Internships at the U.S. Department of State are highly selective. They’re also unpaid. This summer, neither factor proved an obstacle for Caitlyn Brooks ’15, a biological sciences major who is earning a Five College Certificate in Culture, Health, and Science.
And that’s due in large part to the funding provided by Mount Holyoke’s new Lynk initiative. “It was essential. I would not have been able to consider this opportunity without it,” said Brooks, a resident of Wolfeboro, New Hampshire.
Launched last year, The Lynk connects students’ academic work with practical experience and embeds career planning directly into the liberal arts curriculum. Along with offering advising resources and opportunities to network with accomplished alumnae, it also provides funding for sophomores and juniors to pursue unpaid internship and research opportunities.
For Brooks, The Lynk opened a door to witnessing the mechanisms of diplomacy. Her duties have included doing research for a major report on how urban development and water infrastructure relate to public health issues. She’s also contributing to a report on cholera in Haiti, and creating a website for Global Handwashing Day.
“The funding is officially known as The Lynk Universal Application Funding—or Lynk-UAF Funds,” explained Jenny Watermill, internships manager at the Career Development Center.
Mount Holyoke has long offered competitive fellowships for summer experiences. But through The Lynk, every eligible student is guaranteed funding. This allows students to explore occupations or research in every field, including those less traveled, because they bring their own funding.
“Because of Lynk-UAF funds, 55 percent more students are doing internships and research this summer,” said Watermill. “They receive a relatively high stipend compared to students at peer institutions. Plus, we offer additional support for students going to expensive locations, and for students with high financial need.”
Lynk-UAF funds also have expanded the number—and variety—of internships and research projects outside the U.S. According to Kirk Lange, director of international experiential learning at the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives, MHC students are working in more than 20 countries this summer.
“Though alumnae donors have always been generous in supporting global internships, it was particularly exciting this year to know that Lynk-UAF funds expanded the College's ability to build internships where we saw strong prospects for student learning and student contribution,” added Lange. “We’ve developed placements with nine new partner organizations in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America.”
Both Watermill and Lange noted that the projects under way are incredibly diverse. They range from working as a stage management intern at the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival to working in the Child Poverty and Social Protection Unit and the Policy Advisory Unit at UNICEF headquarters.
“Mount Holyoke students are learning across the U.S. and the world in dozens of industries this summer,” said Watermill. “The opportunities are life changing. And they’re all part of the College’s promise to prepare students to face the future with confidence.”