seeing the sights, these are all critically important for anyone who wants to understand global issues and opportunities.”

Summer internships and positions can be critical for students trying to ascertain a career path or figure out where they might want to live.

“Working at the federal level in public service, especially during such an interesting time for the Department of Education, was an exceptionally exciting opportunity,” said Nathan Baker ’17, a government major and a grant recipient last year. “This position combined my passions for public service, education policy, government and the legislative process.”

Although the internship didn’t change Baker’s mind about the kind of career he wants to pursue, it did help him solidify his love for the D.C. area. “No other city contains the same mix of similarly minded yet diverse people as D.C.,” he said.

Maclaughlin said summer internships are opportunities for students to “try out” a career or field to see if it’s a good match for them. “We want students to think critically about their career goals and how this internship might fit with their interests and goals, but often students will find that what they thought was a good match for them really isn’t,” she said.

Kathy Hovis is a writer for the College of Arts and Sciences.

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