Staff Spotlight: Ilona Drew

At College for Social Innovation, we know that our first jobs and internships shaped our futures and cultivated our passion for social sector work. These experiences are the reason we are here today! The beginning of summer marks the start of similar experiences for college students everywhere—experiences that will open doors of opportunity and launch inspiring careers. In this blog series, our staff will tell the stories of their own first internships, sharing advice, memories, and appreciation for their earliest professional experiences.

Ilona at her first internship

Ilona at her first internship

Ilona Drew is our Manager of Operations and Special Projects! She is a graduate from the University of New Hampshire, where she received both her bachelor's and master's degrees. In her role at CFSI, she creates and implements systems and structures to make our organization more efficient, especially in regards to our recruitment efforts. Here, she continues to combine her background in business operations and public policy with her passion for social innovation!

What was your first internship experience like?

My first internship was mid-career— I'd already completed my undergrad and worked "in the real world" for a while before I went back for my master's degree, which was when I had to do an internship. At first, I didn't see the point given that I'd already had professional experience. I was able to find a summer internship where I spent 10 weeks researching gender equity policies in the workplace for a sustainable investment firm looking to identify metrics to evaluate the financial performance of women-led firms. While I enjoyed the office and my coworkers and was both fascinated and passionate about the subject of my research, I quickly realized that I was not going to be satisfied with a job that had that level of monotony. I loved the internship, had a great experience, and learned a lot but it made me realize I would like a more hands-on career.

What made you interested in this type of work (your current job)?

During grad school, I focused much of my studies on racial equity and opportunity gaps, but I'd been leaning towards policy, not practice. I spent my whole degree program planning on seeking a research position in a progressive think tank. After my internship, I realized that I wanted a more active, hands-on role than the types of research positions I'd been moving towards, so I started to expand my search to the nonprofit world. At CFSI, I found a way to incorporate my knowledge and passions into a fast-paced and ever-changing role that uses a broad array of my skills and interests, and always keeps me on my toes.

What is one piece of advice you would give to students in their first internship?

I know it’s cliche, but I just recommend keeping an open mind! You never know who you might meet, what opportunities you might stumble across, or what you'll learn about yourself. Never look at anything as a waste of time. You may not see the connection immediately, but every experience shapes the next one!