The Massry Community Fellows Program

Autumn Henry
Autumn Henry at her summer internship at Radix

Autumn Henry ’16 was in a quandary this spring. The public health major had lined up work as a summer school substitute teacher, but hoped to intern with Radix, an urban environmental educational center located in Albany’s South End. As a two-person nonprofit, Radix could not afford to pay her. Henry could not afford to work unpaid. Just in time, a professor’s email advised her of the Massry Community Fellows Program; Henry applied and won one of two summer stipends. The Massry program allowed her to forgo the teaching gig to spend the summer at Radix, writing grants and learning about urban farming.

The internship taught Henry that she enjoys research and grant writing but not farming. She set a goal of earning as much through grants as she earned through the program: $5,000. She continues her work into the fall semester, unpaid.

Most School of Business students complete an internship before graduation and most get paid. That is not the case for other disciplines. Many students cannot afford to spend a summer or a semester without earning a paycheck. For them, obtaining experience may require juggling an unpaid internship and a job.

 Ethan Schek '16

Ethan Schek at his internship at the Sidney Albert Albany Jewish Community Center

On the other hand, business students rarely pursue nonprofit organizations, where internship funding is typically nonexistent. Business major Ethan Schek ’16, had the opportunity to intern with the Sidney Albert Albany Jewish Community Center but, like Henry, needed to earn enough money for living expenses. This is Schek’s first internship. He previously spent his summers working at a water park but as graduation approached, he sought experience in his field. The JCC marketing internship met his needs. He learned about the internship and the Massry fellowship through Deirdre Sweeney, the director of the School of Business Office of Career Services, who oversees the program.

 Schek has learned from the experience. He said, “In school you learn about the things that relate to corporate America. I now have a grasp of how nonprofits work. It is a completely different entity.”

The Massry Community Fellows Program is one of the initiatives funded through a $5.25 million gift from the Massry family, the largest gift ever made to the University at Albany. It is a collaboration between the university’s Office of Career Services and the School of Business Office of Career Services. Students arrange their own internships and apply for the fellowship which pays the award at the conclusion of the summer.

According to Noah Simon, director of the University at Albany Office of Career Services, there are many benefits to the fellowship. He said, “It will drive student interest, encouraging them to see the value in nonprofits. It integrates our students into the community and keeps students in the area by forming connections. It also increases UAlbany’s positive engagement in the community.”

Sweeney noted that 20 minutes after the Massry gift was announced, the phone started ringing. Nonprofits were interested. She said, “The program supports students and the community. It will encourage more business students to look at nonprofits.”

The Massry Fellowship may encourage others to fund internships for nonprofits. Sweeney said, “We hope that this is a trend. I am optimistic that UAlbany alumni will consider funding similar internship programs, possibly downstate or in other areas.”