Career Prep in the Time of COVID

By Jillian Gorry ’11, '21

Imagine you’re 20 years old—at home for spring break and psyched for the summer internship you just landed. It’s at a great company, it’s the right fit, and you’re looking forward to learning so much.

But then, you find out that you can’t go back to your residence hall. And that all of your classes at Pace have been moved online. And then, to your shock and horror: the amazing company you can’t wait to intern for has put your internship on hold—lack of funding, the email says. Bad news on top of even worse news.

So, what’s next?

Just as news of countless canceled summer internships broke in the wake of the rising COVID-19 pandemic, Career Services at Pace announced a brand-new initiative: New York Recovery Internships, a program which would fund Pace students to work for nonprofit organizations that are supporting communities in need in and around New York City and Westchester.

For more than 65 Pace students, many of whom had their summer internship plans canceled due to the pandemic, this opportunity allowed them to not only gain the experience they had planned for, but also make a big impact in communities that were hurting.

“By funding these internships, we’re able to help our students gain valuable work experience, do our part to drive economic growth by producing well-prepared talent, and bring much-needed assistance to our communities,” wrote Pace University President Marvin Krislov in his Forbes column. “The New York Recovery Internships help our students and help our communities.”

And our students couldn’t agree more. “I was honored to support the National Urban League mission and see that there are more opportunities to educate beyond the classroom,” said Vicky Trieu '21, a childhood education major. “During this internship, I have been able to push myself more than I ever thought I could. I am eager to integrate policy and advocacy material into my classroom pedagogy.”

In addition to Pace’s initial seed money to fund these internships, the University sought financial support from philanthropic partners to aid in continuing the program, working in tandem to support not only Pace students who benefit from the internship opportunities, but the nonprofit organizations they intern with.

Now in partnership with the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), one of the world’s leading philanthropic organizations making grants to nonprofits, the program will continue to support not only Pace students, but the communities surrounding our campuses during one of the most challenging times we’ve faced in recent memory.

“Grants made as part of the initiative focus on research, access to food and other necessities, education, mental health support for specially affected populations, emergency relief for artists, support for frontline staff, and more,” wrote SNF in their announcement. Along with many philanthropic partners across the globe, Pace students were eager to participate in the first phase of this initiative—to enormous success. Proving our continued commitment to the economic recovery of our local communities and creativity in the ways we think about and approach that necessary work.

From GrowNYC to the New York Public Library to the National Urban League to Feeding Westchester to many others, students had their pick of available internship opportunities that would run for a period of six to eight consecutive weeks over the summer. Each student was compensated $15 per hour for their time and effort, and while most positions took place remotely, any on-site work was required to adhere to strict health protocols to ensure safety and success. And our students can’t stop talking about their experience on the job.

“The best part of my internship was being a part of an organization that allows for and is open to new ideas,” said Arun Yegnaseshan ’21, an information systems major who worked in fundraising and database management for GrowNYC. “It also pushed me to learn new things. I developed analytical thinking skills and learned new software and how to interact with other individuals to understand the technologies they are working on.”

And they’re learning more about our local communities, too. “This experience has given me more awareness of the economic impact of food insecurity and has broadened my career search to include the nonprofit sector,” said Alexis Curio ’21, a criminal justice major who completed an internship with the Council of Peoples Organization. “My supervisor has a lot of knowledge to share and going out into the field and meeting members of the community is rewarding.”

Philanthropy is by no means new to Pace students. We’ve seen the rise of popular programs such as the Billion Oyster Project, proposals to New York State lawmakers, and even advocacy work with service dogs. We are constantly looking for new and unique ways to collaborate with our neighbors, and when COVID-19 impacted so many of them, we couldn’t stand idly by.

“This was such a uniquely impactful program, and I am so grateful for it,” said Career Services Executive Director Phyllis Mooney. “Once Pace leadership committed to this initiative, everything came together perfectly—almost as if we had rehearsed it. Generous donors, diverse nonprofit partners, and of course, our very talented, passionate students. It has been one of the greatest experiences for me professionally.”

Though the New York Recovery Internships began as a summer program, they’ve continued through the fall and Pace is committed to extending them. Together, across all of our campuses, Pace students remain resilient, optimistic, and persevering—and they continue to inspire everyone they work with, both inside and outside the classroom.