SIGP Makes Internship Opportunities Financially Accessible

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Last year, School of Communications junior Shannon Campbell had every college student’s dream summer. She jetted off to the Czech Republic where she had a prestigious internship in her desired field. Campbell spend two and a half months learning the ropes at the Prague Shakespeare Company, doing everything from set design for a production Romeo and Juliet to stage managing a cast of young actors from all over the world. She even got to work remotely for a few weeks, taking the opportunity to travel to Budapest and Vienna and learning how throw axes and swords at a stage fighting class in the medieval city Český Krumlov.

The only problem? The internship was unpaid.

So when she heard about Northwestern Career Advancement (NCA)’s Summer Internship Grant Program (SIGP), “I had a lightbulb moment,” Campbell said. “I was like, ‘Okay, I want to do that.’”

Now in its 11th year, SIGP provides funding for students with unpaid summer internships. Recipients receive $3,000 to help cover their living expenses and ensure that they don’t have to turn down an experience because of financial reasons.

“Some people can afford to put thousands toward an unpaid internship, but a lot of people can't,” Campbell explained. “It helps equalize socioeconomic statuses of different students. There's a whole spectrum here. It makes opportunities so much bigger for everybody.”

In 2017, NCA awarded 394 students SIGP grants of at least $3,000—the largest number of recipients to date. Recipients went to 29 states, DC, and 30 countries to pursue their internships. Ninety percent of these students reported that without the support SIGP, they would have had to turn down their summer experience or supplement it with a second job.

Campbell said that if she hadn’t received a SIGP grant, she would’ve tried to make the internship work, but she knows money would’ve been a huge concern.

“Being able to casually move to the Czech Republic and work with this award winning theater and have all of these opportunities was unbelievable,” Campbell said, “but I couldn't have done it to this extent – and with joy, not stress and guilt – without SIGP.”

As for the upcoming summer, Campbell said she is still looking for internships, but she will absolutely keep SIGP in mind because it was such a “supportive, accommodating, and helpful” experience.

“I tell people about SIGP all the time,” Campbell said with a laugh. “It was an amazing opportunity to work in Prague and to do great artwork and make great theater.”

SIGP applications are open until April 5.