SESP Undergrads Steer Public Interest Fellowship Program

SESP Undergrads Steer Public Interest Fellowship Program

NUPIP coordinators

As the deadline approaches for Northwestern University Public Interest Program fellowships, which place Northwestern graduates in public interest jobs, four SESP students are heading up the administration of this unique program. They are Alexa Herzog, Josh Parish, Becca Portman and Jake Rosner.

The Northwestern Public Interest Program (NUPIP) introduces young alumni to organizations with missions to create systemic social change. One-year fellowships help to train a new generation of leaders for social change through paid public interest work, professional development seminars and mentorship opportunities. 

NUPIP is the only student-run program of its kind in the nation. SESP alumni Jon Marino (BS06) and Lauren Parnell Marino (BS07) along with faculty advisers Paul Arntson and John Kretzmann started NUPIP in 2005, modeling it after Princeton's Project 55. Today the program is managed by four undergraduate student coordinators and Northwestern's Center for Civic Engagement.

Alexa Herzog
Junior Alexa Herzog, a social policy major, says, “NUPIP fellows participate in meaningful work at a number of incredible non-profit and governmental organizations in Chicago, San Francisco, DC and New York. But the program extends beyond the nine-to-five work day." All NUPIP fellows have two mentors, one who is experienced and one who is a young alum of the program. In addition, NUPIP fellows join the community of Princeton and University of Chicago fellows doing similar work. "This group meets once a week for seminars to discuss relevant issues and is an excellent social network. This community is often referred to as a family and provides so much support for the often challenging transition into ‘real life’ from college,” says Herzog.

“I wanted to become involved with NUPIP because I wholeheartedly believe in the program and its role in the small but burgeoning community of people passionate about civic engagement at Northwestern,” she adds.

Josh Parish
Sophomore Josh Parish says, “As a social policy major, the idea of furthering students' involvement in the non-profit and public interest world post-graduation was exciting, and to be able to do it as a job on campus was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. After working as a coordinator for almost a year now, I'd say my commitment to our work has grown tremendously.”

“NUPIP allows recently graduated Northwestern students to acclimate into the working world with a group of passionate, intelligent and like-minded people dedicated to working toward systemic change. A really cool part of NUPIP is our matching process — we bring students in, and because they don't know our current sites for that upcoming year, we interview based on their passions and interests; a lot of time, I feel like when interviewing for a job, one could easily be persuaded to cater answers to what they think the employer might want to hear. This is not the case when applying to NUPIP; instead, students are matched based on their passions and what drives them.” 

“Furthermore, the NUPIP community allows fellows to compare and contrast experiences, as well as form some new friendships. I think the mentor aspect of our program, in which every fellow is placed with an active and established member of Chicago's public sector, provides a truly special opportunity for fellows to seek guidance relating to career aspirations or work. On the flip side, NUPIP could be a great opportunity for a NU grad wanting to space out the time between graduate school with a year of paid, substantial work in between, as many of our fellows have done. For those with determined career aspirations or for those with no real desired direction, NUPIP is an awesome opportunity coming out of Northwestern.”

Becca Portman
NUPIP coordinator Becca Portman, a junior in social policy, is also a fellow at the Center for Civic Engagement and a staff coordinator for NU Votes. She got involved with NUPIP early in her freshman year. “I was excited by the program because it seemed like a great way to continue the tradition of community involvement and engagement that is so prevalent on campus. Because NUPIP is coordinated by a small team of students, it was also a great opportunity for me to take a leadership role in an organization early on in my college career.”

“I think the biggest perk of being an NUPIP fellow is the built-in community that fellows have access to. They are part of a class of other Northwestern alums, University of Chicago and Princeton fellows, Alum Chums (recent graduates of the program), established mentors in their fields of interest, supervisors at non-profits all over the Chicago area and countless other program supporters. I also think NUPIP fellows benefit greatly from the professional development and academic opportunities provided by weekly seminars, which allow them to reflect on their work experience and place their jobs within a larger context of public interest work,” she says.

Jake Rosner
Jake Rosner, a senior in social policy, started as a NUPIP program coordinator his freshman year. “I got involved with NUPIP because it was clear that it was a program that promoted real, substantive, public interest work in Chicago. I could see that it was doing a great job at getting students with a history of activism and engagement to think about how they might be able to keep doing that kind of work after college. It also gave other students, who were newer to the idea of engagement, a way to start to get involved and put their talents to use for the common good.” 

“Running NUPIP has been a great way to push the Northwestern community to think about how it can use its great resources to benefit the Chicago community — not only financially, but with one's own work. Being a PIP fellow is a great way for graduating seniors to explore Chicago's public interest field, and get substantive experience doing important work,”  he says.

“In your first year out of college, it's really important to have guidance from people who have been through that transition. With weekly seminars with professional development and interesting speakers, and mentors who can give career advice, the program is a great opportunity for recent graduates to ensure that they'll be effective champions of social justice. It's also a fantastic community to have as you move out of the college environment. Our PIP fellows are a really tight-knit group; they organized a PIP book club, and in November had a ‘PIPs-giving’ dinner.”

SESP Fellows
Current NUPIP fellows include four 2011 SESP graduates:

Stephanie Arias joined the college counseling department at Urban Prep Charter Academy for young men, which provides a high-quality college preparatory education that results in graduates succeeding in college. She hopes the experience will continue to expand her understanding of urban education as well as her service to high school youth.

Rosey Martinez has joined MetroSQUASH, an organization that uses sports, education, cultural experience and community service to empower Chicago Public School students to realize their full potential. Her ambition is to pursue a career to reduce educational disparities and potentially practice education law. She wanted to join MetroSQUASH to continue to help others reach their dreams.

Nathalie Rayter is working as a program assistant with Free Spirit Media, which provides education and opportunity in media production to more than 500 underserved Chicago students each year. During her time at Northwestern, she developed an interest in the role of media in creating positive social change.

Rachel Zinn is working with Community Builders, one of the largest nonprofit development corporations in the nation. She has been involved with volunteer work throughout her college career and says she is proud to be working for an organization that truly cares about communities.

The deadline for applying for a NUPIP fellowship is February 6. More information about NUPIP and its application process is available on the NUPIP website.

Photo (from left): Becca Portman, Jake Rosner, Alexa Herzog and Josh Parish

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 7/27/17