A fully-credited fellowship program that provides undergraduates the opportunity to spend a transformative semester in Boston while participating in social sector internships has been an enriching experience for two cohorts of UMass Dartmouth students.
Semester in the City (SITC) was launched at UMassD in the Fall 2019 semester. This semester, eight students served as social innovation fellows at organizations like the Cambridge Women’s Center, the Immigrant Family Services Institute, and Madison Park Development Corporation.
In addition to internships, students develop essential skills and networks that prepare them for life and work after graduation through classes led by Semester in the City staff. The classes expose students to the field of social innovation and help to build their skills as change makers for social good.
“SITC is truly a high impact experience for UMassD students; it gives them the opportunity to build skills in several key areas,” said Dr. Robert Jones, associate dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. “Students work in a 30-hour per week internship that offers a kind of personal and professional development they could not receive on campus. They make significant contributions to the host organizations, including a special project focused on the mission.
“Our students want to make a difference in the world. SITC exposes them to the inner workings of how that difference can be made on a government, organizational, and community level,” Jones added.
Erika Cadena ’20 of Dedham, MA, a Crime & Justice Studies major, interned at PbS Learning Institute last fall. Using best and research-based practices, PbS aims to create safe and healthy facilities and programs that effectively improve the lives of delinquent and at-risk youth, families, and communities, and prevent crime.
She created the history of PbS for their website with a timeline of the organization’s key achievements, along with a blog about PbS founder, Ned Loughran.
“I loved it. The people were so nice and welcoming that I didn’t feel like an intern,” said Cadena. “I learned a lot about juvenile justice and changes in laws. It will definitely help with my major and my career.”
Cadena has applied to master’s degree programs in social work and hopes to work with children and teenagers.
“Semester in the City is a good opportunity to make connections through internships and meet new people,” Cadena added. “It opened me up to other social problems in the world. It got me out of my comfort zone. I learned that I can make a difference.”
The opportunity to participate in a new program while living in Boston appealed to Danielle Devine ’20 of Bernardston, MA. Also a Crime & Justice Studies major, Devine interned at Strategies for Youth, a Cambridge-based national organization that works to improve police-youth interactions.
Devine worked with school resource officers who respond to students experiencing trauma. She created a Jeopardy game for officers to play with students at high schools, community centers, and YMCAs across the country that was designed to help both groups work together better. She also shadowed a juvenile judge.
“The experience taught me a lot about navigating an office environment and advocating for yourself. The professional experience was good, too. I felt like I made an impact,” she said.
Devine’s experience helped to steer her toward a career in social work “where I can develop long-term relationships and help people. I definitely want to work with kids and in Boston.”
Based on their positive experiences with the program, both Cadena and Devine serve as ambassadors for Semester in the City.