Five students of NIU’s Community Leadership and Civic Engagement (CLCE) program spent the fall semester interning with nonprofit agencies in DeKalb and Sycamore.
This is the first semester of an innovative communiversity partnership designed to provide students with experiences that will lead to career success while benefiting the local nonprofit sector.
Students earn course credit for participating and are expected to complete at least 120 internship hours during the semester. Classroom lectures and other trainings are designed to develop specific skills and abilities that they can use as interns and in their future careers. Each student also receives a $575 stipend for completing the internship.
The initiative is supported by funding from the Douglas C. and Lynn M. Roberts Family Foundation, which includes the stipends.
“NIU President Doug Baker challenged the community and the university to come together to help NIU students achieve student career success,” Doug Roberts said. “One of the ways President Baker highlighted was local businesses providing meaningful internships for NIU students. The Douglas C. and Lynn M. Roberts Family Foundation focused on how the nonprofit community might be encouraged to hire interns.
“The foundation worked with the DeKalb County Nonprofit Partnership and NIU’s Center for Non-Governmental Organization Leadership and Development to develop a process for student employment in various nonprofit operations,” Roberts added. “Internships provide students great insight on the important role of nonprofits in our community and the potential of future employment opportunities. The program is truly a ‘win-win’ as it not only benefits students, but also the nonprofits and our community as a whole. The Roberts Family Foundation is proud to participate in this special program that enhances student career success.”
Students have embraced the opportunity.
“This internship experience has been life-changing, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the Roberts Family Foundation’s support,” CLCE major Sarah Trygstad said. “Gaining work experience while still in college is instrumental to student success. I know this opportunity will benefit me throughout my life, both personally and professionally.”
The DeKalb Area Agricultural Heritage Association, Econ Illinois, Family Service Agency, Kishwaukee College Foundation, and Safe Passage were all intern hosts this fall. Organizations must be members of the DeKalb County Nonprofit Partnership (DCNP) and submit an application to be considered for the opportunity.
“DeKalb County’s nonprofit community has enthusiastically supported this internship initiative, in part because they see it as beneficial for all involved,” said Anita Zurbrugg, program director of the DeKalb County Community Foundation, which provides financial support for DCNP.
“Not only are students provided hands-on experience in an active nonprofit organization while receiving credit and monetary compensation, but the organizations are also able to leverage scarce resources by working with a student under university supervision, which helps them expand their capacity to offer services critical to their unique missions.”
In conjunction with The Roberts Family Foundation, the initiative was developed by Nancy Castle and Ben Bingle of NIU’s Center for Non-Governmental Organization Leadership and Development (NGOLD), Cathy Doederlein, NIU’s internship coordinator for the humanities and Zurbrugg.
NGOLD oversees the CLCE undergraduate major, minor and certificate.
“This is an incredible opportunity for both students and nonprofits in our community,” said Bingle, who serves as outreach coordinator at NGOLD, recruited the interns and serves as liaison between NIU and DCNP. “These students are assisting with projects ranging from grant identification and research to event coordination. Practical experiences like these are invaluable from a career-preparation standpoint.”
CLCE major Jill Sobie said an internship will help her career prospects.
“I see this internship being a selling point when I start my career in the future.” Sobie said. “Being able to say that I have worked on grant and funding research at a nonprofit organization will set me apart from other job applicants who have not had the same experiences.”
Students also gain experience interviewing through the initiative. In August, students met with representatives from each organization during intensive 15-minute interviews.
Trygstad emphasized the value of getting interview practice. “The interviews were great practice, and the process stressed the importance of researching employers before an interview,” she said. “It was helpful to get a glimpse of what a job interview would look like with a nonprofit organization.”
Advice and tips for resumes, cover letters and interviewing were shared with students prior to the interviews. Each of the interns now has a polished resume and cover letter that can be updated for use when applying to positions in the future.
“Internships are such a vital part of a student’s development,” Doederlein said, “and these students will not only have solid, hands-on experience that they can include on their resumes, but they’ll also leave the experience with a professional portfolio of materials that they can share with employers on future job interviews.”
The experience has been particularly meaningful to Rebekah Guillotte, sociology major and CLCE minor.
“After two years of going to internship fairs, I had become discouraged at my own abilities and capabilities as a future full-time employee,” Guillotte said. “This opportunity has lifted a huge weight off my back. I am so grateful to be part of this opportunity.
“Thank you to the Roberts Foundation, DCNP, NGOLD and the local nonprofits for providing such a life-changing experience to students,” she added.
The program will expand noticeably in the spring with nearly 20 students and organizations scheduled to participate.
Established in 2010, NGOLD offers the interdisciplinary CLCE undergraduate major, minor and certificate and provides programs and services related to NGOs/nonprofit organizations for students, faculty, researchers and organizations.
For more information, call (815) 753-4410 or email [email protected].