Anonymous Donor Creates Funding for Students Struggling to Afford Internships
Olivia Stewart ’23 (WSM/IST), a supply chain management major at the Whitman School, was thrilled to be offered an internship opportunity at Goldman Sachs’ Dallas office last summer, but she wasn’t sure she could accept it. The lease payments from her junior year apartment overlapped with her lease for senior year, straining her budget. She knew paying for yet another apartment, in Dallas, along with travel and living expenses, would not be feasible. And Stewart didn’t want to put any additional financial burden on her parents, who were already supporting three children in college.
Jack Ramza ’22 (WSM/NEW), ’23 M.S. found himself in a similar situation. A graduate student studying business analytics at Whitman, he was offered an internship position in New York City with PwC. He’d always wanted the opportunity to experience living and working in the Big Apple, but he wasn’t sure he could afford such an expensive location.
Both students’ worries faded away when they received financial assistance through the Whitman School’s Internship Opportunity Fund, a new initiative to make internships and other experiential learning opportunities more equitable for students. With the fund’s help, Stewart was able to afford to intern at Goldman Sachs, learning new skills in operations and networking with “important net-worth individuals.” Ramza was able to accept an internship with the consulting arm of PwC’s tax division, helping automate workflow for clients, while also seeing firsthand all that New York City had to offer. After completing their internships, both Whitman students received offers of employment upon completion of their degrees in spring 2023.
“Getting a job offer from Goldman is a very competitive process,” explains Stewart, who accepted a position in the investment banking division on the transaction banking team. “If I had not been able to afford to take advantage of the internship this past summer, I don’t think I would have this job opportunity waiting for me after graduation. Whitman’s ability to offer this kind of assistance allows students like me to be set up for the future.”
Ramza agrees. “Being able to access funding through the Internship Opportunity Fund is a huge benefit for Whitman students and gives you a competitive edge without having to worry so much about expenses,” he says.
Long-Time Supporter Steps Forward
The Internship Opportunity Fund grew out of an unexpected problem that came to the attention of Whitman leadership and the Career Center staff. While an internship is a requirement for undergraduates and recommended for graduate students, it can sometimes create a financial burden, which can discourage students from accepting positions—particularly in larger, more expensive cities. While most internships are paid, students have to bear plenty of additional costs, like housing and travel, that are not supported by financial aid or other school funding. In some cases, students quietly turn down internships they can’t afford without asking for assistance from the Whitman School.
“We’re encouraging our students to take advantage of some amazing opportunities, but we’re also seeing those who have to base their decisions on their individual financial resources, which are not the same for everyone,” says Assistant Dean for Advancement Christopher Crooker. “We wanted to find a way to level the playing field, so that more Whitman students have opportunities to complement their education and be as competitive as possible when they enter the job market.”
To that end, Crooker and Interim Dean Alex McKelvie were thrilled when a long-time supporter and alumnus of the Whitman School pitched the idea of the Internship Opportunity Fund and anonymously pledged a total of $150,000 over three years, starting in 2022. It was determined that the funds would be given primarily to students in their junior year who demonstrated financial need, made under $20 per hour at their internships and were in good academic standing. Priority would also be given to student internships that were fully in person and in major metropolitan areas.
The funding was first offered as a pilot program in 2022 to assess the level of need. Applications came pouring in, with 112 requests totaling $440,000. Ultimately, the entire $50,000 allotted for year one was distributed to 39 students — 30 undergraduates and nine graduate students — for internships in the summer of 2022 in 16 major cities across the U.S., including New York.
“While we quickly figured out that we had underestimated the scope and scale of the need, the pilot program was validation that we are on to something with the Internship Opportunity Fund; it showed students that we were paying attention to their struggles and listening to their concerns,” says Crooker.
“Experiential learning is a core part of business education and much of this learning happens with world-class companies. Unfortunately, in many cases, it is essentially unfunded or inaccessible learning, since many of the companies our students dream of working for are in major metropolitan areas, and students aren’t compensated at a rate that reflects the additional costs involved. Our job is to help students achieve their potential, and that means making sure that we do our best to support every student in gaining additional work experience,” says McKelvie. “We are fortunate to have a generous and philanthropic partner who is truly aligned with Whitman’s goal of helping students have life-changing internship experiences. The Whitman School could not be more grateful for this timely and useful gift, and I think it’s fair to say all the recipients of this year’s funding are truly grateful, too. This contribution will continue to pay dividends as students’ career trajectories have been changed, thanks to this impactful gift.”