More than 250 Northwestern students who received grants of at least $3,000 are beginning unpaid summer internships this month as part of Northwestern Career Advancement’s Summer Internship Grant Program. This is the highest number of grants and funding awarded in the program’s nine year history.
The Summer Internship Grant Program (SIGP) will support student internships at the Chicago Field Museum, National Institute of Health, U.S. Department of Education, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Mount Sinai Roosevelt Hospital, and many more organizations across the U.S. and internationally. The program, which began in 2007 and provides funding to undergraduate students pursuing unpaid internships, serves to open doors for students to participate in valuable learning opportunities related to their career field.
“This year’s SIGP grants represent an important expansion of the program,” said Mark Presnell, Northwestern Career Advancement (NCA) executive director. “We truly recognize that if we want students from a variety of backgrounds to join a variety of fields, we need to ensure that they have access to these opportunities and experiences even if these internships are unpaid.”
SIGP numbers have soared since the program’s first year, with grants of $2,000 awarded to 10 students from 90 applicants to this year’s group of 277 selected from a pool of 411 applicants. Last year, NCA received a total of 287 applications and awarded 70 students grants of $2,500.
Additional funding from the president and provost offices, as well as more alumni donations, brought the stipend to $3,000 for 2015, with three grants of $6,000 given to students participating in unpaid international internships. These international internship grants are in partnership with The Buffett Institute as a result of a recent gift from Roberta Buffett Elliott (WCAS ’54).
“SIGP’s key to success has been the ability to support students as they gain professional experience,” Presnell said. “This year’s larger stipend is our recognition that costs increase and SIGP has the responsibility to meet that demand.”
To be considered for a grant, students must submit an application that includes a copy of their resume and responses to multiple essay prompts that ask about career goals, internship role, and financial situation. These essays are then evaluated based on the quality of the application and the need of the student.
In the past, a restriction limited the number of times undergraduate students could apply for the grant. Now, students are welcome to apply more than once starting in their first year through their junior year.
“We had students waiting to apply until the summer before their senior year because of the restriction,” Presnell said. “We opened it up to ensure that the opportunity is open to everyone every year.”
The lift on this restriction made it possible for Liam Feroli, a School of Communication rising junior, to receive a second SIGP grant to pursue internships in the entertainment industry. As part of last year’s SIGP program, Feroli interned at New Chapter Entertainment, a Chicago-based production company founded by former Oprah Show producers.
“That experience was absolutely incredible, especially as a freshman, because I got to work with some seriously experienced entertainment industry professionals,” Feroli said in an e-mail.
Building on his experience from last summer, Feroli is spending this summer with three production companies in Los Angeles, where he will read scripts, weigh in on the development of feature film screenplays and television pilots, and assist film directors.
Feroli credits SIGP with providing him the financial support to pursue opportunities in his career field of interest.
“SIGP has changed my life. I'm in Los Angeles for the first time doing what I love. I would have never had this chance without the support of this grant, NCA, and the SIGP donors,” Feroli said. “Career development is one of the most important things for undergraduates entering a tough job market. SIGP gives Northwestern students advantages and options.”