LENS will make summer service internships possible for all Princeton undergraduates

Every Princeton undergraduate will have the opportunity to participate in a paid service internship over the summer through a new University initiative called Learning and Education through Service (LENS).

Princeton will provide funding that will allow all undergraduates to spend a summer focused on service and social impact work that engages with communities beyond campus. 

LENS also will expand the number of paid summer service opportunities funded by the University, and make it easier for students to find service internships at organizations located across the country and world. Internships may be completed in the summer following a student’s first, sophomore or junior year.

Executive Vice President Treby Williams said the University is committed to ensuring that all undergraduates have access to paid summer service internships.

"We know that summer service experiences inform students' educational pathways through Princeton, their post-graduation goals, and how they can make an impact on the world that reflects the University's informal motto, ‘Princeton in the nation’s service and the service of humanity,’” Williams said.

Vice President for Campus Life W. Rochelle Calhoun said internships give students an opportunity to explore, to grow and to learn more about their own interests, no matter the career paths they choose to pursue. 

“Princeton students report having some of their most meaningful undergraduate experiences doing summer service and social impact internships,” Calhoun said. “And through service, Princetonians respond to the needs of the world and develop knowledge that makes a difference.”

The LENS initiative is jointly coordinated by the Center for Career Development and the Pace Center for Civic Engagement. LENS bolsters Princeton’s already strong network of summer internship programs. LENS also will help students secure University funding for service internships they find on their own, allowing students to design their own experience with support from the University.

“The goal is to strengthen collaboration among departments and offices that support service and social impact internships during the summer, as well as provide greater transparency for students so they better understand the options available to them,” Calhoun said. 

Undergraduates can explore service internships and apply for summer 2023 opportunities on the LENS website

Inspiring and meaningful internships

Kennedy Walls and colleagues

Class of 2024 member Kennedy Walls (second from right) poses with team members from the Telethon Kids Institute in Perth, Australia. Through a service internship sponsored by Princeton's Center for Health and Wellbeing, Walls spent last summer at Telethon Kids Institute working to support health and wellbeing in Aboriginal communities. 

Students who complete summer service internships say the experiences are inspiring and often life-changing.

Jacob Unger, Class of 2025, said his work with Princeton Internships in Civic Service (PICS) at Greenwood Rising in Tulsa, Oklahoma, completely reframed his Princeton education. Unger was part of a team that created educational tours of the Black history center for 8th graders visiting from Tulsa public schools.

“The service internship helped me realize that my academic interests at Princeton are interesting to me … but also should be in the service of helping others and expanding my horizons to other communities and other people,” he said. 

Zoe San Martin, Class of 2024, interned last summer at the American Bar Association’s Rule of Law Initiative’s Asia Division, where she worked on projects ranging from women and children’s rights to anti-money laundering.

“I find the nuances of law and policy fascinating, and I appreciate the challenge that comes with addressing some of the world's most difficult, but necessary, questions, San Martin said. ”The internship further reinforced my interests in international law and policy making."

Her summer internship, supported by the Center for Career Development’s Summer Social Impact Internship (SSII) Fund, was also an important time for introspection “to consider not just what I can do or bring to the table, but what I can learn, and what I can enjoy,” she said.

Brooklyn Northcross, Class of 2024, interned at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in her hometown of Detroit, also through the SSII Fund.

Northcross helped curate exhibits, organize fundraisers and plan an African World Festival. “This summer experience has helped me realize the type of service that I want to achieve through Princeton and also life in general,” she said.

Kennedy Walls traveled to Perth, Australia, through an internship sponsored by the Center for Health and Wellbeing to work with Aboriginal communities while interning with the Telethon Kids Institute.

Walls, a pre-med student in the Class of 2024, gained firsthand experience interning with a team focused on skin health and preventing acute rheumatic fever.

“Evaluating children for skin and throat infections while practicing the ability to be an empathetic, conscientious health worker in Aboriginal communities was an unparalleled learning experience,” Walls said. “I seek to build upon my experiences … to employ diligent yet compassionate methods of patient care and research in other communities of children.”

Mohan Setty-Charity, Class of 2024, also traveled internationally to work at the Institute for Integrated Transitions in Barcelona. The non-governmental organization is dedicated to helping fragile and conflict-affected states achieve more sustainable transitions out of war or crisis.

“Princeton RISE [Recognizing Inequities and Standing for Equality] helped me greatly by matching me with this internship,” he said. “I really enjoyed living in the city and having the opportunity to explore museums, cultural sites and beaches outside of my time working. Even though I did not speak Spanish, this was a really good immersion experience for me. I would not have gone without the support of the University.”

President Christopher L. Eisgruber speaks about the launch of Learning and Education through Service (LENS) initiative, which will make it possible for every undergraduate to participate in a summer service internship

Valuable partnerships

Nonprofits and community-based organizations who partner with Princeton say interns are valuable assets who contribute to their mission.

Alex Chere, CEO and founder of Teach for Ethiopia, said Class of 2025 member Esset Teshome made a real impact last summer. Teshome, an intern with Princeton’s John C. Bogle ’51 Fellows in Civic Service, organized reading clubs and book banks for young children, participated in the organization's leadership training and mentored the program’s teaching fellows.

“Esset brought fresh perspectives drawing from her Princeton experience and was really instrumental in motivating and engaging our students,” Chere said. “Our interns are passionate about making a difference.”

Dr. Michael Cunningham of Boston Children’s Hospital has hosted interns with the PICS for 12 years. Cunningham, a Class of 1977 graduate, said the internship is meaningful for both sides.

“My educational goals are to introduce students to hospital-based medicine, to expose them to what it is like to be a surgical resident and fellow in training, and to teach them a bit about clinical research, critical thinking and medical writing,” Cunningham said. “They, in turn, contribute greatly by assisting in the investigation and drafting of a clinical research project, by bringing a very inquisitive and refreshing perspective to what they witness, and by maintaining a wonderful connection for me to the University.”

Cassie Eng poses with backpacks

Cassie Eng, Class of 2025, stands with the backpacks she helped collect while interning at Project PEARLS in the Philippines last summer. The organization is dedicated to breaking the cycle of childhood poverty and Eng worked directly with young children in Manilla. 

Kate Shamszad, director of policy at the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, hosted interns through Princeton RISE for the past two summers. The students contributed to two important projects, one promoting equitable care in maternal health and the other providing greater access to medical, dental and behavioral healthcare centers.  

“Both of these projects are embedded in the ongoing work that the Quality Institute does to ensure high quality, accessible care for everyone living in New Jersey,” she said.