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More Than an Internship

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

Dressed in a crisp white shirt and navy skirt, Jennifer Yu, A18, presents her findings from a nine-week research project about barriers to opportunity for women in Asia. Her audience: a dozen staffers from the Asia Foundation, a nonprofit international development agency.

It's a big stage for a college junior. Yu continues her presentation: "In Cambodia, 32.8 percent of women and 20 percent of men agreed there are times a woman deserves to be beaten. Approaching the issue of violence against women, it's important to engage both genders."

Yu 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.

"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."

An international relations major who's concentrating her studies on East Asia, Jennifer Yu felt far from home during her first few weeks at the Asia Foundation headquarters in Washington, D.C. A self-described "dutiful daughter," Yu has built her studies around her strong sense of loyalty to her heritage and family. "I've always been really interested in learning more about my parents' history and culture," she says. They moved to the U.S. from China to give their children an education and standard of living they never had themselves. Yu was drawn to the Asia Foundation's mission to increase economic opportunities and promote rights for women.

She worked furiously to familiarize herself with Southeast Asian countries she'd never studied and gender analysis terms she'd never learned. She attended events about gender, international development, and Asia, including one at the Japanese ambassador's home, and heard from experts from the foundation's 18 offices around Asia.

She found a mentor in Elizabeth Silva, program officer for the foundation's Women’s Empowerment Program. Now fluent in the language of gender analysis, Yu is considering adding that to her studies at Tufts. "Elizabeth has shown me gender can be not just what you advocate for, but a part of your career," she says.