I’ve been asked by many people during the first couple weeks back in Ann Arbor about my experience this summer and I feel I should take a moment to put into words the impact that this summer has had on me. Overall, my internship at the Library of Congress was unbelievable. I truly enjoyed every moment I spent on the clock this summer and the lessons learned will serve me well in the future. I can confidently say that I developed my research skills to their full capacity at this point in my academic career. My projects opened my eyes up to how much content is available in the world of academia that I didn’t even know existed. Universities and government bodies spend tons of money on building databases and retrieving materials for research that students our age never utilize. We are quick to just google answers and if we do not come up with an immediate result, we just move on and find something that’s easier to access. My internship taught me that spending the time to use databases for research other than Google can enhance your work tremendously. Aside from the educational skills my experience taught me, I feel that I learned how to function in a classic office setting. We had everything from conference room meetings to water cooler chats. I feel confident in my office etiquette moving into next summer. Needless to say, my time at the Library of Congress definitely had a positive impact on me.
As I enter my senior year of undergrad, I can’t help but reflect on how much I’ve changed, learned, and grown since I graduated high school. It’s safe to say that my summer abroad has made the greatest impact on who I am today.
Being abroad has taught me more about the world around me than a classroom or textbook ever could. It’s one thing to visit a foreign country, but it’s a completely different thing to live in it. You can’t fully immerse yourself in another culture without living it.
From working and traveling in Asia, I’ve learned so much about the region my parents call home. I discovered where the customs and traditions my parents raised me on came from, as well as how they came to be. I had a better grasp on why certain economies are the way they currently are. In southeast Asia, the only developed countries are Singapore and Hong Kong. When I visited Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, and Thailand, the differences between a developing and a developed nation became extremely evident. The less developed states often lacked what we would consider basic essentials. For instance, when I was in Bali, I was shocked to find no lanes on the roads and no address numbers on the buildings. Navigating became a little difficult, especially since I didn’t purchase a SIM card for the weekend trip.
But enough about my adventures; I’ve learned more from my internship than I could have hoped to gain. I got to experience the highs and the lows of entrepreneurship second hand. That basically sums it up, right?
I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to intern at Covetella. There are a million pros to the internship, but what really drew me in was the founder. When I was preparing for my interview with her, I did some research on her and quickly realized that I really admired her. Her long list of accomplishments and unique character made me want to make her my mentor. She has taught me so much about business, networking, and life in general, and I don’t think I could ever thank her enough.
Being abroad on my own has taught me so much more about myself. I grew up pretty independent, but this experience has given me the affirmation that I’m ready to begin a life and career of my own. From all the places I’ve been and all of the people I’ve met, I’ve realized that I could easily move almost anywhere in the world and be okay.
Looking back now at my summer, I reflect on how it has differed from the previous. Just 2 summers ago, I was sitting at home relaxing with my younger brother, probably playing some video game for the 3rd time that day, maybe working on AP summer homework later that evening.
This past summer was quite the opposite.
Everyday I woke up at 4 or 5 in the morning to have time to shower, eat a good breakfast (although not always), and get to work to start production at 6 am sharp. I would preform chemical experiments based on my own scientific research of previous publications of similar work, and analyze the results that evening or the following morning.
Although I have enjoyed the work I have done, I am in a position to move on to the next big journey in my life. Whether that be another internship, study abroad, or some other third thing, I cannot wait to see what awaits.
This was a big summer for me. It was the first time that I was not living at home during the summer since I came to college, and it was also the first time I had an internship where I was not being paid for my work. The latter aspect was at times a challenge for me, especially when I think about all the people who are unable to afford such an opportunity, including myself during the summer of 2015.
I gained a lot from my experiences this summer, living in a new town, working in a workplace different from any other that I’ve been involved in previously, and meeting people from all around the country.
I think this will end up being a very formative experience for me, as I decided that I will likely end up living in the city where I had an internship following my graduation from Michigan.
My internship this summer was in the field of communications. I had never before considered going into this field, and I enjoyed the internship and all that I was able to learn while in the role. That being said, this summer made it clear to me that communications, while important to the success of an organization or institution, is not what ultimately what I want to do after I complete my undergraduate education.
I am thankful for this summer. It was the first real experience for me that resembled what life could be like after college. There were pros, and there were certainly cons as well. It really reminded me to appreciate my time here at Michigan, but that there are also incredible opportunities out there. As the academic year and classes get started, I know that I have grown since last stepping into the classroom, and have a better understanding of the path that lies ahead.
For my last post I would like to recap on my experience reflect on the impact of the experience.
This summer I feel like I experienced and learned quite a lot through this internship. First of all, I was so grateful to be granted this experience since it’s quite hard to get an internship at Marathon if you don’t have kin that are already apart of the company.
I felt like working there was actually quite a cultural shock. Not just because of the experience of working in a professional setting but also because I identify as Latino/Hispanic and there weren’t many professionals that looked like me working there. I’m used to being around more POC but there were only a few at this job. So I felt like I was put out my comfort zone and taught myself to communicate with people I usually don’t find myself approaching.
This internship also taught me some of the basics and logistics of refining. I learned about the many positions one can hold with the same degree even if it is in the same job field/company.
I think this internship was kind of like my playground in a way because I didn’t know what to expect at first but I feel like it has prepared me for, possibly, future internships. As far as how to interact with people, how to start a constructive conversation, and just overall how one should compose themselves in a professional setting.
What I learned about the city that I worked in was that I love Detroit! I grew up in Detroit so of course I love my city! Growing up in a city you obviously feel like you know everything and have seen everything your city has to offer. But working at Marathon I learned so much more about the wonderful city of Detroit. For one I didn’t know how much industrial companies were located near Southwest Detroit. Like DTE is just a few miles down from Marathon and so is US Steel. Marathon receives a bad stigma for creating pollution in the community but I think it’s because it’s the most recognized and visible company.However, I learned that some of the surrounding companies are actually the ones that contribute the most to the pollution in that zip code.
During the internship there, I also go to take cruise tour of the Rouge River. It was quite informational and I learned about Detroit’s history. For example, I learned about Zug Island and how heavy industrialized it is . I learned about the wall that was suppose to be built to “keep Canadians out” but obviously that didn’t happen because the countries talked out their differences and came to an agreement. Finally, I learned about Boblo Island and how amazing it use to be. I kind of wish it was still standing because that would have sounded like a great Sunday family activity.
I mentioned in my previous post how I got the opportunity to work in the Marathon Gardens during my internship but I also got to visit another awesome Detroit garden. The garden is called “Cadillac Square Garden” and it was the inspiration for the Marathon garden. This garden was huge and is located so close in Southwest Detroit that I’m so stunned I never heard about it or got the chance to visit it . I’m glad I got the chance to see it and visit it because now I can take my family or friends to visit this hidden treasure.
This internship gave me the opportunity to learn more about the city of Detroit and make me love it more! Ofcourse I would return because theres no other place like the D!
My favorite experience as an intern was all the free food we got ! I feel like I never had to bring lunch because we always had amazing food at the office! Haha, I’m just kidding that was just the cherry on top. My most memorable and favorite experience was working with the community to help plant trees at the wild habitat and plant seeds in the garden beds. I love working with communities because I know there is a wrong stigma with Marathon. But actually I got to see how much Marathon has contributed to the community.
For some reason I always get stuck doing “environmental things” when I work at some jobs. I have grown to like it though, it’s kind of tranquil. Working at the Marathon Wild Habitat I got the chance to see all sorts of animals right in the City! All these animals were attracted just by the land of where previous homes use to be that the company bought out. It was quite incredible! Also, the community garden beds were flourishing with vegetables and fruit available for the community. It was amazing to see how beautiful these things were growing also right in the city! It was just an awesome experience to see “rural meets city” in a way. I’m not sure if I worded that correctly but this was my best experience interning at Marathon.
My work this summer has been in storytelling. In short, I interviewed alumni who graduated from the School of Natural Resources and Environment between 1950 and 1980 and helped to come up with ways to tell their stories, their pieces of the larger history of the institution. Earlier this summer, I did a presentation about why storytelling was important to me and my work. As we have continued to learn, stories are incredibly powerful tools in philanthropy. I would like to share with you a brief reflection on the story of DSIP.
For DSIP, the story was not driven by the conflict, which can often can seem timeless, inescapable, and overwhelming. After all, the world has so many complex needs that it can be difficult to see how philanthropy can address them all. Our D-SIP story was driven by the character development of everyone involved.
This summer, we were encouraged to ask the tough questions and to challenge those who opened themselves up to us because we had been giving an opportunity, a privilege to engage in ways that were most meaningful to us.We were told that now is the opportunity to learn and reflect. From Orientation, we hit the ground running, asking deep and necessary questions around philanthropy, engaging with donors and philanthropy professionals about the role of diversity, equity, and inclusion in their work, about how your personal values were reflected and challenged in your work and how, if there was an issue, you reconciled those conflicts in values. We started to create a community. We shared in each other’s struggles, offered hands of support and spilled generous amount of tea. During the retreat, we reflected about what we had learned, how we had grown this summer, and so much of those reflections were focused on the community we had built together and how that community had helped us grow. And also understanding and appreciating the larger community of DSIP, a decade in the making before us that knew the power, the magic of this program and helped make it what it is today.
Stories are exciting and thrilling. They make us laugh and cry. Sometimes, they are real. Too real, but they all have purpose. Stories help us make meaning of the world around us. They help us to connect to one another. They help us heal, explore, and grow. But the really good stories challenge us. They force us to ask questions and leave us trying to make meaning for ourselves. They leave us wondering: what if? And that is what D-SIP has done.
I think very deeply about my own character development. I think about how in the wake of national tragedies, in the context of a world plagued by systems of oppression like racism, homophobia, sexism, classism, institutionalized violence against black bodies– how do I make sense of this conflict? What power does philanthropy have in addressing such immense problems? I am an advocate. I work to raise the awareness of issues affecting marginalized populations. My work is rooted in a message of empowerment, constantly asking myself how I can center and uplift these voices in a society that often seeks to erase and silence them. I have learned that understanding comes through experience, it comes through research, it comes through listening and connecting. Perhaps the meaning I have made for myself is this:
The meanings we make for ourselves, from our stories and the stories around us are different: each tailored to specific needs, passions, identities, and experiences. For me, I’ve seen the budding result of this story: to empower us. For me, philanthropy is about realizing how you would like to make change in the world and feeling empowered to do so. Whether that empowerment is through a commitment to justice, an expression of your faith, a part of your culture, connected to your personal values or rooted in the legacy you want to the leave in the world:so many people in some way wants to make this world a better place. And what that empowerment looks like: financial contributions, through connections, through education, through activism: all are valuable. However, we must push ourselves to think about who is afforded the opportunity to feel empowered, recognized, and valued and most importantly who isn’t. Philanthropy has a long way to go, there’s no denying that. As a scholarship student, standing before you today as a product of the amazing work that this community does, I can tell you that philanthropy must continue to be critical, it must continue to be transformative and work not only to create opportunities to empower communities, but we have a responsibility to keep growing, challenging ourselves to be more inclusive, more diverse, and tackle those big problems. Through the many facets of the DSIP experience, we have developed to the ability to see where we would like to make change and maybe how we want to do it.
The School of Natural Resources is in the midst of an institutional evolution. A reassessment of the school’s’ potential that is being led by the provost hopes to restructure the institution to dramatically increase the environmental advocacy, impact and practices at the University of Michigan. My role was to collect the stories and experiences of alumni of the School of Natural Resources and Environment, an institution with its own social climate, priorities, and academic emphasis. The alumni of this institution have gone forward to pave the way in industry, research, academia, and policy. By commemorating these feats both great and small, I hoped to pay homage to the impact that this institution, throughout its dynamic past, has had on the Wolverines who have called it hoMe. As I connected and interacted with the living history of this institution, I also dived deep into its legacy to amass a collection of impactful alumni stories and experiences and SNRE’s 20 Greatest Contributions to Society, looking not only at the impact of the institution itself through program formation, and faculty distinctions, but also the influence that alumni have had on the field of environmental related studies and through their professional careers. By collecting this information, I generated engaging content that will be shared with the wider alumni community through SNRE Connect, a monthly e-newsletter, and Stewards, a biannual alumni magazine. By archiving the information about different alumni, their connections to the University, their fondest memories, their thoughts and concerns with the current suggested institutional changes for the school and the trajectory of their career paths, the School of Natural Resources was provided with a wealth of information for alumni relations, mentorship opportunities, engagement opportunities, information for strategic communication regarding the school’s changes, and donor cultivation
Through my project, I have learned that there is power in stories. There is power in creating a space to facilitate stories. There is power in emphasizing the importance of stories. Stories give us history in context. They breathe life into the words we read in books, the names engraved in statues. Stories give meaning to the spaces we inhabit, and add value to the legacies of which we are a part. My experiences with hearing the stories of so many people who have found pride and profound connection with this institution have given me a look first hand at what an SNRE education can do, despite never taking a class, or interacting with this emeritus faculty.
Lesson #1: School of Natural Resources and Environment has taught me the complex, nuance and strategic process of representing an organization with constituents. It was challenging to both authentically represent alumni voices, while also being strategic with the money, resources, and content space of SNRE.
Lesson #2: Strategy does not come without sacrifice. However, there is an art to balances the two needs that I was able to develop over the course of the project.
Through these stories, I have heard decades of impact, decades of sentimentality, and lifetimes of reflection, experiences, and wisdom. I am so thankful for the willingness of the those who have shared their stories with, given me access to a very precious, dear piece of their personal histories, to help me communicate its value, its meaning to others. Storytelling is central to developing and establishing meaning to place and giving substance to missions.
Philanthropy comes out of a need, a necessity. My life experiences and sense of morality are in many ways rooted in the willingness for some to give: interconnectedness. I believe that we are all interconnected in more ways than one, but one of the few intangible and tangible ties we have to one another is our ability to be invested in one another’s happiness. Happiness comes in many forms: physical, spiritual, familial, romantic, etc. However, in some way or another, I argue, our own happiness depended on the energy of someone else. In a cyclical way, to be fully invested in our own happiness, is to be fully invested in the happiness of others.
So for me, I grew up being taught to be invested in my community’s happiness because it was directed tied to mine. From a pure resource perspective, growing up poor meant that you were always one step from disaster and so, out of necessity one needed to establish a community to ensure that in case of a debilitating circumstance – a broken car, an unexpected expense, or a medical bill – you had created a network of support for yourself to ensure that you and your family’s ability to recover was possible albeit incredibly difficult. Being black in the United States means being a part of a community that has for centuries fought to establish autonomy and freedom, despite systemic, institutional, and interpersonal oppression. This reality has created a deep rooted connection unified in spirit, language and history. Molding me in the beauty and power of ‘we: a prescribed unity founded in struggle’, forcing me to think ‘us’: individually I exist as a living representation of a kinship of black skin, and labeling me as ‘them’ because my body is the screen on which others project their fantasies, their fears, their insecurities, I am Black in America.
Unified in my experiences blackness, an interconnected struggled, philanthropy, in my definition, is committing to each other. This investment does not necessarily need to be founded in having an excess because poor communities practice philanthropy every day. However, my personal belief is that philanthropy is our responsibility if we are to truly be invested in one another. We must not only be philanthropic with our earnings, but with our time, our resources, our connections, our compassion, our mercy and most of all our love.
During my time with the Development Summer Internship Program, I have, in community, been invested in exploring, deconstructing, challenging, and cultivating my knowledge and experiences with philanthropy. This program has given my cohort and I the opportunity to study the literature and research, interact and engage with philanthropy professionals and donors, and be critical of the profession and the acts and see how they fit into our personal, professional and philanthropic goals. My perception of philanthropy, just like anything else in my young adult, pre-professional career, is constantly shifting and morphing. I have always been critical of philanthropy because of its popular image. This philanthropy is rooted in elitist, classist ideologies. I am critical of philanthropy because of the overall lack of critique to how these, often times, extremely wealthy donors accumulate such drastic amounts of money in a capitalist, racist, heteronormative patriarchal, ableist society, but I suppose occasionally the tea is just too hot.
The fact that when you look at the history of our country which was founded on the exploitation, enslavement, and genocide of so many oppressed communities, specifically communities of color and the selective and discriminatory laws, policies, statutes, founding doctrines, and overt and covert acts of discrimination which severely limited those who were not cis, male, white, able-bodied, straight, or practiced judeo-christian beliefs, from accessing the tools to acquire wealth, one really starts to question the role of philanthropy in a broken system. Are we developing structures, practices that reassert the validity and power of the wealthy? “Centering” them above everything else? If so, what roles does empowerment play in philanthropy? Philanthropy must be transformative, it must be diverse, and accessible. Philanthropy must challenge, and it must recognize. Most of all, philanthropy cannot be complacent, but must be self-critical. There seems to be a disillusioned purity that is associated with philanthropic work, as if philanthropy can do no wrong because: “we’re connecting donors’ passions with the University’s needs.” Passion left unchecked can be destructive (read: white savior complex). And so I feel as though my cohort and I’s questions have burned the tongues of many philanthropy professionals, but for many it seems as though, it is not an unwillingness to engage in these conversations, but a need for more of them.
Philanthropy just like many sectors of the professional world must continue to think of strategic ways to incorporate ideas of diversity, equity and inclusion into not merely its mission, but into its practice, especially when the goals of philanthropy, specifically at Michigan, relies on interacting and engaging with those who hold immense amount of privilege. The conversation needs to shift to focus less on how far we have come and more on how far we have to go. As these conversation increasingly become more commonplace, there has been a shift in generational giving trends. As younger donors become more invested in issues of equity, inclusion, diversity, and empowerment, so must the philanthropic organizations hoping to connect to them. As the University continues to value a critical and inquirous environment, one of resistance, institutional critiques, and historic reflection, the development world must embrace these values.
Being in this program has shown me the heartfelt passion of those who are involved in philanthropy from major gift officers to donors. We have been able to see their dedication, their convictions, their contradictions, and their struggles. We have seen the joy that giving brings. Perhaps, most importantly, this internship program has given us the ability, both critically and compassionately to see the humanity in this work. By recognizing the humanity in philanthropy, it has positioned me to critique, while recognizing its value and its connection to the responsibility of investment in one another’s happiness. These connections will allow me to carry the values of philanthropic giving, investment and motivation into my professional endeavors whatever they may be.
Philanthropy has taught me my investment in others requires action. Philanthropy has shown me the powerful outcomes that can be achieved when we realize our capacity to love and invest in one another’s happiness. It has shown me the impact of a gift to transform one’s life. However, philanthropy must be self-critical. The community of philanthropy must reflect on the role in which philanthropy plays as a ‘redistribution of wealth.’ Does it manipulate a pre-existing unequal distribution of wealth? No. It creates inquiry within donors, professionals, and recipients alike. It reminds itself that as a community it is responsible for the impact, both positive and negative, that its actions may have. Philanthropy must be empowering to recipient communities, by establishing an autonomy and power in the conversation. As a scholarship recipient, I have felt, firsthand, the impact of this investment, however my responsibility is not to passively receive, but to actively encourage and reflect.
As philanthropy professionals, we are positioned at a unique and powerful place between the rifts created by the deep rooted, historic divisions of power and privilege in this country. In many ways, the profession relies on learning how to navigate, recognize and cultivate this crux, but we have a choice: we can either dwell in this privilege; wrapping ourselves in the passion of our work, losing all sense of collective responsibility and accountability, and dismissing the exploitative implications our position requires of us. We can cease to ask the hard questions, simplify the complex answers, choosing to see only the fruits of our labor or we can continue to ask ourselves: What’s missing? How can we be more diverse, more equitable, more inclusive? How can we empower everyone? What responsibility do we have to our recipients? Our donors? Our community? Our society? Ourselves? We must readily understand and accept the larger implications of our work, and strive to transform the field. Philanthropy is a manifestation of our necessity to invest in one another’s humanity, but this is only possible if we are able to recognize why: because our happiness is directly connected to everyone have the opportunity to pursue it.