Affording Real-World Opportunities

Philanthropic support enables internships for GW students

August 12, 2014

How people interpret art, what they are feeling when they view it, and how they move through a collection—these are just some of the questions that fascinate Bryan Hilley.

An art history graduate student in GW’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, Bryan thought his career would involve producing works for others. But an internship at the Phillips Collection with Phillips Collection Senior Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Vesela Sretenović revealed an even bigger passion—helping people find meaning in art.

“I’ve worked in a few different museum departments, including setting up installations and volunteering at visitors’ services and the front desk,” Bryan said. “But with this internship, I’m actually seeing how the art comes in, how a show is arranged, and the work that a curator does.”

The Phillips Collection is one of many local organizations that the university has partnered with to offer experiential learning opportunities for students. But while more than 90 percent of GW students have at least one internship or hands-on learning experience before they graduate, these internships are often unpaid, leaving many students with a stressful financial burden.

Fortunately for Bryan, he was able to intern at the Phillips Collection thanks to the Career Services Council’s Knowledge in Action Career Internship Fund (KACIF), a program that has provided nearly $150,000 in funding to 90 students with “necessarily unpaid” internships through the generosity of parents, alumni, and members of the Board of Trustees.

“The Knowledge in Action Career Internship Fund and the overwhelming response to it demonstrates that the students, parents, alumni, faculty and career services departments at GW understand the value afforded to students who explore internship experiences in their chosen fields of interest,” says Rachel Brown, council chair and assistant provost for university career services.

Philanthropic support has been critical in building career services opportunities like internships for GW students. In May, Board of Trustees member Mark R. Shenkman, MBA ’67, and his wife, Rosalind, donated $5 million to supportthe GW Career Services Enhancement Initiative and the F. David Fowler Career Center at GWSB. This gift, in addition to enhancements laid out by the Career Services Council, are helping students like rising senior Matthew Sicheng Jiang pursue internships that complement their career aspirations.

Matthew is completing an internship with the D.C. China Center in the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development this summer. The opportunity exposed him to high-ranking Beijing government officials, the Chinese ambassador to the U.S., and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Matthew hopes to parlay this experience into a job in the District after his graduation this spring.

“I’ve learned so much in the classroom and even more from my internships—together, all of these experiences are invaluable,” he says.


Gifts towards internship funds like KACIF provide students with the opportunity to gain real-world experience before they graduate.