Following a summer internship with an environmental nonprofit in Idaho, Erica Jenson ’21 is confident of her primary career goal: “I want to be able to ‘do well’ and ‘do good’ at the same time. No matter what sector I’m in,” she says.
At Sun Valley Institute, a “think and do tank” for environmental policy, research and education, Jenson worked with innovators and policy makers she found to be “purely passionate” about their jobs, not just getting ahead in their careers. “I have asked myself how I can do something greater than myself. Nowhere do people share that mentality more than at a nonprofit,” she says.
This is a foundational mission that inspires the Robert B. Menschel Public Service Internship Award .
In honor of his brother Robert Menschel ’51, H’91, Richard L. Menschel ’55 and his wife, Ronay, established the award in 1999 to provide support for undergraduate students working as interns in the not-for-profit world. The Menschel Award is administered through a competitive process by the Mary Ann Shaw Center for Public and Community Service at Syracuse University. The selection committee looks for a strong academic record, high level of motivation, outstanding organizational skill, persistence, ability to work with others and leadership potential.
As the University’s hub for academic community engagement, the Shaw Center helps students discover opportunities for experiential learning through public service outreach and involvement. Service initiatives and internships enhance academic learning objectives, research and the student experience. “Students learn the unique challenges that face nonprofits and the creative styles of leadership and programming needed to address these challenges,” says Director Pamela Heintz. The Menschel Award provides a $1,500 to $2,000 stipend, making it easier for students to explore opportunities with nonprofits that don’t have available funds for interns, as their for-profit counterparts typically do.
Last year, students from across Syracuse University schools and colleges received support to complete internships with diverse nonprofits. Janaisa Walker ’20 chose an internship with the Center for Community Alternatives (CCA), an agency that provides community-based alternatives to prison sentences, as well as policy advocacy to reduce reliance on incarceration. In New York City, Syracuse and Rochester, the CCA annually engages approximately 2,500 youth and adults who would otherwise be in jail.
It seems fitting, given that Robert Menschel highlighted a focus on “strengthening the justice system, particularly through criminal justice reform and working to end mass incarceration” during his acceptance of the Carnegie Award Medal of Philanthropy along with his brother in 2015.
Walker is a policy studies major with a concentration in society and the legal system, and a minor in public communications. “The internship gave me the opportunity to uplift minority communities through providing services and resources that may not be available or seem feasible to them because of socioeconomic status, addiction and other adversity,” wrote Walker in a letter of impact to Robert Menschel following her internship. “It directly aligns with my career goals.”
“Robert Menschel provides a unique gift to Syracuse University students,” says Heintz. “This support enhances the world for all of us and encourages our students to consider the many ways an individual can contribute to the greater good over a lifetime.”