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 Tuesday, August 25, 2009 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter


PIIE Fellows get a piece of real-world experience
by Melanie O. Massengale

Kelly McGrew credits “a wonderful network of people” for helping her during her recent internship as a PIIE Fellow. The CU Public Interest Internship Experience (PIIE) Program was instituted in 2005 as a joint effort of Career Services and the CU-Boulder Alumni Association Board of Directors to promote civic engagement among undergraduate students through the provision of summer internships with governmental and nonprofit agencies. It is based on the Princeton University Project 55 Program, and CU-Boulder’s program is the first of this type at a public institution. PIIE became one of 10 major offerings under the auspices of CU-Boulder’s Institute for Ethical and Civic Engagement (IECE) in 2007.

Peter Simons, director of IECE, in conjunction with Career Services and the PIIE advisory Board, has overseen expansion in the PIIE program. “We like to focus on Arts and Sciences students like Kelly,” he said. “This is their opportunity to get a foot in the door. Professional students have an easier time finding placements, especially in a challenging economy.” He hopes to grow the program from its current six-to-eight participants up to 100, with year-long and summer internships. Fundraising will step up to accommodate this growth, he said.

PIIE is funded primarily through foundations and other outside donors, with participating agencies asked to provide 25 percent of the cost of the internship they sponsor. “For that sum, the agency gets a highly qualified, very bright student able to step into a staff role right away, so it’s a good deal for them,” Simons said. “A number of our interns have been offered jobs with the agencies they’ve served.”

Applications for summer 2010 will be available in September. Up to eight positions are available and Simons expects 30-40 applications. “We are seeking students who are very motivated, have some community experience already and are high achievers,” he said. Only undergraduate students may apply. Prospective interns must submit a cover letter, resume, and the application with essays. New participants receive a stipend, a mentor, orientation into the program, and oversight for the duration of the internship. “We make placements very deliberately to match the student with an agency that can provide meaningful experience, not just make-work,” Simons said. “And we carefully screen our agencies and provide orientations for the agency supervisors so that they are prepared.”

McGrew is a junior majoring in history and a non-traditional student with a considerable background in local volunteerism at agencies such as the Boulder County AIDS Project and CU Restorative Justice. She hopes to attend law school, perhaps focusing on criminal law, and credits her program mentor, the PIIE board members and Cary Kennedy, Colorado State Treasurer, for her successful experience working at the Treasurer’s Office in Denver this summer. “They all had my best interests at heart and provided great support,” she said. “Someday I might consider becoming a PIIE board member myself.”

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