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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, December 11, 2023

Changing the world, one internship at a time

Junior Maisie Ganz did not want to spend her precious summer months organizing files and making coffee in an air-conditioned office. In fact, she did not want her summer plans to involve air conditioning at all.

"I love being outside," Ganz said. "I love digging my hands into the ground and working really hard all day long."

This summer, thanks to one of the 25 internship stipends granted by Career Services, Ganz will have the opportunity to do just that. While many of her peers will be returning to the comforts of an air-conditioned home, Ganz will be heading to New Mexico. There, in the mountains north of Santa Fe, she'll spend her days under the sun working for Gemini Farm, a seven-acre organic farm committed to food production as a method of educating the public about how humans affect the environment.

"I'll be helping grow and harvest crops and getting experience with the methods of organic agriculture," Ganz said. "I hope to learn a lot."

In the past, only five students would have received summer internship stipends from Career Services, which used money from the AS&E diversity fund. This year, however, 25 students will receive grants from Career Services, for new funds are now used from the $100 million donation given to the university by Pierre and Pam Omidyar in November 2006.

"The Internship Grant program is an unprecedented service here at Tufts, and one that we believe will meet a strong need among our population and make a significant contribution to the organizations where they will work," said Director of Career Services Jean Papalia.

This will be Ganz's second summer interning at Gemini Farm, but her first time receiving a grant to do so.

"I feel like the grant has made it [her internship at Gemini] all the more legitimate in the eyes of not only the farm but also the Tufts community," she said.

As part of the grant requirements, Ganz will present a presentation and poster session about her internship when she returns next fall.

"I get to share my experience with other Tufts students," she said, "which is one of the cool things about the grant."

The internship will also be a way for Ganz to explore her life's passion. Although she said she receives the occasional "raised eyebrow" whenever she discusses her plans for the future, Ganz hopes to become an organic farmer after she leaves Tufts, or even to open a farm of her own.

"Besides the actual experience with organic farming methods, I also want to find out for myself how I want to integrate farming into my life," she said.

Ganz said she's interested in the balance between production and education at Gemini Farm, which uses internships to teach students about the techniques of sustainable agriculture.

"I'm very conscious of our current agricultural system, and it means a lot to me that I live my life so that I'm not only making my ecological footprint smaller, but also educating others about why it's important to do so," she said. "The way that these guys have gone about it is inspiring."

Papalia believes that the grant allows students like Ganz to extend their humanitarianism when away from Tufts. "One of the most notable characteristics of the Tufts student population is its commitment to public service and humanitarian initiatives," Papalia said. "Our students embrace the concept of citizenship, both philosophically and actively, both inside and outside the classroom."

According to Papalia, while the internships "reflect a wide range of professional interests, organizations and geographic locations," they share a common thread in that all students selected demonstrated a commitment to both learning and making a difference. She said she hopes the internships will give them the "opportunity to contribute."

Sophomore Adam Levy, another grant recipient, hopes his internship with Coalicion de Derechos Humanos, an immigrant rights and community awareness group in Tuscon, Ariz., that offers legal aid to recent immigrants, will give him both career experience and a chance to do something worthwhile.

He'll spend his summer being trained in immigrant rights and interviewing legal and illegal immigrants to document abuses.

"I was definitely looking to work for some kind of non-profit organization, and I wanted something to give me a chance to have hands-on contact and really influence things," he said. "We'll be organizing a network of pro-bono lawyers and trying to assemble a network of options to help these people."

While the internship will give him valuable experience that will help him with his plans for the future - which include majoring in International Relations and Peace and Justice studies, attending law school and eventually working for a non-profit organization - he said the issue is particularly meaningful because of his background. Levy and his family immigrated legally to the United States from Ecuador when he was a boy.

"I think it will make me realize how lucky I am as an immigrant," he said. "My experience was different than it is for these people - I never had to pay a coyote to smuggle me across the border or leave my family behind."

Levy recalled returning to Ecuador in recent years and seeing entire villages devoid of middle-aged men, most of whom were working in the United States to support their families in Ecuador.

"These people have made great sacrifices to come here," he said. "More than anything else, I'm looking forward to really talking to these people and learning about the issue firsthand."

"This internship is definitely in the direction of career exploration, but I also see it as a way to contribute," he added.

Two thousand miles away, in Washington D.C., freshman Lisa Haubenstock will be contributing in a rather different way. At her internship with Critical Exposure, a nonprofit startup company run by two Tufts alumni, Haubenstock's goal will be to "promote education equality through photo and documentary."

"Critical Exposure runs special classes for middle-schoolers that teach them leadership skills, writing skills, how to use a camera and different techniques of photography," she said. "Then, the students use those skills to create firsthand accounts of their schools."

According to Haubenstock, the internship will play a dual role for her.

"I sort of have the idea that one day I might start my own nonprofit, so I hope to have a better understanding of how nonprofits work," she said. "But I also want to feel by the end of the summer that I've made a difference."

According to Papalia, a main purpose of the grants was to alleviate the financial pressure that comes with working at an unpaid internship in the summer.

"Many students who utilize their summers to help defray the costs of college are not able to participate in meaningful internship experiences because most summer internships do not offer salaries," she said. "As a result, many students cannot afford to gain first-hand experience in the career field of their choice."

Junior Isha Plynton, who will be working in the office of Senator Ed Kennedy to help research and legislate education reform, said the grants were essential for her. On top of the fact that the internship is unpaid, she also needs to cover almost $900 per month for housing in Washington D.C.

"I probably wouldn't have been able to do this internship without the money," she said.

Plynton also said that the nature of the grant program will make her internship more meaningful and helpful, as she has to conduct weekly interview sessions with members of the office about their careers and about legislation in general.

"It's not just about making coffee for people and things like that. I actually get the chance to involve myself with the legislation process."

In addition, Plynton said it would help her in her career search later on in life. The program also sets up each grant recipient with two alumni mentors in the field.

"The interviews are an important part of the program, because they encourage us to learn about the career we're interested in and encourage us to network."

Levy agreed.

"I see myself working with a non-profit or NGO here in the states or somewhere else when I graduate," he said. "But this is a good first step."