A Gift For When Experience Pays But Internships Don’t

Rebecca Friendly ’11 knows that she’s one of the fortunate 2011 graduates: She has a full-time position in the California office of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for American Progress (CAP), a policy institute and think tank.

A government major with a concentration in comparative politics, Friendly wrote an honors thesis, “Women’s Empowerment Beyond Elections: The Relevance of Legal Gender Quotas in Latin America.” Awarded the Davenport Prize for excellence in government and politics, she was also elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

“The Center for American Progress is going to be a wonderful opportunity for me,” she says. “The California office has an important role in advancing and supporting CAP’s national policy agenda and reaching out to West Coast leaders, thinkers, and citizens.”

Friendly is quick to point out that she did not just happen into this position; she had worked as a CAP intern the previous summer. This followed unpaid summer internships in the district offices of Congressman Henry Waxman and Congresswoman Karen Bass (then Speaker of the California Assembly). Friendly appreciated the opportunity to participate in these unpaid internships and described her work as crucial to her development. She was disappointed to learn, however, that several peers had to pass up interesting unpaid internships for financial reasons, and realized the critical importance of grants for allowing students to pursue these opportunities. For this reason, Rebecca and her family have created an endowment to fund an internship for a Wesleyan student each year. The Rebecca Friendly ’11 Internship Endowment will provide a stipend to a student receiving need-based financial aid who is interested in pursuing an internship in environmental studies. Students who intend to major in government with an environmental studies linked major or an environmental studies certificate program will be given special attention.

Friendly has a deep commitment to the environment and points to an introductory course in environmental science with Professor Barry Chernoff as a factor that influenced the family to provide support to students interested in pursuing environmental studies internships.

Friendly was also influenced by her grandmother, who wrote children’s books about symbiosis and ecology in the 1960s. She was inspired by her grandfather, a scientist and the first Minister of Science and Technology in Costa Rica, a country well known for protecting its biodiversity by setting aside 26 percent of its land for conservation.

Friendly expects her interest in the environment will extend to her work at CAP since “Energy and Environment” is one of CAP’s five core issues. Its stated goal is to “pioneer progressive, 21st-century policy proposals to transform our nation and our economy in ways that protect the global environment, boost global prosperity, and create sustain- able sources of clean energy…”

Prof. Chernoff says, “The Rebecca Friendly Internship will help meet a critical need in the College of the Environment. It is so important that environmental studies students get hands-on research experience in order to develop their understanding of the critical environmental issues facing the world today. This internship will help further the career development of students who major in government and environmental studies and I am very, very thankful to Rebecca and her family.”

Friendly believes that internships provide an important counterpoint to the academics. “We are fortunate to have summers off to apply what we have learned at Wesleyan, which can help us take a step closer to our goals.”

Director of the Wesleyan Career Center Michael Sciola agrees: “There’s no single better way to match intellectual curiosity with practical experience for an undergraduate than through an internship. “Rebecca’s gift recognizes the power and influence of internship experience in her own life and exemplifies the Wesleyan spirit in her gen- erosity by ensuring that students who come after her will have the benefit of support for their own career discovery.”

Although it bears her name, Friendly stresses that the endowment was “a collective family effort; really, it was through my parents’ support that I was able to give this gift. They understood my enthusiasm for and commitment to Wesleyan.”

Vice President for University Relations Barbara-Jan Wilson says, “I am grateful to Rebecca Friendly and her family for creating this internship endowment. We hope this will inspire other families to support our students as they build on Wesleyan’s rich, liberal arts education by engaging in meaningful summer internships.”

Friendly adds, “My years at Wesleyan were transformative and I plan to stay involved in the Wesleyan community for years to come.”