Gephardt News

2020 Goldman Fellows Invest in St. Louis While Building Virtual Community

The Goldman Fellows Program, funded by the Joyce and Irving Goldman Family Foundation, is a competitive fellowship that provides $5,000 summer stipends for undergraduate students who secure unpaid internships at nonprofit, community, or governmental organizations in the St. Louis region. Fellows are supported by a network of peers and staff as they embark on their own individually-crafted internships and deepen their understanding of community engagement through seminars and St. Louis immersion experiences.

Typically, students apply for the program and, upon acceptance, obtain an internship with support from the Gephardt Institute as needed. Typically, they embed themselves deeply in St. Louis, working on-site in their internships, visiting neighborhoods and cultural sites, and meeting with local residents and leaders. However, 2020 is anything but typical. With the transition to online learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, suspension of in-person summer programs and courses, and uncertainty around the bandwidth and priorities of partner organizations, program staff and fellows worked together to reenvision the 2020 Goldman Fellows Program for a virtual format. They identified internship placements and modified the cohort learning model to allow the program to continue and meet the needs of both students and the St. Louis community.

As a first step, Stefani Weeden-Smith, Assistant Director for Community Engagement, and Nichole Murphy, Community Engagement Coordinator, connected with potential partner sites to determine their interest and capacity for hosting students in remote internships, the types of projects they had in mind, and specific skills or experience requirements. They also asked fellows to complete a skills inventory form and discuss their career interests as part of the placement process. Once they had potential matches, would-be supervisors met with students via Zoom to ensure a good fit. The process took many weeks but resulted in a complete set of placements and commitment to organizations providing critical community programs and services amidst the pandemic.

In addition to facilitating the placement process, Nichole has adapted this year’s program structure to scaffold the cohort’s learning and include a mix of synchronous and asynchronous remote learning activities. The cohort experience kicked-off in early June, with two weeks of orientation covering topics like identity development, best practices for internships given the constraints of the virtual environment, and the context of COVID and the Movement for Black Lives. Over the course of the program, students will gain practical experiences through their internships, as well as coaching on skills like empathy, adaptability, and resiliency in light of this unprecedented context.

From locations around the country, Goldman Fellows meet regularly via Zoom for seminars and in small groups as part of their cohort experience. They also complete weekly journal reflections and participate in online discussions on topics that reinforce the program’s goals of developing student leaders, supporting positive community impact, and fostering student identities as St. Louis citizens. Although they will not be able to attend events and see more of St. Louis in person, staff and fellows still plan to integrate St. Louis into the program experience; for instance, through discussions with guest speakers and documentary watch parties. For Nichole, it is more important than ever to “complicate the narrative, helping students to appreciate new perspectives and stories that they can react to and integrate into their own understanding of St. Louis.”

Learn more about our 2020 Goldman Fellows below, and stay tuned for reflections on their internship and cohort experiences over the course of the summer.

2020 Goldman Fellows

Colleen Avila, class of 2023, is double majoring in studio art in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts and philosophy-neuroscience-psychology in the College of Arts & Sciences. She is interning with Invest STL.

Russell Beckham, class of 2021, is majoring in urban studies in the College of Arts & Sciences. He is interning with the City of Pine Lawn and Beyond Housing.

Gaby Musickant, class of 2022, is majoring in anthropology: global health and the environment in the College of Arts & Sciences. She is interning with Beyond Housing.

Ranen Miao, class of 2023, is majoring in sociology and political science in the College of Arts & Sciences. He is interning with the St. Louis Community Foundation.

Thomas Moy, class of 2021, is majoring in international and area studies in the College of Arts & Sciences. He is interning with CG Immigration Law.

Maggie O’Connor, class of 2022, is majoring in political science and economics in the College of Arts & Sciences. She is interning with United Way of Greater St. Louis.

Jenna Patel, class of 2021, is majoring in biology in the College of Arts & Sciences. She is interning with United Way of Greater St. Louis.

Asia Porter, class of 2022, is majoring in sociology in the College of Arts & Sciences. She is interning with ACLU Missouri.

Iris Postma, class of 2021, is majoring in women, gender, and sexuality studies and Spanish in the College of Arts & Sciences. She is interning with Operation Food Search.

Quinn Wai Wong, class of 2023, is majoring in philosophy-neuroscience-psychology in the College of Arts & Sciences and computer science in the McKelvey School of Engineering. He is interning with LaunchCode.