Internship cements interest in nonprofit work for Slusarewicz
When Joanna Slusarewicz entered Rice as a freshman last year, she took on a position volunteering for SWAG to College, a Houston-based nonprofit that helps underserved high school students reach their college goals. She worked as a mentor, assisting students with their college essays and guiding them through the complicated process of college admissions.
During her time as a volunteer, Slusarewicz applied for a summer internship with SWAG and got it. She spent the summer writing grants and analyzing data for the organization.
“I feel like, in general, internships are more like job shadowing,” she explained, “and because SWAG is a small nonprofit, I had a lot of ownership over my projects. It was a great experiential learning opportunity and I had to learn how to do things very quickly.”
Slusarewicz is leaning toward majoring in statistics or computer science. She knew going into the internship that she was interested in nonprofit work, and her experience sealed the deal.
“I had no experience with practical statistics,” she said, stating that she’d taken a statistics course in high school. “And it’s one thing to learn something in class and another to see how it works in the real world. I was working with data sets that were incomplete, so I had to figure out how to account for that.”
In addition, she said writing grants was something she’d never given much thought to, but she appreciated the experience, which she realizes will come in handy as she pursues a nonprofit career. Concurrent to her internship at SWAG, she was also doing research in Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Dan Cohan’s lab, looking at the role wind and solar energy played when traditional coal plants were closed. The research meant she needed to write computer code, and she then was able use those skills in her SWAG work.
“My internship gave me a real leadership role within the organization,” she said. “I was in charge of what I was doing and I had to be able to explain that to people I worked with. I hadn’t been in that kind of situation before, and it was great to learn that I had not only the academic skills to do the work, but also the personal skills to get the job done.”
Slusarewicz is already looking at other internship and research opportunities — also in the nonprofit realm.
“This summer cemented for me that this is where I want to be,” she said.