Every Monday through Thursday, UNH senior Abby Geremia wakes up around 6:15 a.m. Within the next half hour her lunch is packed and she is out the door of her apartment, ready to walk a block or two to reach the subway. The commute gives Geremia a chance to wake up by reading, listening to podcasts or completing homework. Her destination is the Codman Academy Charter School in Dorchester, Massachusetts, where she assists teachers, works on projects and gets to know the students.
Geremia is one of 14 Social Innovation Fellows who are participating in Semester in the City, a 15-week program in Boston designed to help college students learn about social change and innovation. In addition to interning with organizations focused on this topic, Fellows also participate in workshops and seminars to add and build on skills. They also get a full semester’s worth of academic credit.
Twelve Fellows in the inaugural cohort are from UNH and the other two are from Clark University. They are in a variety of different major programs, from English to business administration.
Semester in the City is a new program out of College for Social Innovation, a nonprofit Boston-based organization. Co-Founder and Managing Director Lisa Jackson said that its “mission is to educate and inspire the next generation of problem solvers to take on humanity’s toughest challenges.”
UNH is the first school to affiliate with the program, and more will likely become partners in the near future.
After moving into apartments (participants can live at home if they are from Boston) and participating in a week-long orientation, the Fellows began their internships on Sept. 12. The host organizations include groups related to mentorship, education and social capital. Every student gets paired with a mentor at his or her site.
“The target audience is students who are looking to make a difference. The internships are being marketed as social innovation or social change; you are not just going to get any old work experience. They are carefully selected for students who want to use business to do good in the world,” said Paula DiNardo, coordinator of the Study Away USA office at UNH and a program administrator for Semester in the City.
College for Social Innovation also has a goal for 60 percent of the Semester in the City participants to be from under-represented groups. Although the program is open to all students, “because low-income, first generation and students of color frequently encounter barriers to access internship and other high impact learning experiences, we are actively seeking out these students to participate as well,” Jackson said.
As a study-away program, Semester in the City offers students experiences and opportunities that cannot be found in the traditional classroom.
Faina Bukher, the program manager of the UNH Center for Social Innovation and Enterprise, said that Semester in the City is “one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for students to make the most of their college experience.”
“I would recommend Semester in the City to others who are interested in working in the social sector, learning how to be a better problem solver and reflect on what soft and technical skills you currently have and translate those into a meaningful career path,” Fellow and UNH sophomore Teresa Scalley said.
Geremia has similar thoughts about the wide-ranging impact of Semester in the City.
“I know after this semester, I will have gained an amazing network, skills and a more clear vision of what I see myself doing after I graduate in the spring,” Geremia said. “Plus, how often are we presented with a chance to live and explore in a city for a couple months and still gain a semester’s worth of credits?”
Financial aid applies for UNH students participating in Semester in the City. Students are encouraged to plan ahead and apply early if they are interested in the program.
The priority deadline for applying to Semester in the City for spring 2017 is Oct. 2. The final application deadline is Oct. 23.