CSUN Internship Proposal Among Finalists for Aspen Institute’s Ideas Award

CSUN President Dianne F. Harrison

CSUN President Dianne F. Harrison

Financially strapped students at California State University, Northridge might have funds available to afford interning at deserving local nonprofit organizations under a proposal that earned CSUN a spot among the top five finalists for the prestigious Aspen Institute’s Booz Allen Aspen Ideas Award.

If CSUN’s proposal wins, the university will receive $25,000 in seed money to help fund Let Matadors Learn and Lead, a new pilot program that would provide students with stipends so that they can afford to take otherwise unpaid internships with nonprofits. As CSUN’s proposal notes, a large majority of its students work to support themselves and their families, and often cannot take advantage of valuable experiential-learning opportunities that unpaid internships provide many of their wealthier counterparts at other institutions. This potential funding is complemented by a crowdfunding effort on Generosity.com.

CSUN President Dianne F. Harrison will be presenting the proposal at the Aspen Ideas Festival later this week. The Aspen Ideas Festival is one of the nation’s premier, public gathering places for leaders from around the globe and across many disciplines to present and discuss ideas and issues that shape our lives and challenge our times. Developed with Booz Allen Hamilton, a leading provider of management and technology consulting services to the U.S. government in defense, intelligence and civil markets, the Booz Allen Aspen Ideas Award is designed to inspire ideas and innovation that will have a lasting impact on communities around the globe.

“I witness firsthand the struggle our students from first-generation, immigrant and and underrepresented populations face — lacking the economic support systems that traditional college students typically enjoy,” Harrison said. “Research shows the positive impact internships have in improving student learning, student retention, graduation rates and closing the achievement gap. At the same time, they foster invaluable connections between the students and the community, and provide valuable human capital to the nonprofits who often suffer from limited resources.

“Many of our students work to support themselves and, often, their families,” she continued. “Hence, they cannot afford to avail themselves of unpaid internships in desirable fields, as many traditional students do. Learn and Lead provides students financial support to work directly with nonprofit leaders, to receive professional mentoring and leadership experience while engaged in their communities.”

Learn and Lead would match CSUN students with local nonprofits. The program would provide funds to support the students financially with a stipend while they do their internship. Students also would receive leadership training and mentoring from the nonprofit executive team and a faculty member in their discipline. Participating nonprofits would be screened for quality and professionalism of the internship and mentoring experiences, as well as their commitment to an ongoing partnership with the university and their meaningful contribution to the community.

CSUN already has strong connections to many local nonprofits through various campus departments and programs, including its Office of Community Engagement. In 2014-15, the most recent year with data available, more than 10,000 CSUN students engaged in some form of community service, totaling more than 450,000 hours. Nearly 6,000 students were enrolled in community service learning courses.

In addition to the potential seed money from the Booz Allen Award, the university also is seeking crowdfunding support. Those interested in helping to finance the program can contribute online at https://www.generosity.com/education-fundraising/let-matadors-learn-and-lead.

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