As we move into the home stretch of our first “Semester in the City” internship program and prepare to graduate 14 inaugural Social Innovation Fellows on Dec. 16, I am thankful for the enthusiasm, resiliency, and warmth that has characterized these promising young problem solvers.
By Eric Schwarz
In my day to day life, I’m as optimistic as they come. My friend Charlie Rose once told me that I wasn’t just a “pie in the sky” optimist, I was a “whole bakery in the sky” optimist. Yet for 20 years – like many social activists – I’ve talked more about what’s wrong with the world than what’s right. Ten years ago I wrote a paper saying the American Dream was ending and opportunity declining. Recently I’ve joined many education reformers and social entrepreneurs to recite a litany of concerns about achievement gaps, failing public schools, and an urgent need to abandon our current failed approach.
I’m starting to think that I – that we – have been fundamentally wrong. It’s not that we don’t face huge problems and huge injustices. We do. In many areas social progress is too slow and in some areas we are sliding backwards. But I am coming to believe that a “glass half empty” description of our current reality – a frame that mostly talks about problems with our economy, our education system, and our public institutions – is fundamentally inaccurate and may actually undermine future progress.
I’ve been thinking about these issues as I work with colleagues to launch College for Social Innovation – a new venture to educate and inspire the next generation of problem solvers to tackle humanity’s tough challenges.
Last night I spoke to our awesome pilot cohort of 14 students – college sophomores, juniors, and seniors enrolled in our fully-credited, semester-long internship program that matches diverse cohorts of students with mentors at some of Boston’s best social change organizations. I spoke about why I think it’s the best time in human history to be a problem solver. It's a great time to be a problem solver in part because there are big problems. Climate change, economic inequality, racism, terrorism. These are big problems and we’ll need waves of creative, wise, team-oriented problem solvers to address them.
It’s also a great time to be a problem solver because we have huge momentum. The arc of history really is bending toward justice, as Dr. Martin Luther King suggested it would in his 1964 commencement address at Wesleyan University. Turn on the TV or listen to many political leaders and you hear that things are getting worse – that our very existence and way of life is threatened by incompetent government leaders or evil capitalists. But in actuality, across a range of issues the evidence shows we are making extra-ordinary progress. We are building a more just world with more learning, more opportunity, more wealth, more safety, and more access to human rights.
Compared to the 1950s, almost four times as many human beings live in countries where they vote for their leaders and enjoy basic human rights.
Violence due to war and/or terrorism is down and violent crime in the US since 1992 has declined dramatically. In the early 1990s, one in twelve Americans was a victim of violent crime every year. Today it’s one in forty-eight.
In the last 20 years the percentage of the world’s population living in extreme poverty declined from 37.1 percent to 9.6 percent
Since 1980 real after-tax income for Americans in the bottom income quintile (the bottom fifth) has grown by 46 percent (after adjusting for inflation). For Americans in the middle three quintiles, real after-tax income grew by 41 percent in this same time period. Wealthy people did better – particularly the top 1 percent – but the critique of many that average families have made no progress just isn’t true.
Finally, did you know that despite persistent educational achievement gaps today’s African-American and Latino 9th graders are as proficient in math as the average African-American or Latino 12th grader was in 1980? Did you know that the race-based academic achievement gap has been cut in half since the 1950s and that the college access (but not college completion) gap is almost gone?
I’m not advocating for some happy talk narrative that minimizes our challenges or raises false hopes. We live amidst severe injustices that do and should cause outrage. But the outrages we face today should not turn us into cynics. Just as research shows overwhelmingly that children learn more when they develop a growth mindset, I believe society will progress more if we adopt a societal growth mindset. We need to cultivate belief that change is possible by studying and celebrating the real positive change happening all around us.
I believe we are more likely to solve tomorrow’s big problems if we recognize the progress we are making today. And I worry we undermine our efforts to make progress when we tell the American public that our public and private institutions are broken, that little is working, and that the glass is half-empty and getting emptier.
By Eric Schwarz
Millions of words have been written about “doing well while doing good” – the idea that businesses can make a profit while also doing good in the world. Less has been written about the idea that individuals – including first generation college students – can also “do well while doing good.” Yet the truth, underscored by recently released national and Massachusetts data, is there are millions of opportunities for young people to build good careers (doing well) while solving problems in their communities and around the world (doing good).
The new data is really exciting because it underscores the dual purpose of College for Social Innovation - to educate and inspire the next generation of problem solvers AND to open the doors of opportunity to more young people by equalizing access to the kind of great internships and great mentors that often launch careers and change lives.
Recently released data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates the nonprofit sector is one of the fastest growing sectors in the US economy (Figure 1). Jobs in the nonprofit sector are more stable as they tend to be service-oriented (and therefore unlikely to be outsourced or computerized) and also relatively recession-proof as they rely on a mix of funding from government, user fees, and philanthropy. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the non-profit sector as a whole grew by 8.5 percent in the five-year period from 2007 to 2012, adding about one million jobs, while the for-profit sector shrunk by 3 percent. Over the same five year period, overall wages, not adjusted for inflation, grew by 26.3 percent in the nonprofit sector and by 7.6 percent in the for-profit sector.
The social sector as a whole (including nonprofits and government) boasts 33 million full-time jobs – 20 million of them requiring a college degree. Millions more work in social mission businesses. Surprisingly (at least to me), pay and benefits in the social sector is competitive. If your goal coming out of college is to get to a six-figure salary while still in your 20s and to eventually land in the top 1% (a salary north of $300,000), a for-profit career in finance, consulting, or law is likely the best way to go. But if your goal is earning a solid middle- to upper middle-income salary and building a purpose-rich career - then the social sector is a great option.
A Bureau of Labor Statistics report said the average non-profit job pays more than the average for-profit job, represented in the chart above. That’s partly because a lot of the low-end minimum wage jobs are for-profit (think fast food). When you go up the wage scale and look at management jobs that require a college degree, the private sector generally pays slightly more, but when you factor in benefits like health care, overall compensation in the social sector is competitive.
College for Social Innovation has a mission of educating and inspiring the next generation of problem solvers. We’re looking to get great people into the social sector and help them build the skills they’ll need to strengthen organizations tackling humanity’s tough challenges. We also think the social sector represents a great career opportunity for anyone, including low-income and first generation college students.
These ideas were front and center last week as we welcomed 100-plus fun-loving colleagues in the social sector to celebrate the formal opening of our new headquarters near Boston’s South Station. Represented at the opening were great social mission businesses like Freight Farms and Green City Growers – both helping low-income communities grow healthy food while reducing food miles and, therefore, global warming. Non-profits like Citizen Schools and The Possible Project spoke to the power of experiential learning to accelerate opportunity for middle school and high school students. College access programs such as Let’s Get Ready, UAspire, One Goal, and Bottom Line described how they increasingly see their mission as not just getting low-income students into college but through college and into good careers.
As College for Social Innovation works to develop a better, bigger, and more diverse talent pipeline for social change, we are particularly excited to shape career opportunities for those coming from families and communities still trying to gain access to good jobs at good wages. Two-thirds of the students in our founding cohort of students are first generation students, students of color, and/or low-income. Our aim is to open the door to good middle class jobs for millions of underserved college students while simultaneously helping thousands of social sector organizations tackle humanity’s tough challenges -- truly doing well while doing good!
By Stephanie Morales
I am standing in a crowded elevator, steps away from reporting for my first day as College for Social Innovation's 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. I start my day by constructing a work-plan with my supervisor and grow anxious about whether I will ever reach my goals and finish impending projects. I begin to grasp the truth for myself that success in academia, GPA, and bookish knowledge are not the only ingredients in the coveted recipe for success. This work won't just be for the eyes of my professor. My work will be seen by my teammates and the public, which makes it feel more important and influential. No classroom could have prepared me for this.
Fast forward to nine weeks later, and I've met my goals and surpassed expectations of what I aspired to accomplish. It was not long ago when I stumbled over my words in meetings more often that not. But last week, I stood up in front of the team to give my elevator pitch for our organization and a round of applause followed. Working on projects independently where nobody outlined "Step 1, 2, 3..." was both refreshing and somewhat uncomfortable. Instead, I had a lot of creative freedom to design the projects on my own. I was nervous, at first, that I would make mistakes, but that discomfort was what pushed me to grow and what sharpened my critical thinking skills. Two months ago, if someone had asked me what I want to do with my life, I would've said I had no clue. If someone were to ask me that question now, well... I'd still say I'm not so sure! But after my experience with CfSI, the future seems like less of a scary place and more so a place with endless opportunities and fulfillment. I look back and smile at the memories of my 'growing pains' as I like to call them. I only came out stronger in the end, in spite of, or perhaps because of them. I have been challenged more in my time with CFSI than in most of the classrooms I have stepped foot in during my undergraduate career.
The positive impact of my internship only reaffirms what I have known all along. College students should have more internships where they can contribute to an organization while learning about themselves in a professional work environment. Unfortunately, many internships remain unpaid or difficult to obtain unless students or their families are well connected. This means that students of diverse backgrounds often miss out on chances for experiential learning, which in turn creates an opportunity gap that CfSI is aiming to close as they move forward.
As a first-generation and minority student, College for Social Innovation's hope to make internships accessible to more diverse populations resonated with me. I remember the frustration I felt when someone told me that I needed to already have established connections, at the age of 20, to find an internship. That attitude perpetuates a vicious cycle of those who are less privileged not having access to beneficial internships, and in turn struggling to find a job after graduation. With CfSI's new program Semester in the City, I hope that more students like me have access to internships that set them on the right path to success.
What is Semester in the City? Imagine leaving the lecture halls behind for a chance to pursue an internship in a new city - while still earning college credits. Not only will students be introduced to the ways of the working world, it will expose them to the social sector, a fast-growing field built around improving lives, communities, and the world around us. College for Social Innovation wants to dismantle the notion that you cannot do good if you also want to do well. Through their participation, students will gain valuable skills and real-world experience, both of which fall under what employers aren't seeing in recent graduates. Along with that, they will be able to put discovery of purpose at the forefront of their minds.
This fall semester, 15 Social Innovation Fellows from the University of New Hampshire and Clark University arrive in Boston to work for various social change organizations. They are about to do just what I described and beyond. As the inaugural cohort, they will set a precedent for how much impact the program can truly have on students. There is no question that there is important learning to be found in the confines of a classroom. But we students should step out of them for other learning opportunities in order to thrive after graduation. Now that I have had my own transformative experience, I feel more confident than ever that College for Social Innovation will actualize their mission of educating and inspiring the next generation of problem-solvers.
By Eric Schwarz
Thanks to Ford Foundation CEO Darren Walker for calling attention to unpaid and uncredited summer internships as an overlooked but surprisingly potent driver of inequality ("Internships Are Not a Privilege").
As the privileged beneficiary of an unpaid internship for a US Senate re-election campaign -- an internship obtained and paid for through parental connections -- I know first-hand the power of well-structured internships to build skills and networks that change lives. In my case, the unpaid internship led directly to my first paid job after college and also to my first job in the social sector, where I have built a career, serving most recently as Co-Founder and CEO of the College for Social Innovation. I didn't realize it at the time, but now I understand that of 2000 students in my college graduating class, I was one of just a handful with access to the type of well-supported, highly-networked, mentor-rich experience I benefited from.
At College for Social Innovation our aspiration is to equalize access to the career-building power of well-designed internships. Just as an internship changed my life and changed Darren Walker's life, we think every college student deserves access to one or more meaningful work experiences --experiences that may include making copies or entering data but also include purposeful projects, feedback from a mentor, and access to successful professionals. A recent study by the Gallup organization, the Gallup-Purdue Index, indicated that college students who had access while in college to a job or internship related to their studies were twice as likely to be successful in their careers.
Unfortunately, well-supported paid internships are a scarce commodity, particularly so in the social sector and in for-profit start-ups that are fast-growing but cash poor. Also, as Nate Silver and colleagues point out in their recent article on summer jobs, well-connected wealthier youth are more likely to land a dwindling supply of summer jobs than the lower-income youth who need them most. Good unpaid internships are theoretically less scarce. But as Walker points out -- and as my experience underscores -- unpaid internships usually go to wealthier students who get a subsidy from their parents.
We believe that College for Social Innovation offers a way to massively scale the type of experiences Walker and I benefited from. Rather than offering money that many employers don't have -- or supporting internships with finite philanthropy -- our plan is to offer college credit. Not just one or two credits but a full semester of credit for a full semester of work. By offering fully-credited internships -- complemented by powerful skill-building and reflective sessions one night a week plus Fridays -- we believe we can attract diverse students and advance our mission to educate and inspire the next generation of problem solvers for humanity's toughest challenges.
In our upcoming inaugural semester, two-thirds of our students will be low-income, first generation college students, and/or students of color. They are students like Linda, an Ethiopian-American who wrote: "I know that if I want a successful career in education policy I need to be confident in my ability to analyze and interpret data, write policy, and many more skills. I hope to learn these skills and much more through this opportunity".
By convincing colleges to offer full credit to students who complete a semester in our program -- and by leveraging mentors and meaningful work in the fast-growing sector -- we believe we can craft a solution to the big social justice challenge Walker highlights.
Joined at The Boston Foundation by more than 100 colleagues, supporters, and social sector leaders representing 70 different organizations, we had the opportunity to discuss Looming Challenges and Promising Opportunities in Boston’s Social Sector - what they are, why we all need to come together to address them, and how our model will support that effort.
This event enabled us to share our idea with leaders on the ground doing this work. Here’s what we learned:
You agree that talent development is a big challenge - and you’re ready to tackle it.
As we embark to build this movement, it’s important to always listen and learn, and to remain nimble, humble, and idealistic.
It’s crucial to bring together students from diverse backgrounds, communities, and disciplines in order to build a talent pipeline that will push for innovative and collaborative approaches to society’s greatest challenges.
We must be a partner and a leader.
The social sector is growing faster than any other part of the US economy. With this growth comes the opportunity to create meaningful and lasting change in our communities and at scale. However, the social sector currently lacks the infrastructure and resources needed to match this growth, particularly related to finding skilled, knowledgeable talent for staff roles at all levels.
As society increasingly turns to nonprofit organizations, in particular, to address problems, it’s crucial to focus on developing talent to lead in creating meaningful impact in and serving our communities. Right now, we don’t have the talent pipeline to achieve our goals: nonprofit leaders we surveyed overwhelmingly agreed that the current talent pool is not big enough, strong enough, or diverse enough to best serve our missions.
College for Social Innovation aims to build a bigger, better, and more diverse talent pipeline for social change. Our model provides opportunities for college students to earn a semester or more of credit for well-supported fellowships in the social sector. We’re starting by partnering with leading colleges to place students in semester-long, full-time, full-credit Social Innovation Fellowships with social sector leaders in the Boston area. Students will learn through job-related assignments and relevant seminars and reflection activities, all of which will help them build career-based competencies and a network. Over time we will scale College for Social Innovation to additional cities and enroll thousands of students, helping to inspire and train a new generation of problem solvers.
We are excited to carry forward the momentum of this event and build an incredible program this fall for our Fellows, Host Organizations, and College Partners alike. Hungry for more information about building the social sector talent pipeline? Read about our program here!
by Carolyn Riley
It’s the first week of Fall! This has always been one of my favorite times of the year. Maybe because I have been on a student’s schedule for my entire life, the start of a new academic year is when I reflect and make my “New Year’s Resolutions”. Personally, I am super excited to be entering my final year at the University of New Hampshire; but one of the things I quickly noticed as the fall semester began, is that I am not in the majority. My friends and peers are excited to be the big kids on campus but there is an overarching fear of “the unknown.” What are we going to do when we graduate?
This past summer interned full time with College for Social Innovation. It was one of the most challenging experiences of my academic/work life, but also one of the most pivotal -- a foundation for my career. About a month ago I had an informal interview with Eric, my supervisor and the Founder of College for Social Innovation (CfSI), where we reflected on my full time internship, which was the first “office” experience of my life. Now that I am reflecting on how I can improve my classwork this school year, I am seeing just how great an impact my summer experience is already having on my success in the classroom.
Now that I have a much clearer ability to view the correlation between theory and practice, I have noticed myself being more engaged in class, and more focused when studying.
Another lesson, which took me by surprise, is how much more comfortable I am approaching Professors and participating in class. After spending the summer always being the youngest person in the room I have seen a notable improvement in my comfortability in engaging with my Professors and Advisors. In fact, I would almost go as far as to say I am better at talking with “grown ups” than with students my age :D.
Perhaps the most important lesson I have learned, which I will take with me as I begin the job hunt, is that finding the right job for you isn’t just about the industry you want to work in, or what the company looks like on paper, it’s about finding a company with a strong culture and clear values. At CfSI I have never been treated like “some 20 year old college student.” My thoughts and opinions have always been welcomed, and never dismissed (and I only had to fetch the coffee once!).
But while I get to take away these great lessons and advantages from my internship, we all know that this experience is much too uncommon, especially for students with less privilege. I am now walking away with a much stronger resume, including deliverables I can use as an example of my skills. (One of these deliverables being my final presentation at a showcase at UNH, which you can view here).
College for Social Innovation is striving to bring these opportunities to a broader, more diverse student pool, and I am so encouraged by the support and growth we have seen just over these past few months. Now, CfSI is expanding its core team and planning to hire two Service Year Fellows -- young leaders who will be working fulltime within a few weeks, helping to build the organization so it’s ready to receive 100 undergraduate “Social Innovation Fellows (including an estimated 50 from UNH) in the 2016-17 school year. These two leaders will be key components to the startup team, bringing the experiences I had as founding intern to life. I invite you to check out our Indiegogo campaign where we are raising money to pay for these two Fellows, and contribute if you can. We appreciate any and all support.
By Co-Founder & Managing Director, Lisa Jackson, Ph.D.
Being at the founding stages of a startup like College for Social Innovation (CfSI) is a feeling unlike any other. Taking an innovative idea and transforming it into a scalable model to drive change is no small feat – you need a strong, dedicated team, who can communicate and work well together. While there is a lot of pressure at these early stages, there are also many rewards as you reach new milestones and see your team grow, along with its mission.
One of our recent milestones was our launch event, hosted on the new lawn in front of Boston City Hall. On Wednesday September 16th, over 100 of our friends and colleagues came to learn about and support this endeavor. My dear friend and colleague, Rahn Dorsey, Chief of Education for the City of Boston, spoke about the need for the talent pipeline CfSI will generate over time and how critical social innovation is to city government (thank you to the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics for all your help and support!). Yusi Turell, Co-Director, Center for Social Innovation and Enterprise at the University of New Hampshire told the audience how important experiential learning is for undergraduate students and how excited the University is to be CfSI’s founding higher education partner.
While by all accounts the event was successful, it was some of the seemingly more mundane activities that took place before the event that made it so exciting for me. Things like,
sending emails to friends, family, colleagues asking them to come,
figuring out what my remarks would be,
unrolling the banner we used at the event that had our logo on it in bright orange – then figuring out how to hang it up,
meeting and working with 5 volunteers who came to blow up balloons, serve food
register guests, and hand out swag and, setting up tables and chairs on the lawn (praying the sun would go down just a little!).
“Sausage Making” as I call it is where I tend to derive my energy and excitement and we are definitely in the throes of that right now. We are building partnerships with colleges and universities, we are creating the selection process to identify what social sector organizations will take our Fellows, we are trying to find our Fellows a place to live when they come to Boston, we are continuing to build out our website and develop our CRM, and the list goes on and on…
While our team of four (including two interns from UNH) has done an awesome job to this point, now is the time to bring on more talent so we can accelerate the work and hit the goal of kicking-off the pilot cohort of Social Innovation Fellows in fall semester 2016. We are currently hiring two National Service Fellows to work with us. These two young leaders will play an integral role as members of College for Social Innovation's startup team, working closely with us to invent a whole new approach to a college education while pioneering a new approach to national service at the same time.
I invite you to check out our Indiegogo campaign where we are raising money to pay for these two Fellows, and contribute if you can. We appreciate any and all support.
By Graduate Fellow, Matt Wilhelm
Ten years ago this month, I took my first full-time job after college as an AmeriCorps member serving with City Year. Not only was I given a structured opportunity to put my idealism to work as a tutor and mentor in a middle school and have a positive, measured impact on the students we served, but I also learned a lot about leadership.
What I lacked in a paycheck ($250 weekly stipend) was compensated by a clear sense of purpose, project and people management experience, access to leaders across all sectors, a great mentor, and a community of colleagues that would become lifelong friends. It was the best professional decision I ever made.
Following my two terms as an AmeriCorps member, I had the opportunity to join the founding teams of two organizations – ServeNext.org and Calling All Crows – both aimed at creating more opportunities for young Americans to serve.
Working on the startup team of a new social venture is an amazing experience, but it’s definitely not for everyone.
It requires long hours, an unwavering commitment to the mission of the new organization as well as to your co-workers, and the ability to juggle multiple projects – especially those for which you feel totally unqualified to lead.
It’s exhilarating. It’s exhausting. It’s humbling. But, ultimately, when you see vision become reality – it becomes totally worth it.
So if committing to a year of national service and joining the startup team of a new social venture doesn’t scare you, but rather sounds like the challenge for which you’ve been desperately searching, then look no further…
College for Social Innovation is looking to hire two Service Year Fellows to start full-time work on or before Oct. 1, 2015 and to work in the fellowship role for nine months with an option to renew for up to two years.
Service Year Fellows will report directly to the Managing Director or another senior staff member; work closely with Eric Schwarz, co-founder and CEO of College for Social Innovation; and play an integral role in the organization’s startup operations.
Service Year Fellows will help College for Social Innovation build capacity in the following areas:
Develop comprehensive marketing plan to reach multiples audiences utilizing varied media;
Support development/fundraising plan including foundation, corporate, and individual giving;
Build new organizational systems (i.e. human resources, technical support, training, evaluation, etc.);
Develop partnerships with colleges and universities, including recruitment, selection, and training; and
Develop partnerships with social sector organizations, including recruitment, selection, and training.
To apply to become a Service Year Fellow with College for Social Innovation, please click here.
For more information on the opportunity, please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org). I’d be excited to talk with you about what it’s like to work startup on College for Social Innovation and/or what it’s like to do a service year. The two together, in my opinion, are the perfect combination!
By Co-founder & CEO, Eric Schwarz
One of the best things about launching College for Social Innovation this summer has been the chance to work with two founding interns, UNH undergrad Carolyn Riley (Communication and Women's Studies) and UNH grad student Matt Wilhelm (Political Science). As a rising senior, Carolyn in many ways had a chance to be a pilot participant in our program, teaching me and others a ton about working with talented and enthusiastic millennials who are new to the social sector. Before joining us on June 1, Carolyn had managed an ice cream shop, led some student clubs, and even worked as a stand-up comic; but by her own admission she was brand new to an office. Following is a brief conversation exploring the experience from Carolyn's perspective, as the "intern" or "apprentice," and from my perspective as her mentor and supervisor.
ES: So what was it like being the first "intern" for an organization that is all about the power of interns, but is also brand new? I mean when you took this job we had no name, no money, and no place lined up where you could work from.
CR: I think every student that has had an internship has a positive take away afterwards if they feel like their opinion was valued at that organization, regardless of their “status” there. That’s definitely the biggest aspect of this job that I have been pleasantly surprised by. Since we are so student-focused, and you are trying to get into the minds of 20 -year -olds today, being the first intern here (“the guinea pig”) has been great. I have learned basic things about organizing my work, I've learned how to introduce myself and how to write a marketing plan; I've learned so much more about giving and getting feedback. And I feel like the organization has been able to reflect on the structure of the fellowships we will offer and how to have the greatest impact.
ES: Were there content areas where you feel like you learned new things, or was the learning mostly around workplace skills or so-called "21st Century Skills"?
CR: Being exposed to ample discussion and rich dialogue about education reform taught me a ton and led me to reflect a lot on what I have experienced and to evaluate my skill-set. When talking about new graduates entering the workforce it hits home for me because that’s where me and my peers will be one year from now, which is not a very long ways away. While it has been humbling for me to see that I wasn’t as prepared as I wish I had been when I began, it has motivated me to improve as well as work to normalize these kinds of quality internship experiences. It has also given me even more pride to say I go to UNH, as they are the first school to partner with College for Social Innovation, and I can authentically communicate with students there about how much this has shaped me as an employee, as well as a student.
ES: Do you have any advice to future participants in the CfSI "Social Innovation Fellowship"?
CR: My advice to the first class of College for Social Innovation fellows would be to ask questions and ask for feedback. Being able to accept criticism and feedback graciously, and then channel that as you improve your work will take you much farther than if you take it with a bad attitude, or even worse if you don’t ask for feedback at all. The umbrella of this organization is that your mentors and supervisors want to invest in you, and they have your best interests at heart. Additionally, I would advise students to enter as though they are a new hire. Don’t think of yourself as "just a student intern." While it's important to “respect your elders,” don’t demote yourself, or overly discount your value. If you view yourself as a member of the organization you will contribute more thoughtfully. Know that you’re there for a reason and don’t be afraid to authentically engage with the more senior staff, and ask clarifying questions. Strong mentors and supervisors will recognize and appreciate this behavior.
ES: I think that's such an important observation. My advice to future fellows is to continually search for that perfect balance of humility and confidence. You have a lot to learn so it's great to soak up as much feedback and wisdom and experience as you can. But it's also true that throughout history young people have been in the lead of most social movements. You have a lot to teach and to offer as well.
CR: You and I had a great feedback session that we have both reflected on multiple times. From my perspective, you communicate when things are “teachable moments” or you provide specific ways of improvement highlighting the benefits to everyone involved. While I have probably never been managed so closely than this job, I have also yet to be so positively challenged.
ES: I have loved working with you, and a big part of that is your combination of being totally new to the this kind of work, but also your enthusiasm to learn and to contribute. You started 11 weeks ago and I would say the difference in what you were able to contribute between the first few weeks and the last few weeks is night and day. That's a tribute to you and a tribute to the power of experiential learning.
CR: You have talked a lot about your "Gary Hart experience" as an intern when you were 19 years old. This has been my Gary Hart experience and I am excited to open up this kind of learning to millions of kids my age.