The first of what the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation hopes will be many more summer intern classes, the Foundation’s inaugural class — five college students and one recent college graduate with a mix of academic backgrounds — will be remembered with special fondness, for what they accomplished and what they gave back to the institution.
“You tend to think of internships as teaching experiences, but in truth, I think we learned just as much from them as they did from us,” said Neal Hegarty, vice president of programs at Mott.
While the Foundation has hired individual interns in the past, the decision to formalize the program was made with the intent to help develop the next generation of leaders in the philanthropy and nonprofit sectors.
“Whether they choose to follow a formal career path or simply to serve as board members and volunteers in the sector, we hope that this program will help in preparing young people to feel confident in assuming leadership roles,” Hegarty said.
Mott’s 2016 intern class included:
- Yousuf Ali, a mathematics major from the University of Michigan-Dearborn, who worked with the Civil Society program.
- Jordan Barnett, an arts education major at the University of Michigan-Flint, who worked with the Flint Area program.
- Anna Eby, a junior majoring in both finance and music at Michigan’s Hillsdale College, who took an assignment with the Foundation’s library and archival collections.
- Mitchell Jones, a chemical engineering major at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and a member of the university’s marching band, who interned with Mott’s Information Technology team.
- Channing McKay, a 2016 graduate of Michigan State University with a degree in Environmental Studies and Sustainability, who worked with the Education team.
- Dayonna Scott, a senior majoring in social work at the University of Michigan-Flint, who interned with the Environment team.
The Foundation also had the pleasure of hosting Teona Williams, a master’s candidate at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment in Ann Arbor. A member of the university’s new Environmental Fellows Program, Williams spent part of the summer conducting a case study in Flint for her thesis.
In addition to a project assignment, the interns participated in weekly learning sessions designed to familiarize them with philanthropy and the nonprofit and governmental sectors. Of special interest was the opportunity to meet with professionals from those fields and get a better understanding of why they think their work matters.
“Hearing those personal stories of trial and error, triumph, and how they ended up in their positions was not only insightful, but inspirational,” said Barnett. For Ali, the learning sessions also provided him with “a better appreciation of just how broad philanthropy actually is.”
Scott most appreciated the “foot on the ground” experience of meeting with community residents and grantee organizations, while Jones enjoyed learning some of the technical aspects of how a foundation runs. Eby enjoyed just about everything the internship had to offer, noting that “one of the strengths of Mott’s program is that at the end of the day, my supervisors didn’t ask me what work I finished, but what I learned.”
McKay, who described the internship as a time of “constant learning,” considered the experience as a kind of capstone project to earning his degree.
“I appreciated the amount of time and effort put into outlining this program and providing us with such a wide array of experiences and opportunities,” he said.
In general, the group agreed the Foundation might consider lengthening the 10-week internship to add more time for observing and connecting with teams and departments other than the one they are assigned to. And most agreed that additional help with resumes, a chance to “job shadow” individual Mott employees and the addition of a few short-term assignments would add to the program.
“You couldn’t have asked for a brighter, more hard-working group of young people,” said Hegarty of the first group of summer interns. “Their curiosity and enthusiasm added a lot of life to our daily routine. Going forward, we’ll put their recommendations to good use.”