During what seemed like the height of the financial crisis in 2008, but which turned out to be just one of the crests, I thought about our students and our mission as a university. Students needed, but were having difficulty finding, meaningful summer employment to help pay college bills, and the non-profit organizations so central to our region’s economy and citizen’s well-being were facing increasing demands for services, declining donations, and reduced staffing. Through our Center for Career Development and the Long Island Center for Nonprofit Leadership, which we created and host, we designed the Adelphi Community Fellows Program.
The Community Fellows Program provides students with $3,000 stipends for working 30 hours per week for 10 weeks at a participating non-profit community organization. Both students and the employers must be prepared for the assignment, with students taking a one-credit course in advance and employers meeting with Adelphi staff to ensure that the work assignments are meaningful and beneficial. Funding is provided by donations.
Work settings include food banks, local museums and counseling centers, among others. In the first year, we placed 20 students in 20 groups; last year we placed 39 students in 39 groups; this summer we plan to place 60 students in at least 40 organizations.
During the summer, faculty and staff visit the students at work settings to ensure high quality assignments. In the fall following the internship, students, employers, and donors meet to debrief what went well and what can be improved. This is a process of teaching and learning for all parties.
Adelphi is called the “engaged” university because of its historical commitment to be of service to the community and to prepare students for civic leadership. Our motto is that we place as much emphasis on character and citizenship as on careers and commerce. The Community Fellows Program is one more effort to fulfill that mission.