Royster lawton Fellow Taylor Kamhong reflects on her summer internship experience
This summer, I had the privilege of being part of SE@UVA’s 2019 Royster Lawton Cohort. Funded by Jill Royster and Drew Lawton, the Royster Lawton Fellowship Program is designed to support students interested in pursuing an internship with a social enterprise. Upon acceptance, student fellows receive a $3000 stipend and professional coaching. When I read this, it seemed almost too good to be true: getting paid to make a real impact in the lives of others? But it turns out it isn’t: SE@UVA’s mission is to “cultivate the next generation of social innovation leaders” and the Royster Lawton Program is one of many opportunities for students.
In the beginning, I was nervous about finding an internship; some of the members of my cohort already had positions lined up, but I was still struggling to find something I was really passionate about. So, I went in to the SE office to have a brainstorm with Laura Toscano, the Associate Director of Social Entrepreneurship.
First, let me say Laura is one of the most amazing and hard-working people I’ve ever met. With extensive experience working in the realm of Social Entrepreneurship, she is an incredible asset to the Batten Community and has been one of my personal role models. During our mini coaching session, she gave me advice on job hunting, edited my resume and helped me refine my interests.
The next week, I attended SE@UVA’s Advisory Board meeting (another perk of being a Royster Lawton Fellow). There, I met the amazing team of change makers, one of whom, would become my future boss! Monica Logothetis is the cofounder of the national non-profit DreamWakers and it just so happened that she was looking for a summer intern
To provide some background, DreamWakers is an Ed Tech non-profit that uses video chat technology to connect unique and dynamic career professionals to the classroom. Speakers range from entrepreneurs to super models to employees of the United States Institute of Peace (and everything in between!). My big summer project was creating new lesson plans that bridge the gap between what students learn in the classroom and what employers want in the workforce. For instance, one of my lesson plans taught students how to set up their own LinkedIn profile and another explored the importance of diversity and emotional intelligence.
My absolute favorite part of interning with DreamWakers was that I was doing meaningful work that added value to the company; not once did I fetch coffee. Mrs. Logothetis genuinely cared about my professional development and gave me work that not only benefited the company, but also left me with deliverables I could show future employers. My projects were tailored to my passions and personal skill sets, so I was always working on something I loved. As for the job itself, I had the best of both worlds: I worked on the front lines, hosting video chats with children, as well as created the magic behind the scenes, developing new content and helping the organization expand its outreach. Oh, and did I mention I worked alongside six BA women? (talk about a #DreamTeam!) It was everything I could have wanted in an internship and more.
My favorite part of being a Royster Lawton Fellow was experiencing Social Entrepreneurship first hand. It’s one thing to learn about SE in the classroom, but completely another thing to be on the ground, asking the tough questions like, “how do you quantify something that is qualitative?” and “how do you go about influencing systemic change?”
I’m really grateful for this opportunity; without the support of the Royster Lawton Program, I wouldn’t have been able to pursue an internship with a social enterprise. My stipend money went towards buying a new car (after my old one burnt down) and I was able to spend all summer doing what I loved. And, although my experience working with a social enterprise was incredibly fun, it was challenging and made me think critically about some of the most pressing issues of the 21st century. Though the summer is over, I look forward to continuing my involvement with SE@UVA and welcoming the next cohort of Royster Lawton Fellows.
If you’re on the fence about applying for the Royster Lawton Program, do yourself a favor and just go for it. Being a Fellow comes with a lot of perks (such as financial support, an abundance of networking opportunities, personalized coaching, and much more), but it’s also a chance to immerse yourself in one of the best communities around Grounds. I know I grew tremendously both as a young professional and as a person, and I hope you seize this opportunity to do the same.
For anyone interested in learning more about the program or SE@UVA in general, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ll see you around the hub!