Last summer, the Macalester Internship Program was awarded the Great Lakes Ready Internship Grant. The grant provides students with the opportunity to get paid for an otherwise unpaid internship completed during the academic year, given they have demonstrated financial need and a certain GPA.
Macalester was selected to receive the grant by the Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation, an organization that specializes in providing students with college loans.
“This kind of funding for internships is extremely rare,” Internship Office Director Mike Porter said. “They opened this grant up to every four-year college in the four-state area, and we were one of 40 schools to receive the grant, so we are really thrilled.”
The grant allowed 40 domestic students to receive a grant between $600 and $1,400 over the course of the Fall, January or Spring terms.
Provost Kathy Murray later decided to fund eight more internships to also give international students a chance to benefit from this opportunity.
According to Porter, the Internship Office received 30 applications for spring grants. Twenty-three students received the Great Lakes Grant this spring, seven of whom were working on entrepreneurship.
The goal of this grant is two-fold. Not only do the grantors want students to have the career-oriented experiences that internships provide, but they also want schools to make connections within their communities.
“Part of our initial challenge was that we weren’t just offering these opportunities, but also that we were offering them in new and different places to expand the range of options that our students have,” Porter said.
One way Macalester distinguished itself as a grant recipient was through its decision to require that applicants have an academic concentration.
“We thought that if these students, who are doing these highly interdisciplinary concentrations, had the opportunity to get a paid internship, it would almost serve as an experiential capstone or some kind of work experience in the community where they got to pull together all of their various academic experiences,” Porter said.
After a successful Fall semester, the Internship Office decided to expand the pool of eligible students beyond academic concentrators. Students applying for grants over J-term or spring semester could now receive the grant if they demonstrated an interest in entrepreneurship.
Porter explained that in addition to giving students experience in the private sector, an entrepreneurship-based internship also incorporates innovation and problem-solving in a way that appeals to Macalester students.
“The students have had some really great experiences that really have helped them realize what the career potential was for a particular field, how a certain population looks, or what some of the very real issues they have studied in class look like in the real world,” Porter said, “I know that a lot of the work that students have done has gone into either capstones, or preparing for capstones, but sometimes it just helped formulate new ideas and operationalize theory.”
Natalia Evens De Menezes ’15 interned for womenwinning, a local non-profit, under the African Studies concentration during the fall semester. According to De Menezes, the opportunity “was so great because I could actually see myself doing similar work. I’ve learned how much work goes into influencing positive change in politics and I’ve met some incredible female role models in the process.”
Anoushka Miller ’15 interned at the Center for Victims of Torture in Saint Paul. In addition to the work she did, Millear said that learning what it means to work in an office environment was a valuable part of her internship, an experience she had not had before.
“I wanted to do an internship anyways and I would’ve made it work, but it was really nice to have the grant money,” Millear said. “It meant that that was an extra 10 or 15 hours a week that I didn’t have to have another paying job, so that definitely made a difference.”
For other students, the grant money allowed them to consider internships further away from Macalester. Logan Hovie ’16, who applied for the grant through the Legal Studies concentration and interned at the Washington, D.C. office of U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, said the grant money “was helpful in offsetting living expenses.”
“In January, students could intern all over the country, and we were even able to provide a $400 travel stipend so people could go to new places,” Porter said. “One student went to Boston to do MRI-related research, and another went to Sacramento to study Urban Studies.”
As to the longevity of the grant, there is no confirmation on whether Macalester will be given this opportunity again in years to come. “It’s a one year grant, normally,” Porter said, “but I’m being optimistic.”