Panelists discuss how to fund unpaid internships

By KATERINA FRYE | February 7, 2019

The Career Center hosted a workshop titled, “How to Fund Your Internship” on Tuesday night. The panel consisted of directors from Internship Programs, the Office of Development, the Career Center, the Center for Social Concern and the Office of Student Financial Services. 

Karen Mardock, assistant director of employer relations at the Career Center, added that regardless of one’s financial aid status, students are strongly encouraged to browse through Handshake, the University-run job site. She said that the platform allows students to learn about different fields, connect with alums, and search for jobs and internships.

However, Mardock cautioned students not to rely solely on Handshake. 

“There are lots of ways to consider, and it doesn’t have to be just applying to an internship program. I encourage you to think in terms of trying to find something that you’re really interested in doing that you think would be a valuable experience for you,” she said.

Mardock added that it is important for students to complete their applications for internship and funding with specificity. One task on these applications is to draft a loose budget, including all expected expenses over the course of your internship, such as transportation, food and housing.

Ellen Ostendorf, senior associate director at the Office of Student Financial Services, explained that for students facing financial pressure, Summer Waiver Grants are an option. These funds help students who receive Hopkins need-based aid pursue unpaid internships. According to the University’s financial aid website, those with need-based aid are expected to earn $2,600 over the summer to cover expenses incurred over the upcoming semesters. The Summer Waiver Grant lifts this expectation, allowing students to instead focus on professional and personal development. 

Assistant Director of Internship Programs Ciara Flowers expanded further upon the opportunities available for students of all grades in an email to The News-Letter.

“The best way to connect with companies is through the hundreds of employer-led sessions on the JHU campus every year. All students who are serious about planning their career should attend these sessions,” Flowers wrote.

She added that she believes internships are beneficial to students and help them prepare for entering the workforce. 

“There is a strong correlation between interning and full-time hires,” she wrote. “It also assists with building a professional network, enhancing soft skills needed in the workplace, building your resume. An added benefit to interning is that it allows you to figure out what you don’t like/don’t want to do.”

Nairuti Shastry, student leadership and development coordinator at the Center for Social Concern (CSC), described some internship opportunities available through the CSC. Members of CSC groups can apply to three types of grants: service, professional development and events. The CSC itself also offers on-campus paid internships, which allow students a chance to develop skills in assessment, recruiting and marketing.

Shastry also mentioned the Campus Compact Mid-Atlantic, which connects students to volunteering opportunities, internships and grants for those interested in launching social change.

The Office of Development also offers summer funding in partnership with the Second Decade Society. They offer $3,000 grants to Krieger freshmen, sophomores and juniors who are pursuing unpaid internships. Even those who have not yet secured or finalized an internship are eligible to apply.

Flowers urged students, especially non-STEM majors, to seek funding outside of Hopkins as well. 

“Students with non-STEM majors have the ability to work in an unlimited number of industries. A policy student, for example, is not limited to working with the government or in politics,” she wrote. “It is also imperative for students to understand that funding also exists outside of Hopkins, with opportunities available nationally as well as globally.”

Even with these resources, securing an internship is no easy task, according to freshman Andrea Niu. She felt that the process was especially difficult for new students.

“I feel like a lot of internships are geared less toward freshmen and more toward sophomores and juniors. If you know the right people you probably could get one as a freshmen. But a lot of internships look for experiences and skills, and I am still learning those,” Niu said.

Sophomore Hana Ryan, however, didn’t consider her position as an underclassmen to be a deterrent.

“You can use the alumni network, and there are a lot of diversity programs that firms have that only take freshmen and sophomores,” Ryan said.

She did, however, elaborate upon the pressure students face to take unpaid positions.

“Especially as a freshman and sophomore, you need the experience. Frankly, in a lot of sectors, to get the experience you’re going to have to be unpaid,” Ryan said.

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