For graduating seniors, post-graduation plans can be daunting. They represent the first moments of unscheduled time in what amounts to a roughly 16-year race to the diploma. Possibility yawns wide…as does the prospect that 55 percent of our class will be moving back home with hopes of reacquiring the jobs we had in high school. The prospect of being employed, engaged, and paid for the next 12 months? Yatzee.

For underclassmen – knee-deep in a liberal arts education and ready to demonstrate their skills – a paid summer internship can be just as valuable. These smart cookies of the freshman, sophomore, and junior differentials see their wide-eyed senior counterparts and think “one day, that’s gonna be me!” And when it is, they plan to be prepared.

The importance of substantive work opportunities to personal and professional development cannot be understated. For students at every step of their academic careers, trying new fields and actively participating in the workforce is invaluable.

The Public Interest Fellowship Program understands this reality. PIFP provides paid summer and yearlong fellowships with prestigious nonprofit organizations in Colorado.

“I am deeply impressed with CC’s commitment to placing its students in top-quality nonprofits working for the public good,” said sophomore Elliot Mamet, Summer Fellow with the American Civil Liberties Union. “The PIFP program speaks volumes to the College’s values of integrity and social responsibility, and allows students to immerse themselves in pursuing those values.

PIFP was adapted from the Princeton Alumni Corps, an alumni-run and driven program at Princeton University. Recognizing a similar need for nonprofit experience amongst CC students, Sociology Professor Jeff Livesay developed the program in partnership with several on and off campus stakeholders.

In 2003, the PIFP advisory board was created. It consisted of CC alumni that work in the nonprofit sector, as well as representatives on campus from the faculty, the Career Center, the Alumni and Parent Relations office, and the Development office.

The first group of fellows began work in May of 2004. “[The program] started with 10 positions and 30 applications for the 2003-04 cycle,” says current PIFP campus director Lani Hinkle. By comparison, “for the 2012-13 cycle, we had 23 positions and 92 applications. We’ve seen a lot of growth.”

To date, the program has placed more than 160 CC students in PIFP summer and yearlong positions. Students have had the opportunity to work with organizations that focus on education, the environment, economics, equality and civil liberty/rights issues, health, children’s advocacy, law, disabilities, the arts, civic engagement and politics, and domestic and sexual violence – just to name a few.

These organizations apply to PIFP. According to Hinkle, “they are selected based on their ability to provide meaningful work, great supervision, plentiful opportunities for growth and learning, and a guaranteed paycheck.”

The program is unique, said Hinkle, in that “fellows are treated as full employees of the organizations they work with and are given responsibilities that are above what is expected in most entry-level positions.”

Though roles vary from organization to organization, fellows are generally engaged in some sort of policy work, advocacy work, legislative research, policy research, or direct service. Responsibilities are equally disparate, including communications, public relations, writing, advocacy, community organizing, fundraising, research and analysis.

Summer Fellowships extend for 10 weeks and pay $3,000. Yearlong fellowships last 12 months and pay $22,000 plus healthcare benefits. Fellows have access to mentorship programs, wherein they are paired with a CC alumnus in the nonprofit sector. Training sessions and networking opportunities help Fellows make the most of their experience.

Hinkle explains the step-by-step application process as being fairly straightforward. “Students submit their applications, and if their applications are approved, they are scheduled for an on-campus interview with the CC alumni interviewing team on Feb. 8 or 9. On the basis of the strength of their applications, interview, skills, and experience, three or four candidates will be recommended for each organization/placement. Those candidates will go on to interview with the organizations, and the organizations make the final decision for their fellow. The goal is for all fellows to be placed in their organizations before spring break begins.”

For those interested in applying, the Career Center has sponsored interest meetings throughout the year. The next one held on Jan. 23 at 12:15 p.m., in the WES room. The application deadline is Jan. 30. There are 15 summer positions available, and 21 yearlong positions available, offered in a wide range of disciplines.

Founder Jeff Livesay concluded, “PIFP is an incredible way for students to test out a career interest and for graduates to launch a career in the nonprofit sector – and to put their values into practice in the process.”

As a nearly-there senior dangling on the precipice of college and employment, that prospect sounds pretty darn good to me.

Camilla Vogt

Staff Writer

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