As one of the first public university programs to affiliate with The Alumni Network, the University of Colorado Public Interest Internship Experience (PIIE) has developed into a robust and significant program on campus.
The program’s momentum over the past three years has culminated in its recent integration under the Institute for Ethical and Civic Engagement at the University of Colorado at Boulder, which helps CU students to become involved in civic community outreach opportunities. “This represents a great partnership as the Institute is one of the nation’s preeminent civic engagement programs and its mission perfectly matches the mission of the PIIE Program,” says Erik Estrada, founding advisory board member.
In addition to this recent partnership, PIIE has grown and adapted to reflect its increased significance in the University community. An advisory board has been incorporated to mentor students and help lead the program. Internship opportunities have expanded from government agencies to also include nonprofits, and there has been an increase in support programming for fellows.
PIIE Fellows have the opportunity to put their principles into practice, while learning transferable skills and knowledge from community work.
One of this year’s fellows, Chelsea Bridges, a senior English major and Norlin Scholar, is doing her summer internship with the nonprofit Sage Community Partnership, working at a transitional house for girls who have been in foster care. Five girls live in the house for six months at a time, learning ways to live independently and receive educational and vocational guidance.
“I do educational things with the girls like finding out ways to develop their interests or to get a high school diploma if they don’t already have one,” Bridges said. She is also creating a tutoring training handbook for volunteers to use.
The internship has been enriching for Bridges who has seen firsthand how a small nonprofit runs and learned to work with the girls. “It is always changing because the girls’ lives are changing. It’s been interesting adapting to the ever changing environment,” she said. Bridges recommends the program to other students. “Whatever your interest, there is a use for it in the community,” she said.
In the future the program will continue to grow and offer more opportunities for students. Peter Simons, Director of the Institute for Ethical and Civic Engagement declares, “Our long range goal is to continually increase the number of quality available summer internships and to establish year-long paid internships for recent CU-Boulder graduates.”
This article has been adapted from the July 15, 2008 edition of “Inside CU,” the University of Colorado’s newsletter for faculty and staff. The original article, entitled “Student Perspective: PIIE summer internship program engages community,” was written by Joanna Nasar, graduate student at CU Boulder.