Pencils of Promise

Katie Taylor and Mariah Robinson, ‘Pencils of Promise’ (unique internship opportunity through volunteerism)

Mariah Robinson: “My minor in Ecosystem Science & Policy has inspired me to examine the sustainability and ecological impact of all of my volunteering work. I firmly believe that societal development and environmental respect go hand in hand, and this has led me in my efforts to find volunteer outlets that advocate for respect for the earth as not only an addition but an essential element of their work."

“Advice for other students wanting to find a practical outlet in the form of an internship or volunteerism is, look for opportunities that fit with your personal passions and interests. Whether it’s a specific human rights issue or a hobby that you can transform into helping others.  Gaining practical experience related to an issue you care about not only makes your time more meaningful and fun; it makes you a more informed student who is better able to contribute and lead.  Don’t look at these types of practical experience as an “extra” or something that you’re only doing for others and not yourself. Becoming civically engaged outside of classes and the social scene can contribute as much to your personal and academic development as any other aspect of college. It can help you discover your talents, choose a career path, or meet the people that help you become successful.”

“The organization Katie and I are involved with is Pencils of Promise (PoP). PoP is a national non-profit that builds schools and increases educational opportunities in the developing world. I am a co-founder and current co-president for the PoP club at UM, which aims to support the national organization through fundraising and awareness events. PoP has an extremely meaningful mission – to provide better access to education to young people in developing nations. Being involved with PoP as an organization has given me a renewed sense of faith in the ability of small individual actions to create lasting societal change. In today’s world of non-stop donation requests and charity benefits, it is not always easy to see the direct societal benefit of one’s fundraising efforts. With PoP, however, it is inspiring to know that each small amount we fundraise will eventually amount to a physical school building for children who desperately want to learn. Being involved with PoP at UM has also strengthened me as a leader – pushing me to better delegate, to think outside of the box when it comes to creating events, and to trust my passions to lead me.”

Katie Taylor: “My coursework at UM has prepared me well for the challenges of establishing a local chapter of the non-profit, PoP. I am an Economics and International Studies double major with Geography and Marketing minors. This background has given me the tools to understand the importance and need for education and has supported my leadership skills. Specifically, my economics Major has provided me with statistical information on the macroeconomic impact of education. My Geography minor has enhanced my International Studies skills and my Marketing minor has become crucial in knowing how to go about marketing PoP at UM, in order to grow membership and support.  PoP has provided me an outlet to pursue my passions and enhance my leadership skills.”

Sophie Braga Intership Testimonial - Knight Foundation, Miami, FL.

Sophie Braga de Barros, Journalism & Latin American Studies, '17

Sophie's reflections on her internship with the Knight Foundation in Miami, FL.:

1. How did your majors/minors inspire you to pursue an internship and how effectively did your courses and A&S teachers instill in you the motivation to pursue an internship?

My internship was largely inspired by my Journalism major and, in particular, one fellow student who had completed his internship with the same organization the year before me. After doing some research, however, I discovered that my internship could also complement my Latin American Studies major and fulfill my seminar requirement! My advisors supported me throughout the process and helped me see a clear connection between both my two majors and my internship.

2. Identify and briefly describe the organization where you completed your internship.

I completed my internship at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Knight Foundation and served as their Communication Intern in the summer of 2015, between my sophomore and junior years. The Knight Foundation works across the United States to provide grants to projects/people who advance either the arts, journalism, the community and/or technology in the cities where the Knight brothers originally owned newspapers. The foundation has its headquarters in Miami, but has ties with 25 other U.S. communities.

3. What type of contribution does the organization make to society, and how has your involvement with this contribution changed you as an individual, and the way you envision your future?

By providing funds to initiatives that directly affect communities, the Knight Foundation helps advance the arts, media, technology and community initiatives. My involvement with Knight has mostly made me become aware of the incredible entrepreneurs and community change-makers that exist in Miami, such as LaunchCode Miami, which provides free coding lessons to citizens of our community who could not otherwise qualify financially.

4. To what extent were you provided with creative space to demonstrate personal initiative, professionalism, and resourcefulness as an intern?

When you are an intern at Knight, you are treated like an actual employee of the company. Being an intern at Knight is definitely not grabbing coffee for others and filing papers that nobody else cares about! You are actually interacting with grantees, with key administrators and even with the President and CEO himself. I had the opportunity to write press releases and stories that where placed on the website; I interacted with media outlets and reporters when sharing our releases; and I was also given the creative space to work on video packages and Twitter story graphics that would complement the pieces I worked on. My supervisor allowed me to connect me with other members of the foundation, allowing me to broaden my scope and pursue a variety of different projects. I felt empowered and felt that my work truly mattered!

5. What administrative skills, research skills, technical skills, or other types of skills did you acquire and/or improve as a result of this internship experience?

Throughout this internship, I gained experience in acting professionally in an office setting, creating and maintaining business connections, learning how to step outside of my work environment, and seeing how the work done inside the office is affecting the outside community.

6. What are the three main strengths you developed in yourself as a result of the internship experience and in what ways has the internship enhanced your overall academic experience at UM?

The three main strengths I have developed are: a sense of increased curiosity towards my immediate community; increased autonomy in the office space; and a desire for collaboration. This was my first internship experience at UM and it definitely shaped my academic experience, not only because it constituted a major part of my Latin American Studies major, but also because I now know the types of environments I want to work in after graduation, and I am more aware of my needs in terms of office culture and structure. After my internship experience, not only did I feel more competent as a journalist and communicator, but also as a connoisseur of key projects related to the arts, media, and community that encompass both Latin American leaders and Latin American culture in the U.S.

7. What would be the most important pieces of advice you’d give to students to inspire them to pursue an internship?

First, talk to students in your major and ask them what internships they have pursued and what their experience was like. That is how I found out about my internship and connected with the people who hired me. Second, make use of an incredible UM resources you have at your fingertips: both ASPIRE and Toppel! Between them, from resume and cover letter advice to mock interviews, they definitely have what you need to be successful in obtaining the internship of your dreams!


Daniela Duran Internship Testimonial - TD Bank, Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Maria Daniela Duran's reflections from her internship experience with TD Bank:

(1) How did your majors/minors inspire you to pursue an internship and how effectively did your courses and A&S teachers instill in you the motivation to pursue an internship?

As a Mathematics major, we are mostly geared towards research or graduate studies, however, recently there has been more of a focus on internships as well. I was inspired to apply for an internship after speaking with a fellow Mathematics student who completed one and enjoyed his experience.

(2) Identify and briefly describe the organization where you completed your internship.

I participated in the Commercial Credit Risk Internship with TD Bank. TD Bank is one of the 10 largest banks in the U.S. and serves approximately 8.5 million clients across the US.

(3) What type of contribution does the organization make to society, and how has your involvement with this contribution changed you as an individual, and the way you envision your future?

TD Bank assists its 8.5 million clients through difference services such as commercial banking, corporate banking, private wealth, healthcare, auto-lending, and more. It is also an incredibly charitable bank, and its employees are encouraged to give back to their communities. It was great to be part of a large organization that executed many community development activities, even in the short time I was there. I think it demonstrated to me that professional work and community service can cooperate to make strong impacts on their communities.

(4) To what extent were you provided with creative space to demonstrate personal initiative, professionalism, and resourcefulness as an intern? 

I was given quite a significant amount of creative space. Of course, I had to follow guidelines but my managers were very interested in what I wanted to gain from the internship and how they could best help me gain that knowledge.

(5) What administrative skills, research skills, technical skills, or other types of skills did you acquire and/or improve as a result of this internship experience?

Definitely, my accounting skills played a large part in my work, which entailed analyzing financial statements; industry trend analysis was also emphasized. Overall, organizational skills such as prioritizing projects, multitasking, and paying attention to detail throughout a long project were all top priorities. Also, some technical skills included learning new financial software and learning how to accurately analyze a loan.

(6) What are the three main strengths you developed in yourself as a result of the internship experience and in what ways has the internship enhanced your overall academic experience at UM?

The three strengths I developed were independence, confidence, and renewed interest in my field of study. I think my internship really allowed me to build my self-esteem in what I was studying and allowed me to think of my courses through a different lens.

(7) What would be the three most important pieces of advice you’d give to students to inspire them to pursue an internship?

Start early since most internships have deadlines in the fall semester. Don’t be afraid to network as you never know what opportunities can arise from it. Finally, if you are offered an interview, don’t undermine your abilities: You were given an interview because they felt you were a qualified candidate and capable of performing the job at hand. So, believe in yourself!