Tag: student internships

New internship program puts focus on hard work of social, environmental justice

Adya Kadambari ’23, seen here during Spring Term, is among the 12 Lawrence students taking part this summer in the Social & Environmental Justice Cohort program. She’s working an internship with Bay Bridge in Whitefish Bay. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Adya Kadambari ’23 processes the slow movement on social justice issues she’s championing this summer and chooses to channel her frustration into more work. Always more work.

The Lawrence University government major from Bangalore, India, has found her summer internship with Bay Bridge, a Whitefish Bay-based nonprofit working to address systematic racism in the community, to be eye-opening in the sheer weight of the challenge.

“I have learned that being part of Bay Bridge means continuing to try—even if it goes unnoticed—because that is the point of being a racial justice organization,” she said.

Kadambari is one of 12 Lawrence students who are setting the foundation for the Social & Environmental Justice Cohort program, a new summer internship initiative at Lawrence, one that is unlike any the school has launched in the past. It’s focused on social and environmental justice issues and has been developed as a shared experience across multiple nonprofit organizations doing work in a particular geographic area.

In this case, the area is the City of Milwaukee and its suburbs. The students, working across nine organizations, meet weekly as a cohort, their discussions facilitated by Jason Brozek, the Stephen Edward Scarff Professor of International Affairs and associate professor of government, to share and reflect on their experiences—successes, failures, frustrations, and everything in between.

Jason Brozek meets with Naomi Torres ’22 and Fernando Ismael Delgado ’22, both of whom are working internships this summer with the Center for Urban Teaching in Milwaukee. Brozek meets weekly with the full Social and Environmental Justice Cohort via Zoom.

“The idea is to really be explicit and deliberate about the reflection piece of this,” Brozek said of the cohort structure built into the internship program. “One of the things I’ve learned is how important it is to not just hope students will reflect on their experience but to specifically and deliberately guide them through that process and give them space to do it, prompt them to do it.”

This is work that is often emotional and potentially life-changing. Being able to talk about it, process it, hear others’ experiences, can be educational and therapeutic at the same time.

“That process of reflection, I think that’s where the real impact and transformation of these experiences comes from,” Brozek said.

To date, more than $350,000 has been raised to support the Social & Environmental Justice Cohort program, with a goal of $1 million to grow it into an ongoing staple of the Lawrence summer.

The program came together quickly after an anonymous donor, moved by the activism that followed the murder of George Floyd, sought to fund internships that would aid community organizations, give students an avenue into social and environmental justice work, and allow those students to share their experiences with one another in a collaborative learning environment.

The program provides a stipend for the students, who are working for nonprofits that in many cases couldn’t otherwise afford interns.

“For me, that’s a really critical part of the program because it means these experiences are more accessible and equitable, and available to a wider range of students,” Brozek said.

Kenneth Penaherrera ’24 is working an internship this summer at a youth crisis center through Pathfinders in Milwaukee.

Mandy Netzel, assistant director of career services in Lawrence’s Career Center, went to work connecting with nonprofits in the Milwaukee region to set the scope of the internship program. Meanwhile, Cassie Curry, director of major and planned giving for Lawrence, set out to raise the monies needed to financially support the program as an annual endeavor.

Brozek came on board as the faculty advisor. He’s meeting weekly with the students via Zoom, a nod to the barriers still being posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The hope is that those meetings will be in person by next summer, as will all of the internships.

It all came together in a matter of a few months. The early momentum suggests this is a program that will continue to thrive, perhaps growing in the number of participating students and organizations, possibly expanding at some point to other regions.

“We really have a chance to not just make it a great experience for the 12 students who are doing it this summer but to really build something that is distinctive for Lawrence and to keep it going,” Brozek said.

Some of the students are doing social media and communications work for their organizations. Others are working with young people or families in schools or shelters. All of the organizations are located in the Milwaukee metro area with the exception of Pillars, of Appleton. The list includes Pathfinders, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, a Milwaukee aldermanic office, Bay Bridge, Legal Action Wisconsin, Center for Urban Teaching, Blue Lotus, and Walker’s Point.

“Spending time doing this justice work can be really draining,” Brozek said. “How do you make this kind of work sustainable? Not just sustainable for the organization, but personally as well? We’re talking about that and they’re learning from each other, and really supporting each other and being impressed with each other. I’ve really loved that part of it.”

For Ben DePasquale ’22, joining the team at Milwaukee Riverkeeper gave him a chance to gain valuable experience in environmental advocacy and politics. He’s working on website content, social media, surveys, and focus group questions alongside the organization’s communications manager. He’s learning about reader engagement, targeting particular audiences, and the power of clarity.

“Politics is local, yet the greatest environmental threat of our lifetime, climate change, is global,” DePasquale said. “I wanted to be part of this organization because I saw an opportunity to craft narratives around environmental issues that might appeal to people who may not always see the bigger picture.”

Ben DePasquale ’22 is working on environmentally focused social media campaigns as part of an internship with Milwaukee Riverkeeper.

Netzel said the response from partner organizations—some with alumni connections—and students has been “overwhelmingly positive” in the pilot year.

“The pace at which we were able to pull it all together indicates a need and desire in the community for social and environmental justice work, and Lawrentians are interested and ready to rise in serving that need,” she said.

Sarah Gettel ’14, one of the leaders of Bay Bridge, said the fit has been ideal, with two Lawrence students, Kadambari and Sierra Johnson ’22, doing important advocacy work.

“Right from the start, Adya and Sierra jumped into the storm of moving projects and pieces,” Gettel said. “They asked excellent questions, raised ideas, and brought their creativity and intentionality to every project. Their support has been an incredible help to us at Bay Bridge and has helped us to build our supportive infrastructure to invite more people in our community into this work, from designing a volunteer orientation, to creating eye-catching event posters, to extending our social media reach, to facilitating a book discussion, to helping us work on a communications strategy to help connect systemic justice and equity to people’s values and lived experiences.”

Curry said a gift from a second donor that followed the initial gift has put Lawrence in position to fund the program for at least the next five years, providing time to secure financial support that will hopefully feed an endowment that’ll make the program ongoing.

“The donors want to ensure that Lawrence students can share what they are learning for the betterment of society, while at the same time growing and learning themselves through the process,” Curry said. “That was part of their motivation for a cohort model and faculty involvement.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Students savor substantial, important internships amid the summer chaos

Shaun Brown ’21: Interning with Healing Minds NOLA

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Shaun Brown ’21, a fourth-year psychology and cultural anthropology double major from St. Louis, is midway through a summer internship that looks a lot different than what it might have in a pandemic-free world.

The internship with Healing Minds NOLA, a New Orleans nonprofit focused on mental health resources, was supposed to be based in the Crescent City. It shifted to a remote internship as COVID-19 became a global pandemic.

Brown, who hopes to eventually go to graduate school in pursuit of a Master in Public Health degree, took the changes in stride. His work as a mental health and justice intern is proving to be substantial, even if face-to-face work is off the table.

“I’m learning about the intersection of mental health and incarceration,” he said. “I get to attend themed webinars and Zoom meetings with various professionals like judges, researchers, mental health professionals, and community activists, all discussing various information that I knew nothing about. There are a lot of things going on and COVID-19 is not making them better, so I am taking projects off other people’s plates and assisting where I can.”

Brown is one of nearly 90 Lawrence University students who are in the midst of remote, project-based internships this summer facilitated by or funded through the school’s Center for Career, Life and Community Engagement (CLC).

We salute them and all Lawrence students doing internships on National Intern Day, celebrated this year on July 30.

Much of the work happening this summer is the result of rapid adjustments made in the spring as COVID-19 concerns shut down many internship and research opportunities.

“When the pandemic hit, we had to move fast to meet evolving student needs,” said Mandy Netzel, assistant director of employer and alumni relations in the CLC. “While some internship sites were adjusting to remote work, others were being canceled completely.”

The CLC and other offices on campus quickly adapted to the shut-downs, identifying remote internship possibilities, adjusting the process for students to apply, and widening the funding structure to include more students in lieu of monies no longer being needed to cover housing and transportation costs.

The Employer and Alumni Relations team, in tandem with the Center for Community Engagement and Social Change (CCE), also launched the Hire a Viking Campaign, soliciting new remote opportunities from alumni and community partners. Alumni and friends of the University rose to the challenge, and in just two weeks, Hire a Viking resulted in 31 new internship and full-time opportunities. 

“We were able to grant $162,650 in funds for 87 different projects,” Netzel said. “Throughout the project, donors were even compelled to give additional funding for internships. Overall, it was a great success.”

Stephany Pichola ’21: Interning with The Commons

Stephany Pichola ’21 of Highland Park, Illinois, a triple major in economics, global studies, and Spanish, landed one of those remote internships, working in project management for The Commons, a Milwaukee nonprofit initiative aimed at enhancing work and play opportunities in the region.

The work, Pichola said, connects with her innovation and entrepreneurship interests.

“In the process of each project, there is a lot of research and data analysis involved, as well as creating real-world solutions to certain issues found within the Milwaukee area,” she said.

Doing the work remotely brings significant hurdles. Navigating a Zoom call with 100 participants, for example, is daunting, Pichola said. But she said she’s using the internship to build skills and connections that will pay off as she prepares for life after Lawrence.

Meanwhile, Emilia Ciotti Hernández ’22 of New York, a government major with a focus on international relations, and Eli Ferrell ’22 of Mill Valley, California, a government major with plans to pursue law school, both landed remote internships with Safe Passage Project, a national nonprofit that provides free legal counsel to immigrant children facing deportation.

They’ve helped to screen families for representation, served as interpreters for attorneys who are working pro bono, translated birth certificates and other documents, helped young people apply for work permits, and assisted in the drafting of affidavits, all done remotely.

“I got to hear the stories of these young people and see all they went through in their lives, and often it was heartbreaking,” Hernández said. “When they would tell me these stories, it was hard because I would want to comfort them, but that’s not an easy task over Zoom.”

Ferrell called the work important preparation for law school and said it has helped focus his attention on immigration issues. If federal policies rolled out during the Trump Administration continue, “lawyers trained in immigration law will be more important than ever,” Ferrell said.

For each of the students, the shift to remote internships hasn’t been ideal. But to still be able to work with these organizations, to be able to do important work in a summer internship while in the throes of a global pandemic, has been a huge positive.

“I know that after Lawrence, I want to work as a community health worker,” Brown said. “I would primarily work in various underserved communities to educate, coach, and empower people, as well as connect individuals and families to community-based resources.”

Healing Minds NOLA, he said, is giving him a taste of that this summer.

“I’m getting a preview of some of the work that I’ll be doing very soon once I graduate from Lawrence,” Brown said.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Student Documentary Examines Outagamie County’s Mental Health Court

Rose Broll ’14

An internship helped turn Rose Broll into a documentary filmmaker. Her largely single-handed cinematic endeavor,  “Outagamie County Mental Health Court: From Incarceration to Inspiration,” receives a public screening Thursday, Feb. 20 at 6 p.m. at Riverview Gardens, 1101 S. Oneida St., Appleton.

The 55-minute film examines the new court’s mission, the prevalence of mental health’s role in crime and celebrates its first graduate, who completed the program last August. It features interviews with program participants, police and parole officers, judges and mental health counselors.

Following the screening, Broll, Outagamie County judges Gregory Gill, Jr. and Dee Dyer, and other members of the court team, will participant in a panel discussion about the court’s mission. The screening and discussion is sponsored by NAMI Fox Valley. To register, contact Kate Kirchner, 920-832-5474 or katherine.kirchner@outagamie.org.

A documentary film by Lawrence senior Rose Broll examines the mission of the Outagamie County Mental Health Court, one of only two in the state.

Following an internship with the court, in which she worked with program participants on art projects, Broll, a senior psychology major from Minneapolis, was asked to create a film about the court and its operations. She spent six months working on the documentary interviewing various people associated with the program and editing her footage. The film includes music performed by some of the program’s participants.

Started in July, 2012, the Mental Health Court, one of only two in Wisconsin, deals with non-violent criminals with mental health issues. It is designed to decriminalize mental illness and connect participants with community resources. Court offenders typically require one year to complete the program, which includes a treatment plan, 100 percent sobriety and some form of community service.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2014 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.