“I was immediately interested in the internship because it combined my passions for content creation, marketing, and helping youth,” said Gonzalez, a senior at Fordham College at Rose Hill.
Gonzalez got the position through Serving the City, a paid internship program available only to students enrolled at Fordham College at Rose Hill and Fordham College at Lincoln Center.
The program began in 2020 with two partner organizations, the Museum of Art and Design and the New York Historical Society, under the title Cultural Engagement Internship Program. The goal of the program was twofold—students would gain experience and receive a stipend from Fordham, and nonprofit partner organizations would benefit from the support of an intern.
Though the program began with nonprofit institutions focused on arts and culture in New York City, it quickly grew to include other types of nonprofits serving the city’s communities. More than 60 students have interned with more than 35 organizations since it launched.
“Over the past year, we’ve really built out our partnerships,” said Desirae Colvin, director of administration, communication, and strategic initiatives in the Fordham College at Lincoln Center Dean’s Office, who manages the program at Lincoln Center and at Fordham College at Rose Hill. “After a certain point, we thought cultural engagement as the moniker doesn’t feel as reflective of that. We started to think, ‘What do they have in common?’”
That’s how the name Serving the City was born, Colvin said, to include the range and depth of internship opportunities and partner organizations.
Supporting Nonprofits Throughout the City
Arika Ahamed, a junior majoring in neuroscience at Fordham College at Lincoln Center, was one of the first to intern with a group outside of the arts and cultural organizations. She interned in summer 2021 with the Elmhurst Corona Recovery Collaborative in Queens—a group of about 25 nonprofit organizations that provided assistance and resources to residents impacted by the pandemic.
Ahamed helped create a pamphlet of resources, maintained and updated the collective’s website, and helped coordinate meetings across the coalition to keep members on track. One of her main goals was to help make the information accessible to those in need.
“One of the biggest things we noticed was that [the website]was all in English, which was something that we needed to work on,” she said. “So I was able to figure out a way to easily translate the entire website without having a translator, by connecting it to Google Translate.”
Ahamed said the internship gave her new skills in organization and communication.
“The biggest thing I think I learned from this was professionalism in general—I had to send out emails to over 75 people and at first, it was daunting because it wasn’t something I’ve ever done before,” she said.
Despite the expansion, the program still includes several cultural partners. When the pandemic forced the Chelsea Music Festival to move its events to a virtual setting, the organization needed help promoting its work, getting media coverage, and connecting with audience members. Enter Samantha Matthews, now a senior at Fordham College at Lincoln Center.
Matthews was the public relations and marketing intern during 2021, responsible for reaching out to media organizations for coverage and promotion as well as running the social media accounts.
“I enjoyed their mission of giving back,” Matthews said of the festival, which aims to “give emerging voices, particularly those of women and people of color, a stage” and support a community of musicians, composers, and artists. “At Fordham, our motto is to be men and women for others and philanthropy is a cornerstone of our education, so that’s something that’s important to me,” she said. “The fact that [the internship]also tied in music and it tied in art, was really appealing to me.”
Matthews said that the internship helped her realize that public relations is something she wants to pursue, which led her to her next two internships at Les Coeurs Sauvages, an ethical fashion brand, and Head & Heart PR. She also said that she’s grateful for the connections she made.
“I really enjoyed what I did, and the environment there,” she said. “I know what I want to do in life now, and I also have met people that I know that I could call if I ever need help.”
Equitable Opportunities for Students
One of the biggest benefits of the program, according to students, is that it provides paid internships, making it accessible to those from a variety of backgrounds. This was essential right from the start, according to Fordham College at Rose Hill Dean Maura Mast, who described the need for equity at a Homecoming panel in 2021.
“Fordham students, while they have a lot of internship opportunities in the city, they’re often unpaid,” said Mast. “Often students have to decide between taking an internship for credit and getting paid. We want our students to have access to these opportunities [no matter their financial situation].”
The Serving the City program began the year before Fordham publicly launched its $350 million fundraising campaign, Cura Personalis | For Every Fordham Student, which seeks funding for this and other programs that help students discern their paths and form new career-building connections.
Serving the City “would not exist without the generosity of alumni and donors,” said Laura Auricchio, Ph.D., dean of Fordham College at Lincoln Center. “It is 100% funded by individual contributions, and those contributions go directly and exclusively to student stipends.”
Donors to the program “double or triple their impact,” she said, by giving students a more educational alternative to minimum wage jobs, enabling nonprofits to augment their staffs with Fordham students, and helping the nonprofits advance their missions.
“The financial support for the internships is one of the linchpins of the program,” Colvin said. “It’s integral to what the program is for—ensuring that students can opt for something that they find meaningful and that they can be financially supported. Too often a choice of one or the other is made.”
Colvin said that since the program is run by existing staff in the dean’s offices, all donations go directly to supporting student internships without having to fund any overhead costs.
“This is truly you’re supporting this student to be able to do this internship,” she said. The program has a fund where donations can be made directly.
Caridad Kinsella, a senior at Fordham College at Lincoln Center, said that being paid for their internship at the Brooklyn Museum was a “top three reason” why they applied in the first place.
“I live in the city, I pay for college myself, I had a second job—so the fact that these internships exist and that they are paid, and that students are paid a fair wage for their work, that is hugely important,” Kinsella said.
Kinsella worked with the visitor experience and engagement department at the museum, specifically conducting background research for the exhibit on fashion visionary Thierry Mugler exhibit. Mugler, who The New York Times described as a “genre-busting” designer, was gay and embraced LGBTQ+ representation in many of his shows, even at times when it wasn’t popular.
“I enjoyed getting to do a lot of the research and writing [for the exhibit],” they said. “I’m a huge fan of fashion, and I like history, and I’m also queer—this work connects a lot of those things.”
A Launching Pad for Future Success
Kinsella said that one of the great things about the Brooklyn Museum was that it has a mentorship program that’s helping them navigate the transition from college to a full-time career. Kinsella’s mentor from the museum is helping them with reviewing their resume and cover letters and practicing for interviews.
Kassandra Ibrahim, a 2022 graduate from Fordham College at Rose Hill who is now pursuing her master’s at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, also interned at the Brooklyn Museum. Ibrahim used her experience working on the Andy Warhol exhibit to help get her next internship, working at the Met. Both internships informed her senior thesis project, which combined her interest in art history and theology.
“I think that this internship taught me that there isn’t really a hard line between art history and other disciplines,” Ibrahim said. “And it inspired me to come up with my senior seminar topic. I’m working on representations of early Christian women, and I thought of that topic while I was in the museum one day, because I thought, ‘Wait, I don’t have to choose one or the other.’”
Kinsella said that the internship opportunity gave them both hard and soft skills.
“There’s the practical connections and networking skills that you pick up, but there’s also the softer side of gaining the confidence to use those skills,” they said. “For me, it’s been a transformative experience, not only to connect to where I live in New York City, but also to the Fordham community.”
To inquire about giving in support of the Serving the City program or another area of the University, please contact Michael Boyd, senior associate vice president for development and university relations, at 212-636-6525 or [email protected]. Learn more about Cura Personalis | For Every Fordham Student, a campaign to reinvest in every aspect of the Fordham student experience.