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Rutgers Summer Service initiative aims to provide students with paid public service internships

Additional details regarding the Rutgers Summer Service initiative are supposed to be released in spring of 2022. – Photo by Samantha Cheng

University President Jonathan Holloway recently announced the creation of the Rutgers Summer Service initiative (RSS), a new program that will offer paid public service internships over the summer for up to 150 sophomores and juniors.

The initiative will be fulfilled through collaborative efforts by the Office of Career Exploration and Success (CES) and the Eagleton Institute of Politics.

“Students will work for nonprofits, serve the broader community and gain the opportunity to learn about people who are unlike themselves — who face different struggles and come from different backgrounds, countries, races or religions,” Holloway said, according to a press release. “Participating in this program will make our students better citizens and our world a better place.”

Eagleton Director John J. Farmer Jr. said the RSS initiative is a great opportunity for the Institute to work with CES. He said CES has access to a wide variety of potential places for students to work, and Eagleton has experience in placing students in internships that are focused on public service and link with pedagogy.

“We're really excited about the beginning of this program,” Farmer said. “It's very consonant with what Eagleton Institute has been about for a long time, which is the notion that one of the ways in which you can have a better democracy is better citizen engagement and public service.”

He said there will be many who benefit from the initiative beyond just the students, including the organizations that the students work for, the Rutgers community and New Jersey as a whole.

In regard to accomplishing any specific goals, Farmer said the RSS initiative will connect the classroom experience and theoretical knowledge that the students acquire throughout their work with the real world, which is something he learned in his background that he finds valuable.

“We found in legal education that the clinics are an essential component of a legal education for that very reason,” he said. “That they'll connect the theoretical law that you're learning with actual conditions that people are suffering. And this will do the same thing — it will connect undergraduates at Rutgers with realities in the world and then allow them to reflect upon those realities as they're learning the theoretical models.”

William Jones, executive director for Rutgers CES, said the initiative was designed with the purpose of guiding students to personally make meaning of their internships, develop professional skills and expand their networks.

“Rutgers is a powerhouse — and through this initiative, we can impact the community, generate new opportunities by fostering relationships with nonprofit organizations and build a culture of commitment to public service at Rutgers,” he said.

Jones said that a major beneficial component of this initiative for students is that they can now be financially compensated for an internship from a nonprofit organization that may not have had the ability to do so otherwise. He said this allows students to choose where to intern based on interest, passion and skills without being concerned about compensation.

“Princeton, Michigan State, University of Maryland and increasingly more institutions are beginning to offer funding to support students in low or unpaid internships during the summer,” Jones said. “Holloway's sizable commitment to making the RSS internship program a reality will further demonstrate what excellence truly looks like.” 

Regarding the logistics of the initiative, Jones said students will have access to a $5,000 stipend and up to $1,300 in tuition assistance which will allow them to take the virtual training course for Rutgers internships and co-ops during the summer. More information regarding the application processes and selection will be available in the spring.

“Obviously, this is new, and any new thing you're going to have to pay to test it, and you're going to have to work some kinks out,” Farmer said. “I'm certain of that, but I think the vision is great, and we're excited to be in charge of fulfilling it.”

Editor’s Note: This article was updated to clarify a quote from Farmer.

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