Students gain nonprofit experience through honors and collaboration with foundry | Nebraska today
A collaboration over the past semester between the University Honors Program and the Downtown Lincoln Foundry has given Huskers hands-on experience working with local nonprofits.
The spring semester was a pilot for the foundry internship program, which began in January. The inaugural cohort included eight students doing internships, each assigned to one or more local nonprofit organizations. Students typically worked 10 hours per week, with eight hours spent working for their designated nonprofit organizations, and approximately two hours for professional development workshops and guest speakers designed with the interests of the cohort in mind, including topics such as fundraising, public relations and career. development.
The program was born out of a vision that the foundry, located just blocks from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, would be partially student-run. Julie Murray-Jensen, the Foundry’s executive director, said the program was a logical choice because of its proximity to campus and ease of access for students. It has also been mutually beneficial for the Foundry, which is made up of many small nonprofits that often have few or no full-time staff, and for university students seeking meaningful work experiences in the nonprofit sector. lucrative.
“When students intern at a small nonprofit like so many at The Foundry, they often get a richer experience,” Murray-Jensen said. “Because there aren’t the same hierarchies and layers of people often found in a large organization, students can do more meaningful work and internships can be more goal-oriented.”
Zuha Qadeer, a third-year psychology student who hopes to one day attend law school, was one of the honors students who participated in the inaugural cohort of IF trainees. Through the foundry, Qadeer was paired with OutNebraska as a legislative intern. In this role, she helped track bills impacting the LGBTQ+ community, attended hearings at the State Capitol and worked on presentations to publicize the organization’s work throughout the legislative session.
“The advocacy work I did with OutNebraska was very hands-on and really allowed me to interact with the political process,” Qadeer said.
One of Qadeer’s favorite experiences this semester was giving his own testimony on a bill at the State Capitol.
“Seeing the political process upstream was very inspiring and showed me the impact advocacy can have on the way laws are made in our country,” Qadeer said.
The program is a clear win for participating nonprofits, due to the increased staff capacity that interns provide. Some of these non-profit organizations are run entirely by volunteers, which makes the support of interns invaluable. Yet, the internship program was developed with a focus on student learning first.
“It’s not just about providing capacity to nonprofits, but about ensuring students learn and grow through meaningful work,” Murray-Jensen said.
Interns had the opportunity to develop professional skills while working on projects that included policy research, website redesign, updating fund development plans, and planning for the Do More conference. Good, which took place in early May. Additionally, students who have participated in the program are on track to receive professional certification in nonprofit work at no cost to them – a national certificate with a set curriculum that culminates in a test that students can take. to obtain the professional title.
Throughout the semester, students also participate in reflective work through UHON 99H, the Honors Program experiential learning course designed to help students maximize their experience. Perhaps most importantly, however, students have benefited from the mentorship of professionals working for nonprofits and other goal-oriented businesses.
The success of the program this semester has allowed both the foundry and the university honors program to plan for the future. The program is currently structured as a spring experience only, which gives the Foundry time to identify and train nonprofit partners to serve as employers and get projects vetted before students begin. However, the Foundry is also hiring two students to serve as intern program coordinators, who will spend the fall preparing for the spring internship season, with the goal of expanding to a cohort of 20 interns next spring.
Patrice McMahon, director of the university specialization program, looks forward to continuing the collaboration.
“It’s all about equipping our students with the skills and experiences they need to succeed after graduation,” McMahon said. “At the same time, because we know that internships and community engagement provide students with the connections and experiences that lend themselves to employment in the future, this partnership also aims to address the brain drain from Nebraska. . We need more collaborations like this that benefit students and our community. »
The students who participated in this pilot program are:
Lincoln: Ethan Clinchard, political science and philosophy; Jacob Whiston, business administration; Nadia Wojcik, fishing and wildlife
Omaha: Laura Perez-Villagomez, sociology and psychology; Zuha Qadeer, psychology; Elizabeth “Libby” Valerio-Boster, Nutrition and Health Sciences
Flower Mound, Texas: Anne Kluthe, environmental studies
Cypress, Texas: Javed Mahabir, undeclared