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Bringing It All Together

Tisch College Summer Fellows get a taste for working in the nonprofit and government sectors

Sitting at her workstation in the offices of the Constitution Project, a D.C.-based nonprofit think tank, Benya Kraus, A18, gestures at the thick books on law and politics lining a long shelf. "I'm trying to read as many of them as I can before I go," she says.

Kraus was one of 83 Tufts students selected for this year's Tisch Summer Fellows program. They work full-time for 10 weeks doing jobs with a focus on public interest in a range of government offices, nonprofits, and advocacy organizations in and around Washington, D.C., New York, and Boston and receive a stipend of approximately $4,000. Students can also pursue international projects, working on issues related to health, education, and the environment in places such as Ghana and Malaysia.

The demand for these kinds of real-life experiences working for the public good is increasing as more students look for ways to road test potential careers and expand their skill sets. The Tisch Summer Fellows program—which supported 83 fellows in 2016, up from 46 in 2015—is growing, but landing one of these highly coveted summer work experiences has become increasingly competitive. The stipends are funded by alumni and others, and the Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts also relies on them to identify sites for summer placements.

"Our goals are for students to consider their own civic identity, connect their coursework to real-world experience, and understand communities different from their own, all while exploring potential career paths," says Maggie McMorrow, a program coordinator associate at Tisch College. "Whether they were on Capitol Hill, at the Pentagon, in the Massachusetts State House, or at community nonprofits, our fellows were learning while making a difference."

Kraus, an international relations major, is the diversity and community affairs officer on the Tufts student senate, leads Tufts Wilderness Orientation trips, coordinates statewide legislative lobbying for Amnesty International, and is working on a proposal to establish an indigenous studies minor. In second grade, she made business cards identifying herself as a writer, actress, and women's rights activist. "I've struggled with how vast my interests can be," she says.

That drive to learn more was one reason Kraus joined the Constitution Project, which works for bipartisan consensus on issues related to the balance between public safety and individual rights, the First Amendment, and transparency in government.

This summer, as she did research for a report on demilitarizing police departments and reviewed the think tank's clemency recommendations related to the death penalty in Oklahoma, Kraus felt frustrated. "I get attached to our recommendations, and just want to see them through to the end," she says.

That changed after she met with American University law professor Stephen Wermiel, A72, A10P, through the Tisch College network Connecting Alumni Student Experiences. He helped her realize she doesn't have to know everything right away. "I got to hear about the junctures in his life where his path started changing, and what a career looks like," Kraus says.

Kraus is doing a lot of thinking about her career trajectory. "I want to be able to do things that genuinely help communities and bridge gaps," she says. "And I'd like to find a way to bring foreign policy, local, and national work, government, and law all together."