“I needed to take part in an internship for my major, so I used the opportunity to discover my passion,” recalls Mei Zheng C’10. As an undergraduate at Drew, Mei found an internship at Family Promise which helps homeless and low-income families in Morristown. She says that the experience helped her realize that she has a deep-rooted interest in human services. She also learned about the workings of small non-profits and her own need for interacting directly with people, all of which has guided her post-graduate path.
Over 65% of Drew undergraduates participate in an academic internship – for Behavioral Science, African-American studies, Environmental Studies and Sustainability, Women’s and Gender Studies it is a graduation requirement. Internships further three important goals of full-impact learning at Drew: they give students the chance to test classroom knowledge in real world situations, use their knowledge to improve the lives of others, and gain first-hand experience in professional environments. However, many internships – especially at non-profits – are unpaid. Students who need to take jobs during winter and summer breaks in order to pay for their education are often unable to participate in these life-changing opportunities.
The Thomas D. Sayles, Jr. Internship fund provides stipends to such students. The fund was established in 2007 in memory of trustee Tom Sayles, who served on the university’s Board of Trustees for two decades. “It is unbelievably rewarding to witness the appreciation the students have for these opportunities,” reflects Lynn Sayles Devereux. Mei Zheng is one of over eighty Drew students who have been able to pursue internships in fields such as healthcare, communications, environment, law, and human services, because of the support they received from the Sayles Internship.
Today, Mei is working at the Children’s Literacy Initiative in Newark where she helps provide resources and training for literacy instruction in schools from Maryland to New York. Reflecting on how her Drew experiences prepared her for this position, Mei says, “I think that a liberal arts education really prepares you for anything and my internship at Family Promise helped me know what to look for and what to expect in the workplace.”