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Internship Fund: A Reflection of Yale SOM’s Mission in Action

Preparing a presentation on the impact of the Internship Fund only strengthened the belief of Caroline Reeve ’19 that Yale SOM was the right choice for her.

When Jessica Harpole ’19 and I set out to assemble a PowerPoint presentation (see above) for the Internship Fund’s Closing Bell last November, we had no idea what we were in for (and I don’t just mean learning how to use Adobe Illustrator). Being first years at Yale SOM, we had a sense of the power the Internship Fund (IF) carried on campus, but we quickly learned that what we knew only scratched the surface of IF’s impact.

The first program of its kind among MBAs, IF has led annual fundraising campaigns for the past 30 years to support students pursuing work in the public sector during their summer internships. The club runs on the fundamental belief that it is in all of our interests, as future leaders in business and society, not just to encourage, but to enable our peers to realize their dreams to make the world a more sustainable, more inclusive, more mindful place. Every year since its inception, IF has funded approximately 20% of each class in these pursuits. Last year, the Class of 2018 raised an astounding $258,000, which went to 45 recipients.

The real insights into IF’s impact are revealed in the vast, vivid range of experiences those recipients went on to have. Forty-six percent of recipients went to work for nonprofit organizations, 28% went to government or B-corp certified companies, and the remainder worked within a qualifying social sector. And lest you think “nonprofit work” is code for “fundraising,” IF recipients took on a whole host of roles, acting as consultants, strategic planners, brand strategists, and in operations—their functions ran the gamut. To Jessica and me, this proved that IF qualifiers were able not just to work at a place they believed in, but also to gain valuable skills they’ll carry with them for years to come.

Jessica reached out to 12 of those recipients from the Class of 2018 to get firsthand testimonials. A common theme came through loud and clear: they would not have been able to take on their internship opportunities without the financial backing of the Internship Fund.

Together, Jessica and I designed the slides and this year’s overarching IF campaign to encapsulate those notions of support, diversity, and positive impact. The result is a simple, adaptable logo encircled with our four core values: community, opportunity, passion, and action. Each value is highlighted in a different color, alluding to the kaleidoscopic nature of IF and Yale SOM in general. Throughout the year, our logo will take on new “personas” that speak to different contexts: the Internship Fund Auction in April, Star Search on February 15, and our fast-approaching Student Fundraising Week, which kicks off on Monday, February 12, to name a few.

What’s incredible about IF is that it’s run by students. That means we help each other.

Nicole Thompson, one of the 2018 Internship Fund’s cochairs, says, “Co-leading the Internship Fund was one of the most rewarding things I have done during my time at SOM. During my tenure, we raised $260,000 and funded over 13% of our class across sectors ranging from education to healthcare to the arts. Considering nearly every student in the school donates or volunteers, IF has become a key part of the SOM community, and witnessing that cohesion firsthand was a highlight for me during my first year of business school. One key thing that attracted me to Yale is its emphasis on the public sector. The Internship Fund is one way the school puts its words into action, and it was an honor to be a part of a nearly-40-year tradition.”

As for me, I came to SOM knowing I wanted to be active in the Internship Fund in whatever way I could. Working in the nonprofit sector, I had experienced the perils of unpaid internships firsthand, and worse, the penetrating effects they can inflict on an institution’s culture—namely, a lack of diversity: of background, of perspective, of thought. IF’s most visible impact might be in sending more forward-thinking, socially conscious MBAs into the sectors that need them most, but I hope those MBAs also succeed in the less visible, but no-less-crucial, work of establishing well-rounded, well-considered, multifaceted cultures in those arenas. (For further reading, see Darren Walker’s excellent op-ed from 2016, “Internships Are Not a Privilege.”)

I first heard about IF at an SOM information session in San Francisco. Local alums were asked to say what they loved about SOM. The first alum explained that he’d been lucky to receive IF funding for his internship and that it really paved the way for the career he had now. I originally assumed what he described was some sort of exclusive scholarship given to promising students. However, as the other alumni echoed his sentiments, it soon became clear that IF was by no means exclusive. To the contrary: in order for it to be successful, it had to be a big part of the SOM community. What I love about IF is its foundation in students helping students “walk the talk” to achieve our school’s mantra of educating leaders for business and society. From that moment, I was sold on SOM, and knew I wanted to be involved in IF once I got here.

Between February 12 to 15, be sure to look out for the Internship Fund’s tables near Charley’s Place and Ross Library in Evans Hall for ways to donate, activities to partake in, and swag to enjoy! And buy your tickets to Star Search, the much-anticipated, school-wide talent show set for the night of Thursday, February 15, on CampusGroups.