The Internship Fund: Creating a 'Safe Net' for Students Across All Sectors

It is truly phenomenal to see so many people dedicate their time and money to help their friends – with the end of fundraising week, the type of donations and support I’ve seen from my peers as a cohort rep have really amazed me.

February 15, 2015

The mission of the Yale School of Management is educating leaders for business and society. This is by and large an ambitious mission statement to execute on, especially in a world where private sector and public sector interests are seen as mutually exclusive. There are a number of ways in which SOM integrates business and society – through classes, insights from our research, and ways in which students are engaged with the broader community. More tactically, however, SOM makes it financially feasible for students to be leaders in business and society through two avenues: (1) the loan forgiveness program and (2) the Internship Fund. Since 1986, the loan forgiveness program has helped alumni, who are working in a government organization or nonprofit, repay their loans. In a similar vein, over the past 36 years, SOM has been able to support students interested in pursuing a social sector summer internship through the Internship Fund.

The Internship Fund is a completely student-run organization that brings together first-years to financially support our classmates in the pursuit of internships that are often low-paying. Through a series of donation channels including an auction, memberships to the school gym, fundraising week, and a talent show called Star Search, the Internship Fund has been able to provide stipends for all students who request funding, which amounts to almost 10% of each first year class. There are a number of sources for funds—alumni, faculty, staff, and students—with the majority of funds coming from current students (particularly first-years) and alumni. With these funds, we are able to pay up to $800/week for students who request funding for an overall weekly salary of $1,000/week with some support from the employer.

A few months ago, my friend Roshin, who is a co-chair of the Internship Fund, reached out to me to see if I’d be willing to help him raise funds from my cohort (Gold) for Fundraising Week. To give you some context, each year, the Internship Fund has a fundraising week that encourages first-years to donate one day of their summer salary (an average of $250) to support a classmate’s internship. What drew me to the cause was that the Internship Fund exemplified the spirit of collaboration and support, which makes our community so distinctive. There are over 25 people helping to run Fundraising Week and encourage donations. Of these, the majority of people are those who will ultimately not benefit from the Internship Fund due to the careers they are pursuing (e.g. Consulting, Investment Banking, Technology, etc.). It is truly phenomenal to see so many people dedicate their time and money to help their friends – with the end of fundraising week, the type of donations and support I’ve seen from my peers as a cohort rep have really amazed me. In the spirit of show and not tell, I bring you the stories of my classmates from different perspectives.

Roshin Unnikrishnan, Class of 2016

Co-Chair of the Internship Fund

There are many different things that make SOM distinctive and collaborative, but for me the Internship Fund was a huge draw when it came to answering the question “Why SOM?” Coming from India, where the government and the undergraduate institution I attended didn’t have financial support for students, I had come to appreciate how valuable it was to have a school and a student body that created a safe net for students, who wanted to have an impact in the social sector.  As an alum of my undergrad institution, I had been able to organically engineer a program whereby 250 engineers donated three days of their salary to provide a full-ride for ten students. As this program became a tradition and expanded to help 13 students, I saw how powerful that kind of financial grant could be in enabling the dreams and hopes of highly motivated students.

The Internship Fund is distinctive in that it is entirely managed by First Year MBA students. As Co-Chair, I have seen first-hand what “community” means to SOM students from all walks of life.  I’ve asked so many people for their help in running different Internship Fund events – and not a single person has declined to commit their time to the cause. It’s clear that the student body collectively believes and wants to make good on our school’s motto to build leaders in private and social sectors. And that makes this easily the best thing that I have done at SOM.

Graham Browne, Class of 2015

Received support from the Internship Fund to make an impact in Education

[Last] summer, I held two internships in the education sector.  The first was a Summer Leaders Internship with Building Excellent Schools, an organization that funds individuals to found public charter schools across the United States.  I worked directly with a middle school founder in Harlem as she prepared for the third year of operation of the school.  It was a powerful experience that taught me three very important things:

  1. I want to run a school.
  2. I have what it takes to run a school.
  3. I have much to learn about school leadership.

The second half of my summer was spent in New Haven with the Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology, where I helped their Program Office expand and launch a new satellite office within Lincoln-Bassett Elementary School in New Haven.  This launch is part of a multi-million dollar initiative by the State Commissioner's office to improve historically failing schools.  Now, Lincoln-Bassett will have a robust afterschool program housed on-site by a proven and effective provider.  This connection to the broader nonprofit community could serve as a proof point for future reform efforts.

I would not have been able to have such a fulfilling summer without the financial support of the Internship Fund. I was able to take on two ambitious projects that met my professional goals without worry about the financial implications.

Anita Jivani, Class of 2015

Received support from the Internship Fund to work at the World Economic Forum

The Internship Fund was something that attracted me to the culture at SOM even before I was a student here—I saw individuals across sectors and disciplines come together to support a program that really manifests so many of the traits that we cherish at Yale.  As I approached my search for a summer internship, I became attracted to the nuanced and challenging world of non-profits and knew that exposure to this industry early in my career was critical for social sector leadership in the future. The IF not only provided me with the resources to make the summer possible but actually encouraged me to use the summer to test out the boldest, most complicated stint in the sector, which led to conversations with non-profits in India, Kenya, and the USA.  Having the support of the Internship Fund opened doors to the career search my first year which has highly influenced how I see the industry and my role in it in the coming years.  I am so grateful for the program and the community that makes it happen.

Andrea Mak, Class of 2016

Fundraising Week Committee Member & Internship Fund Volunteer

After graduation, I went back home to NYC and started a 5 year career in City government, working on policy and launching workforce development training programs for low income New Yorkers in technology and media. I decided to come to Yale SOM to learn new lessons that can be applied in the cross-section of the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. I am going into a private sector internship for the summer, but Yale's generous loan forgiveness program and the warm, community-led Internship Fund were big factors in  my decision to attend Yale. It is a wonderful thing that the school and the people that surround us acknowledge, care, and most importantly, act on the fact that so many of the world’s solutions exist outside of the private sector. One sector can't do it alone, the same way that students spending their summer in nonprofits, government, and bcorps can't do it alone. They need their friends and future colleagues to step up and lend a hand. I could have easily been in the situation where I would have needed support this summer. That is why I am helping with the Internship Fund.

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About the author

Divya Srinivasan

MBA Candidate, Class of 2016; Joint Degree, School of Public Health