Published: Jan. 16, 2019 By

Rachael Willihnganz

Rachael Willihnganz, CU Boulder student

If you were given an opportunity to make a difference in the Boulder community and get paid to do it, wouldn't you jump on it?

I know I’m not alone in the fact that paid internships that provide meaningful work experiences are hard to come by. But thanks to the Public Interest Internship Experience (PIIE), I was able to find exactly that.

My name is Rachael Willihnganz and I’m a junior majoring in international affairs and political science with a minor in Spanish. You may recognize me from previous years as a UMC Starbucks barista or from Ralphie’s Corral ticket pick-up for home football games.

Early last spring, I started thinking about what I wanted to do after I returned from studying abroad in Spain but was worried I wouldn't be able to find something I was passionate about while also being abroad. Making Boulder County a more inclusive place to live and work is important to me as someone with a future in community development.

I learned about PIIE through a CU Boulder Today email. After searching the 20-some opportunities, I was immediately drawn to Intercambio Uniting Communities—an organization that serves immigrants in Boulder County by providing affordable and accessible classes to adults learning English.

They also had opportunities at Western Foresters, Boulder Valley Women’s Health, I Have a Dream Foundation and many more nonprofit and government organizations that provide diverse ways to use your skills to better the community and get paid to do it.

Important dates
  • Feb. 1: Student applications due.
  • Feb. 2–March 15: Applications will be reviewed by PIIE committee and host organizations. Interviews will be done during this time and offers will be made.
  • March 22: Deadline for students to accept or decline received offers.

Here’s everything you need to know about applying:

  • You can view all the internship opportunities available through CU PIIE on the Career Services website or search for them in Handshake.
  • Be sure to read the application instructions carefully.
  • If chosen, interns are awarded a total of $4,680 as a stipend for working with the organization over the summer. That equates to about $12 an hour.
  • Internships require you to work about 360 hours over the course of 9–12 weeks.

The best part about the PIIE program is connecting with other PIIE interns, as well as a mentorship with Career Services staff and other professionals in your area of interest. 


Taking the time to reflect on how my internship experience was shaping my professional goals, as well as benefiting the community, transformed my role as a community events intern from a résumé booster into a significant chapter in my personal and professional journey.”

The people I worked with at Intercambio moved me with their dedication and commitment to making our county a more connected, welcoming, friendly place, and inspired me with leadership that comes from a place of love and purpose.

After the end of my three months with Intercambio and PIIE, I left with a better understanding of myself and the values that will shape my future in public interest work. With guidance from my supervisors at Intercambio and mentors at Career Services, I have focused my long-term goals to become a public interest attorney into an achievable plan.

If you are a CU student with a passion for making the world a better place to live through public interest work, this is definitely a program you should consider applying for.