Grants for summer internships create connections and careers
“I wouldn’t be here without Northwestern’s Summer Internship Grant Program,” says Jennifer Trammell.
That’s a common refrain among people fortunate enough to have received support from the program, commonly called SIGP. Now celebrating its 10th anniversary, SIGP, which is coordinated by Northwestern Career Advancement, provides grants to help students take unpaid summer internships. And it’s clear from SIGP alumni that when it comes to the program’s impact, funding is just the tip of the iceberg.
Jennifer Trammell ’10 is the Digital Marketing Director for NewsBank, a company that provides archives of news content for organizations worldwide. She says SIGP put her on a course to pursue a love she’s had since 5th grade: broadcast journalism. As a Medill student in 2009, Trammell wanted to get experience in the industry, but knew taking an unpaid internship would put an undue burden on her family. Receiving funding from SIGP made it possible for her to intern at KELO-TV, a CBS affiliate in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. That summer, she says, triggered a chain of events that led her to her position today.
“The reporting experience I gained at KELO helped me secure a broadcast job in Green Bay, Wisconsin, right out of school,” Trammell says. “And when I was ready to leave Green Bay, the relationships I formed at KELO helped me secure a position in Florida.”
While in Florida, Trammell became involved in the Northwestern Alumni Association and connected with Northwestern alum Dan Jones ’61, president of NewsBank. Using her background as a reporter, Trammell joined NewsBank in 2013.
“Things have worked out incredibly well,” Trammell says. “It’s great to look back and see how SIGP helped me get where I am today, and it’s been wonderful to have the support of the Northwestern community along the way.”
SIGP has awarded 942 grants since its inception in 2007. The program has grown over the years, and the 2017 cohort, to be announced in May, is expected to be one of the largest ever. SIGP awardees receive a $3,000 summer stipend ($6,000 in the case of Buffet International SIGP awards). Without this funding, many awardees say, they would never have been able to take on their internships.
Campaign manager Jonathan Kent ’09 is one such awardee. A 2008 SIGP recipient, Kent interned with the Democratic Party of Evanston and Obama for America, working to drum up support for then-Senator Barack Obama’s presidential run. With much of his time that summer spent knocking on doors in Iowa, a part-time job would have been difficult, if not impossible.
“That was a historic time, and SIGP allowed me to have a direct role in it all,” Kent says.
Like Trammell, Kent made connections during his SIGP summer that have helped him on his career path. One of the regional directors for the 2008 Obama campaign took Kent on as a mentor in 2008, and the two have kept in touch ever since, even working together on several campaigns, including the campaign Kent is currently working on.
“The only reason I was able to develop that relationship was because I could take the internship with SIGP’s help,” Kent says. “There’s a direct link between SIGP and my role today.”
Last summer, Kent’s SIGP experience came full circle when he supervised 2016 SIGP intern Nicholas Blake ’18 on Illinois State Senator Tom Cullerton’s campaign team. Kent drew on his experience with the Obama campaign to ensure the internship went well for Blake.
“I thought about what I wanted when I was in his position,” Kent says. “Because I had been in Nicho’s shoes, I think I was able to offer him a better internship experience.”
SIGP also made it possible for Emily Carnahan ’08 to accept an unpaid internship with the AIDS Foundation in 2007. Carnahan was one of the 10 first grant recipients in SIGP’s inaugural year. And like Trammell and Kent, Carnahan’s SIGP summer solidified her career goals.
“That summer, I was exposed to the day-to-day work of a nonprofit,” Carnahan says. “I was involved in a lot of the foundation’s programming. The experience was a valuable confirmation of my desire to work in public health.”
Carnahan has worked in public and global health since graduating from Northwestern, and she is now the Monitoring and Evaluation Officer at PATH, an international nonprofit organization focused on improving health worldwide.
“If my Northwestern classes set me on this track, SIGP allowed me to stay on course,” Carnahan says. “And here I am, 10 years later. I love what I do.”