December 13, 2010

For summer: Community service internships for undergrads

Community Impact Internships program hopes to attract more than 25 students in this first year

Communities near the Homewood campus are among those where students will be able to gain real-world work experience through social outreach. Will Kirk/

The Johns Hopkins University today unveils a program that will pay for service-minded undergraduates to stay in Baltimore over the summer to work as interns at local nonprofit and government agencies at no cost to those agencies.

Launched with a $1.25 million gift from an anonymous donor, the new Johns Hopkins Community Impact Internships program hopes to attract more than 25 students in this first year, and is funded to accommodate 50 undergraduates each year thereafter. The program will enable the students to earn up to $5,000 while gaining real-world work experience through social outreach. At the same time, the nonprofits, many of which have struggled to make ends meet in these lean financial times, will benefit from the extra hands of Johns Hopkins students to help them advance their missions.

“Our students, faculty and staff are deeply invested in the Baltimore community,” said university President Ronald J. Daniels. “There is much being done in this city, but there is always much more to be done. The internship program helps to highlight our commitment to our surrounding neighborhoods and provides a much-needed gateway for supporting increased student participation in summer community service programs.”

The gift and the program it established fit nicely with the university’s renewed efforts to step up its support for the communities surrounding the university, and the program will open opportunities for students who have wanted to get involved in local service projects but who have been stymied by a lack of funding and direction.

“It’s a win-win opportunity for Johns Hopkins students, who arrive on campus with a strong commitment to community service,” said Sarah Steinberg, interim vice provost for student affairs. “Johns Hopkins is an important anchor institution in Baltimore, and it is a place where humanity matters. Our students, faculty and staff all care deeply about community.”

As a result of this generous contribution, Steinberg said, an increasing number of summer community service opportunities will become available and will greatly support the university’s efforts to meet the ever-increasing demand by its students for ways to contribute time, energy and enthusiasm to the city’s neighborhoods and the Baltimore community.

The program is open to freshmen, sophomores and juniors. The gift allows for an increase to 50 paid interns in summer 2012 and onward, according to Bill Tiefenwerth, director of the university’s Center for Social Concern, which will oversee the program.

“Students really want to get to know Baltimore but have few opportunities to do summer service-oriented initiatives, feed themselves and pay rent at the same time,” said Tiefenwerth, who will hire a full-time staff member to manage the internship program. “It’s a double gift. Obviously it’s a gift to students who want to work for Baltimore nonprofits, and I know that our partner agencies will be happy to use the talent of Johns Hopkins students to help advance their missions.”

Under the internship program, students will work 30 hours each week in venues to be determined throughout the city, based on students’ interests. During the application process, students will specify their top three choices for placement in the categories of education, local government, criminal justice, health care and health policy, environment/sustainability, neighborhood/community improvement and women, children and family issues.

“This program is student-centric in the sense that we are trying to match their interests as closely as possible,” Tiefenwerth said, so the partner agencies will reflect students’ choices and strengths. It is anticipated that the jobs will be created at Baltimore-based nonprofit groups that have long-standing relationships with the Center for Social Concern, such as the Greater Homewood Community Corp., Parks and People, the Mayor’s Office and Civic Works.

The student-selection committee will include Steinberg and Tiefenwerth; Mark Presnell, director of Student Career Services; and faculty members from the Krieger and Whiting schools.

“We will be looking for qualities that are already instilled in so many of our undergraduates: an enthusiasm and strong desire to apply their time, energy and experience to our local neighborhoods and extended Baltimore community,” Steinberg said. “The areas of interest will be very broad, and hopefully they will appeal to a broad segment of our undergraduate population seeking to spend a summer in Baltimore working, learning and making a difference in people’s lives.”

The program will begin May 31 with a week of orientation programming that will include speakers who are major players on the Baltimore nonprofit scene. As part of their assignments, the interns will gather for weekly reflection sessions. The internships end July 30 with a two-hour evaluation session.

The work schedule will allow the student interns to take a summer course if they choose.

As a senior, Julia Lwin isn’t eligible to apply for a Community Impact Internship, “but I would definitely take advantage of this program if I could,” said Lwin, whose outreach activities include a federal work-study job through the Center for Social Concern, where she works as a student assistant in health- and nutrition-oriented community programming at Waverly Elementary School. Lwin said she would like to have done more outreach as a student in Baltimore, but the lack of community-based outreach jobs led her instead to pursue international opportunities that are fully funded by organizations such as the U.S. Agency for International Development.

“I have always wanted to stay in Baltimore and work at a community-based organization, but due to financial constraints I could not afford to reside here during the summer,” Lwin said. “I truly have grown to love Baltimore because of the various outreach experiences I have had during my four years here. I would highly encourage students to take advantage of this opportunity and discover their own niche and love of Baltimore.”

Dovetailing with President Daniels’ call for a renewed commitment to community service, the Johns Hopkins Community Impact Internships are the result of a confluence of events, Tiefenwerth said. The Center for Social Concern completed in summer 2010 a successful pilot program for eight paid interns, overseen by AmeriCorps VISTA, but the center didn’t have funds for summer 2011. At the same time, a potential donor expressed interest in funding a program to help students become more involved in Baltimore.

Word of the new internship program began spreading quickly among the undergraduates as soon as it was put in place, with applications coming in, Tiefenwerth said. The deadline for submitting applications (online at is Friday, Dec. 31. For additional information, contact Tiefenwerth at 410-516-4777 or