A Gateway to Public-Interest Careers

Many students come to Bucknell with hopes of building a life serving the public interest. But it’s hard to transition from high-level classroom discussions about ethics and justice to practicing those ideals in the real world. Luckily, the Bucknell Public Interest Program (BPIP) gives students a head start.

Since 2004, the BPIP Internship Fund has placed 436 students in summer internships with nonprofits and government offices around the world and supported these placements with stipends worth more than $1.2 million. Organizations where students have interned range from familiar names like the American Red Cross and Smithsonian Institution to international entities such as Rwanda Housing Authority and Un Techo Para Chile (A Roof for Chile).

For students, the experiences provide valuable information.

Through a recent grant from the Lenker Family BPIP Internship Fund, Augustina Whamond ’19 spent a summer working with PennEnvironment, a statewide nonprofit advocating legal protection for clean air, water and open spaces in the U.S.

“It was the perfect opportunity for both personal and professional growth,” Whamond says. “Being able to campaign for the well-being of our environment taught me what working for a nonprofit organization is really like and how the public-interest sector functions. The BPIP fund gave me the opportunity to live in Pennsylvania and work for a statewide advocacy group with an excellent reputation.”

Marilyn Shull M’08, P’09, P’13, who administers BPIP for the Career Development Center, notes that these opportunities can be helpful whether students have a distinct career goal or are still not sure what they want to do. These short-term, funded opportunities allow students to evaluate whether working for a sector or type of organization is right for them.

“When I talk to students about the BPIP Internship Fund, I draw directly from the Bucknell mission statement,” Shull says. “‘Bucknell seeks to educate our students to serve the common good and to promote justice in ways sensitive to the moral and ethical dimensions of life.’ The great value of the program is that it offers students a way to explore their interests and the public good through real-life work experience.” — Michael Agresta