Thanks to alums, students get non-profit work experience during the summer
By Maura Fredey ’94
As a member of the General Alumni Association board of directors, I recently had the pleasure of reading through a pile of thank you letters from Holy Cross students, addressed to Mike Shanahan ’78—treasurer of the GAA board and chairperson of the Association’s Summer Fellowships Committee.
The authors of these letters were recipients of summer fellowships that enabled them to work at non-profit organizations last summer, thanks to the support of their regional alumni club, the GAA and the host organization. Several of these letters conveyed the fact that the student would not otherwise have been able to work in a non-profit field—given the pressure to earn money over the summer break. Reflecting on their summer experience, some students expressed a strong desire to continue working with non-profits after receiving their degree from Holy Cross.
In recent years, the number of opportunities for students to get summer internship experience facilitated by the College has grown—especially since the establishment of the Summer Internship Program and Office. And, there are several types of internships and fellowships available: According to Amy Murphy, director of the Summer Internship Program, some 150 summer internship spots are open to second- and third-year students who have been accepted into the program.
The selection process is rigorous. Students must first apply for acceptance—and, then, once admitted—they compete for the internship spots that have been made possible thanks to endowed gifts, grants and opportunities at job sites.
In addition to these internships, students also have the opportunity to apply for positions through the Summer Fellowship Program. These spots are open to students in any class year who are from the geographic area of the respective alumni club. The administrative piece of the Summer Fellowship Program now falls under the internship office as well, although this alumni-supported effort predates its existence. This program is unique in how it is funded—and because it specifically targets opportunities for work with non-profit organizations. Five regional clubs—Boston, Cape Cod, Washington D.C., Rhode Island and Worcester—partner with the GAA to fund 15 fellowship positions.
“The GAA has contributed more than $125,000 to this program since its inception, leveraging about $325,000 in summer fellowship stipends for more than 125 students,” says Shanahan. “Behind the GAA’s McCarthy Alumni Scholarship program, it’s our second biggest annual budget item. We continue to seek to spread participation.
“With the administrative duties associated with recruitment and selection of the fellows largely handled by the College’s internship office, it is really quite an easy undertaking for a regional club to sponsor a position,” he adds.
Spending a few moments talking with some of the fellows and employer hosts, one will likely agree that this is a program that is worthwhile and quite special.
“My internship with ReadBoston has been my most rewarding yet,” says Carolyn Cody ’08—a religious studies major with a concentration in peace and conflict studies—from Andover, Mass. “It definitely sparked my interest in a career with a non-profit organization.”
Cody explains that the opportunity at ReadBoston attracted her because of her love for the work she does with SPUD—tutoring Worcester high school students during the school year.
“The importance of helping to improve children’s literacy has really stuck with me,” she says.
Cody was assigned to ReadBoston’s Storymobile program, which brings storytellers and books to different locations throughout the city; she worked directly with children and helped manage complicated program logistics across 40 sites.
The opportunity also provided Cody with amazing mentorship from other Holy Cross graduates: ReadBoston’s executive director is Theresa Lynn ’87, and Cody’s manager for the summer was Erin E. Smith ’04—herself with Read- Boston as a Holy Cross student, she has now been with the program for almost three years. Smith has the charge of interviewing potential Holy Cross fellows and then managing those who are accepted. Last year, ReadBoston hosted three fellows from the College.
“Every year I am struck by the passion and professionalism of the students,” Smith says. “They are doing work that is logistically challenging—and the students have a great deal of responsibility. They are fantastic on-the-spot thinkers.”
“Without the funding from Holy Cross alumni, this is something we could never afford,” adds Lynn. “These students are doing very serious work. They are hard working, and dependable—and they go beyond the job.”
Ben Ticho ’68, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Worcester, and a board member with the Holy Cross Club of Greater Worcester, echoes these sentiments—his organization has hosted six fellows since 2002.
“They really help us get things done that we otherwise might not have time to do,” explains Ticho. “Each fellow has brought us something different—and even led us into new areas—especially with regard to new ways to find mentors.”
Ticho also notes the level of responsibility the fellows have—from working directly with Worcester children to presenting to the organization’s board. Several interns have continued working with the agency after the fellowship has ended—and even after graduation.
Bill Murphy ’73 is the co-director and co-founder, with his wife, Sharon, of Mary House in Washington, D.C. Providing transitional housing services, shelter and support programs to homeless and struggling families, this initiative is run entirely on donations and grants. Murphy has hosted several fellows in recent years, sometimes three at one time; this past summer David Gang ’09 was a fellow at Mary House.
“We have no salaried employees, and summer is a critical time,” explains Murphy, a recipient of the Holy Cross Sanctae Crucis Award. “The kids are out of school, and we run camps. Plus, that is the time when we can do maintenance projects, such as painting the outside of buildings.”
Fellows with Mary House have the option to live on-site. Gang, a mathematics major who plays on the Holy Cross football team, says it’s the work with children that has inspired and motivated him the most—and that is why he is now pondering a teaching career.
Murphy adds that, during summers when there have been three Holy Cross participants—especially with on-site housing—the fellowship program offers a special intensity and camaraderie for those students. From his point of view, the work done by the fellows makes a huge impact on an organization with very limited resources—and under incredible demands; Murphy also notes that he’s always open to hosting more students.
The fellowships showcase how collaborative energy and support among the GAA and regional club members, the College’s Summer Internship Program staff, and non-profit organizations can create meaningful results and benefits lasting far longer than one summer.
Maura Fredey ’94 is a member of the Holy Cross GAA board of directors and a resident of Winchester, Mass.
Help Us Grow This Program
If you would like to explore hosting a Holy Cross student at your organization, either as a fellow in conjunction with the GAA and your local alumni club, or, as an intern, please contact Amy Murphy, director of the Summer Internship Program at Holy Cross. She can be reached, by phone, at 508-793-3880 or, by e-mail, at firstname.lastname@example.org.