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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Friday, June 14, 2024

Tufts alumni give back through Winternships

The Film and Media Studies department invites its students to explore new opportunities.

FMS Winternships

Bill Abrams pictured with indigenous women in Guatemala

The Film and Media Studies Winternship program harnesses the power of the Tufts community by combining the generosity of alumni and the passionate intellect of current Tufts students.

For over 20 years, the Winternship program has provided students a snapshot intensive of the media industry and workforce. Students apply through the FMS Department for one to two week internships over winter break, many of which are set up by Tufts alumni who donate their time and resources in order to give back to their alma mater.

The program is Tufts-focused and Tufts-specific, providing the best opportunities for students to enter the competitive media industry.

Leslie Goldberg (LA’84), internship administrator for the FMS Department, emphasized the competitive nature of the application.

“It's sort of considered a feather in their cap,” Goldberg said. “We might get 20 or 25 students applying for one slot, so it's pretty competitive.”

Goldberg has worked at Tufts for 20 years and took charge of FMS internships in the early 2010s. She guides students in finding media-based internships, helping them decide what they want to do after graduation and using her networking skills to connect students to people in the industry.

The Winternship program provides a mixture of nonprofit and private business options for students seeking work experience. This winter, there were 11 businesses and organizations to which students could apply.

“We really want to give students an opportunity where they haven't had one before,” Goldberg said. “So a lot of the time, it's not the student with the most experience who gets selected. A lot of times, it's the student who really has a passion for an industry and expresses that well in their application.”

Goldberg has watched over the years as her Winternship students engaged with script evaluations, client campaigns and idea pitches, all while bonding with supervisors and forming connections that will last them the course of their careers.

To continue building the program, Goldberg taps into her network of former students and resources like The Herd, Tufts’ alumni networking website.

“It's very much something that we like to get alumni involved in,” Goldberg said. “There's hundreds of alums out there working in the media industry. Sometimes finding them is challenging, but they're out there.”

One such alumnus is Bill Abrams (A’75), the former director of Trickle Up, a nonprofit organization that empowers women living at the most extreme levels of poverty to start businesses.

“We help women who are essentially living off the grid of their communities,” Abrams said. “They really weren't part of any kind of community political system. They didn't have bank accounts. We said, ‘We're going to help you get from off-the-grid to on-the-grid in order to be more successful.’”

As former editor of the Tufts Observer, the husband of Tufts alumna Julie Salamon (J’75) and the father of two Tufts graduates, Abrams’ commitment to Tufts runs deep.

“We bleed brown and blue,” Abrams said.

Though Abrams retired from Trickle Up in 2021, his willingness to take on Tufts students contributed to the success of the Winternship program for years; in particular, Abrams created an outlet for students seeking to pursue media and communications in the nonprofit sector.

“The nonprofit sites, I think, are particularly appealing to Tufts students because Tufts students are very focused on making a difference,” Goldberg said.

After thirty years working for some of the most major companies in the U.S. like the Wall Street Journal, ABC and the New York Times, Abrams too was drawn to the idea of making a difference and decided to transition into the nonprofit sector. In 2005, Abrams was hired as the new president of Trickle Up, traveling to nations like India, Burkina Faso and Guatemala, where he saw the power of investing in women firsthand.

“I really got to see a part of the world that was only kind of an abstraction or something I read about … and [I got to] understand the inequality in the world and all of the challenges that people who live in poverty face,” Abrams said, “More importantly, I got to see firsthand that, with some modest support for people and for communities, you can make a big difference.”

Abrams’ desire to combine his passion for Trickle Up and his love of Tufts stemmed partially from Abrams’ experience at an  internship with a local cable company in Medford when he was  a student.

“I got to experience all the different functions within the organization, posting people's payments, going out and selling subscriptions, working in the studio as a cameraman, being on camera, going out and reporting stories. So I got this fantastic immersion into this really interesting young industry called cable television,” Abrams said.

When Goldberg approached him about taking on a Tufts intern at Trickle Up, he did so without hesitation. Abrams would give his “winterns” assignments, such as data analysis and short research write-ups, creating a project that they could feel the satisfaction of completing at the end of their term. He also aimed to spend time with each “wintern,” understand their ambitions and provide career advice.

“I was glad to do it because I believe strongly that we all have an obligation to help the next generation move ahead,” Abrams said.

Echoing Goldberg’s thoughts on how to choose the best applicants, Abrams sees the goal of the FMS Winternship program as finding students with a clear sense of mission and passion rather than focusing on pre-existing skills.

“You don't expect someone in their early 20s to actually have a lot in the way of useful skills. And that's okay, because you'll learn that,” Abrams said. “Do you have the energy, the motivation, the character, that indicates that you're going to be successful? Because really in the end, [that’s] what it's about.”

After Abrams retired, Trickle Up gained a new president and CEO in Nathalie Laidler-Kylander, yet another Tufts alumna. Laidler-Kylander earned her Ph.D. from the Fletcher School in nonprofit brand equity in 2007 and taught classes in Fletcher from 2009-12. After working in the nonprofit sector for six years at the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, Laidler-Kylander moved to Trickle Up, feeling drawn to women’s empowerment work.

“I love the fact that we are centering and supporting women as the agents of change in a way that creates long-term sustainable impact for themselves and their families,” Laidler-Kylander said.

Trickle Up did not take a “wintern” last year during the transition in leadership after Abrams’ retirement. This year, Laidler-Kylander is excited to once again involve Trickle Up in the Winternship program and give back to Tufts.

“We really wanted to continue the legacy that Bill had built around this internship program. So we took a little break, just because there was this transition in leadership,” Laidler-Kylander said. “We're very much excited and looking forward to rekindling that partnership.”

Laidler-Kylander hopes this year’s intern will be exposed to international staff as well as be able to participate fully in the communications department and be exposed to as many people and experiences as possible.

“There's always the hope that [the internship] ignites a passion in someone to continue either with Trickle Up or with other nonprofit organizations,” Laidler-Kylander said. “The world is pretty messed up, and so I think it's an enormous privilege to be able to do something that makes the world a little bit of a better place. If we inspire our ‘wintern’ to really consider a social career in the social sector, I think that would be fantastic.”

The enthusiasm of Tufts alumni like Abrams and Laidler-Kylander helps cultivate a vibrant community of hands-on Tufts students. Goldberg acknowledges how hard it can be to take on an intern for such a short period of time, making the contributions of these alumni all the more incredible. Through their help, the FMS Winternship program creates countless opportunities for students.

“Hopefully, you can find a Winternship somewhere. Go do it. Have the experience,” Abrams said. “It may be a little scary at first, but if you can make that work … it's a great opportunity to learn, to network, to think about your own goals.”