Paid Internship Program Launched for First-Generation, BIPOC Students 

University Career Services recently launched the Summer Internship Program that benefits local nonprofit organizations and provides paid opportunities to UNL students including First Generation and BIPOC students and students who have not had an internship. 

The pilot program goal allows UNL students to gain skills, knowledge and insight and confidence into their own interests and strengths through a paid internship with a local non-profit organization. The program is designed to connect students who are First Generation or Black, Indigenous, or a Person of Color (BIPOC) or who have not had an internship to meaningful experiential learning opportunities and gain mentorship within the community.  

Katy Schneider, a junior communication studies major and sociology minor is a communications intern with Legal Aid of Nebraska for the summer. She wanted to make connections in the non-profit field. 

“I was interested in the Summer Internship Program because it made it possible to connect with employers and have points of contact that I wouldn’t have access to otherwise,” Schneider said. “I would love to work in the non-profit field, and this opportunity gave me an “in” to that world. I also think it is important for interns to be paid, and UNL was able to help facilitate that.” 

Katy Schneider at her summer internship experience at Legal Aid of Nebraska.

Providing paid internship experiences to UNL students was an important factor in developing the Summer Internship Program. This broadens access to internships for students who would otherwise be unable to gain such experience and connections had they been unpaid. University Career Services also wanted to broaden the employers who can offer internships by funding the experiences at local non-profits. 

Tracy Lungrin, Director of University Career Services, explains the origin of the Summer Internship Program was based on the needs of low income, First Gen and BIPOC students.  

“Our campus partners who work closely with low income, First Gen and BIPOC students continually share with us that these students are very interested in obtaining internships.” Lungrin said. “The Summer Internship Program focused on creating internships in sectors (government and non-profit) who traditionally may lack the financial resources to offer paid internships yet have valuable hands-on experiences to offer students.  Additionally, another program goal was to increase access and lower the opportunity gap for students who have not had an internship before.” 

The Summer Internship Program is being piloted by 18 students interning with 18 different nonprofits around Lincoln. For many of those students, this is their first opportunity to work in a career field of interest. Students will be paid for completing 20-25 hours of work each week for 11 weeks. The internships vary from graphic design and marketing to program coordination and museum collection research in entomology. 

“These students will complete the summer internship and a one-hour internship course that will guide reflection around their learning and development.” Lungrin said. “There is nothing more exciting than being able to support UNL students who want to grow and connect their learning in the classroom to real world experience.” 

Students are already gaining valuable experiences and insight in the first week of their internship. Early on, the summer interns reported connecting with their constituencies and gaining a greater understanding of their organization’s missions. 

“Even just in the first week I have had the opportunity to connect the work I’ve been doing with the real people and clients that we are helping. Working with the Legal Aid of Nebraska has been an opportunity to see how they facilitate equal justice for even the most hidden and underserved communities,” Schneider said. “Everyone deserves access to legal justice, and I am learning how difficult it is for some to gain that access.” 

Another student, Jennifer Lopez-Mejia, a child, youth and family studies major, is interning at Pioneers Park Nature Center with the City of Lincoln Parks & Recreation Department as a Camp Programs Assessment Intern. 

“One takeaway from my first week in my internship is that providing a welcoming and secure environment for everyone is essential for a fun and successful time together,” said Lopez- Mejia. “There are new opportunities to learn every day, but it is 10 times better when everyone feels supported and has a strong balance of fun and leadership.” 

The skills and lessons learned throughout the summer experiences can be taken with the interns after graduation and into their careers. 

“When looking at the summer internship program, I was hoping I would find a new place to meet other people in my career field and share those common interests with them.” Lopez- Mejia said. “I also wanted to gain experiences that I can possibly use in my field after graduation along with learning new skills at my work site.” 

By Maddi Galusha
Maddi Galusha Graduate Assistant, Micro-Internship and Mentoring Program Coordinator