Stipends Help Students Afford Unpaid Learning Experiences

January 12, 2021
By: Kristen O'Reilly

For many students, unpaid learning experiences are essential—even required—for gaining the skills needed to succeed in the workplace and graduate school. For example, education majors must student teach as part of their training, and aspiring researchers need evidence of original work to improve their graduate school resumes.

Recognizing a scarcity of part-time jobs that might help a student afford these unpaid experiences—especially during a pandemic—the Worcester State Foundation recently awarded $500 stipends to 50 students to help ease their financial burden. More than 125 students applied for the Experiential Learning Stipends, which were split equally between the School of Education, Health, and Natural Sciences and the School of Humanities and Social Sciences.

“The fact that there were so many applications—many more than we could fund—shows there is a real need for this type of support for our students,” says Vice President for University Advancement Thomas McNamara ’94. “We’re hoping we can encourage donors to continue to fund this program so our students can translate what they learn in the classroom to real-world experiences.”

Stipends were awarded based on a rubric that prioritized students closest to graduation.

About a third of the stipends went to education majors who are required to gain experience in a classroom before graduating. Read about how student teachers are coping in a virtual world.

Other stipend award winners include Emily Doran ’21, a chemistry and public health major who worked as an unpaid intern with the Worcester Department of Health and Human Services, researching effective methods for mental health crisis intervention for law enforcement.

“I was able to participate in a unique educational experience relevant to our current times. Without the stipend, I’m not sure I could have participated because I need to earn a sufficient income,” Doran says.

Kelsey Konow ’21, a nursing major with a minor in psychology, completed two unpaid clinical rotations: mental health nursing at Emerson Hospital in Concord, where she supported patients, completed mental status exams, attended therapeutic group activities, and observed team meetings; and community nursing at the Dedham Early Childhood Education Center, where she worked with a registered nurse to complete many different tasks for the children at the center.

“For both of my clinical rotations in the fall 2020 semester, I was required to drive an hour to the clinical sites. Since clinicals are a requirement for the nursing program, it is an unpaid experience, and we are not compensated for gas or car maintenance costs when traveling to clinical locations. Also, the nursing program requires students to buy uniforms and other equipment for the clinical experiences, so this experiential learning stipend is extremely beneficial to assist with financial costs.”

Kelly Diep ’21, a business administration major with a concentration in accounting and a minor in computer science, worked at a local business as an intern “to hone my skills in organization and communication as well as acquire learning experience in using Quickbooks for bookkeeping, expense reporting, and data management. In addition, I am able to practice creativity and research through advertisement projects,” she says. The internship was in person, so the stipend helped with her transportation and living costs.

Karen Shalev ’22, a visual and performing arts and communication double major, worked as the stage manager for VPA’s virtual production of “Oedipus the King” this fall. “This award allowed me to work confidently as a stage manager, knowing that I was able to learn skills I would not have learned elsewhere while pursuing my passion in the theater.”

Arianna Navedo ’21, a psychology and sociology major with a minor in criminal justice, worked as an intern at a Shrewsbury lawyer’s office. “This stipend helped me pay a few bills for a month, and I was able to relax and not worry. Trying to work full time, participate in an internship, and juggle school work as well as class has been very stressful,” she says.

Experiential Learning Stipends were also awarded to a team of students researchers who created videos to demonstrate labs for remote learners.

Learn more about the stipends, and hear from students who participated in experiential learning in this special edition of “The Beat,” an entirely student-produced show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDzX9Y7UGHE&feature=youtu.be .

To donate to the Experiential Learning Stipend Fund, please visit: alumni.worcester.edu/els.

UPDATE: Jan. 20, 2020

All donors who make a gift to the Experiential Learning Stipend Fund by Thursday, Feb. 11, will be entered into a drawing donated by Dr. Professor Elizabeth Wark, Ph.D., and Stephen Wark. The grand prize for the drawing is a collection of wine, TSA approved luggage, and corkscrew, valued at over $1,000, and four prizes of two bottles of wine, valued at $150 per package. Drawing will be held at 3 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 11.

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