The numbers are in: More than 350 students are receiving grants of at least $3,000 to participate in unpaid internships this summer as part of Northwestern Career Advancement’s (NCA) annual Summer Internship Grant Program (SIGP). These students are part of the 10th SIGP class, which awarded the highest number of recipients from the largest pool of applicants, surpassing last year’s record of 255 grants. The program has come a long way since its inaugural year in 2007, when fewer than 100 students applied to receive one of 10 available grants.
SIGP’s primary purpose is to provide funding to Northwestern undergraduate students who are completing internships in fields that do not typically offer paid experiences. The grant covers students’ living and travel expenses throughout the duration of their internships.
NCA executive director Mark Presnell said that it was difficult to predict how much SIGP would grow this year, but that its increase in applicant numbers shows the demand that exists for this type of funding. Seven hundred students applied for a grant this spring, nearly double the number from 2015. Applications include three essay questions that are evaluated on several points, including demonstrated need and consideration of internship learning objectives.
“I think it’s clear from a student perspective that SIGP allows students to pursue a wide range of interesting internships without concern for personal funding,” Presnell said.
This financial support allows SIGP recipients to pursue opportunities that otherwise might not be possible. In 2015, eighty-six percent of SIGP recipients surveyed said that they would have had to turn down their summer experience or supplement it with a second job had it not been for SIGP funding.
For Corinne Wessels, a rising junior in the School of Education and Social Policy, SIGP has allowed her to pursue her dream internship at Lurie Children’s Hospital in the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Inpatient Program.
“To me, receiving a SIGP grant was so much more than money,” Wessels said. “Without a SIGP grant, my amazing experience at Lurie Children’s Hospital would not have been possible. The Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Inpatient Program deeply relates to my aspirations of a career in psychological services and mental health. Thanks to a SIGP grant, I am able to gain a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as an undergraduate student at Northwestern University and gain valuable experience, in an environment that resonates with the future atmosphere of my career.”
SIGP funding comes from a variety of sources, such as Northwestern alumni, staff, central administration and friends of the University. Major contributors include the Alumnae of Northwestern University, Council of One Hundred and Buffett Institute for Global Studies.
This summer, SIGP students are interning at organizations such as the United States Department of Commerce, American Documentary Inc., and CNN Buenos Aires. Students will travel to internship sites all over the world, from Chicago and Washington, D.C., to Argentina and Hong Kong.
Magdalena Flores, a rising sophomore in the School of Communication, will pursue an internship at the Latino Policy Forum in Chicago, where she will build on her communications skills.
“Receiving a SIGP grant means that I am able to gain the real-world experience that will help me in my future career path after Northwestern,” Flores said. “As a communications intern for the Latino Policy Forum in Chicago, I am able to apply theories learned in academic courses to my daily media and public relations tasks.”
Frank Laucerica, a rising senior in Bienen, will participate in his second SIGP internship at the Miami Summer Music Festival. He values the learning opportunities that are paramount to the internship experience.
“Internships help us maximize the time we invest in the pursuit of mastery,” Laucerica said.
To round out their internship experiences, SIGP recipients are also engaging in career development activities throughout the summer, such as participating in discussions on LinkedIn, conducting informational interviews, and networking.