Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Summer Alumni Mentorships

"What can you do with an English major?"

No doubt you've heard this question -- whether it's from your friends, your family, or even a random person in a coffee shop who just asked you what you were majoring in. The truth is that Penn English majors do just about everything: some become famous writers (like Jennifer Egan) or musicians (like John Legend) or journalists (like Andrea Mitchell). But many, many others find their ways into careers that you might not immediately associate with literature and writing. The skills these English majors learned at Penn, they report, help them in all these varied professions. Whether it's running a non-profit organization, managing political campaigns, starting a new business, litigating cases, caring for patients, or designing an ad campaign, our alums tell us that they value the skills they honed in Fisher-Bennett Hall: critical thinking, careful analytical reading, persuasive rhetoric, in-depth research.

We want to connect our current majors with these alums, to help them explore the myriad possibilities for life after the Penn English major.

For that reason, we are launching an exciting new initiative: the Summer Alumni Mentorships. Each summer we will place several Penn English majors in internships in organizations run by Penn English alumni. Rising juniors, rising seniors, and those who have just graduated are eligible to apply. Each mentorship involves 20 hours a week for 8 weeks, and the student will receive an award from the English Department of $2500.

Summer Alumni Mentorships are a valuable opportunity for both our students and our alumni. Students receive important training and put the skills they have learned to practical use, with money to cover their living expenses for the summer months. Alumni gain valuable assistance (at no expense to them), while helping to shape the career paths of future leaders and maintaining their connection with Fisher-Bennett Hall.

In order to apply for a Summer Alumni Mentorship, please give hard copies of the following to Loretta Williams (FBH 130):

  1. a brief statement of why you are interested in the position you are applying for (300 words maximum); you may only apply for one of the positions
  2. an unofficial transcript
  3. your resume
  4. the name of a faculty member who knows you well and is willing to provide a brief recommendation (300 words)


We'll be announcing our Summer 2018 SAMs shortly, but meanwhile here's a look at last year's mentorships, with a few comments from the Penn students who won these fellowships.


2017 Summer Alumni Mentorships

1) Judith Creed Homes for Adult Independence

Judith Creed Homes for Adult Independence (JCHAI) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people with intellectual disabilities and autism live and work in the community as much like everyone else as possible.  Although we are about to celebrate our 30th anniversary, we win awards annually for being one of the most innovative organizations in the country and government agencies from other states are now seeking us out to provide services there.  Our website is and you can learn more about what we do there. 

Jeffrey Careyva writes: "I spent a little less than two months working for JCHAI in Bryn Mawr, right outside of Philadelphia. JCHAI offers apartment services, classes and frequent trips to adults of all ages in the organization who live with intellectual disabilities. It was a wonderful opportunity to help set the organization on the right track to increasing their social media presence, improve their website and set up a blog for JCHAI clients to use. But one of my favorite parts of working there was getting involved in the evening classes held for young adults; classes like cooking, programming and 'game night' all serve to teach the young adults in the program basic yet vital life skills and how to socialize within their peer group. We learned how to count money by playing Monopoly, how to program by working with LEGO robots and how to self-advocate through blogs and creative writing. I made a lot of friends there that I'm sad to leave behind so soon, but I plan to return to JCHAI and volunteer a little when the fall semester begins!"


2) Rising Tide Interactive  

Rising Tide Interactive is a data-driven digital advertising agency with a personal approach and a history of winning results for our clients. Over the past two election cycles, our work has helped Democrats win nine US Senate races and seven gubernatorial elections. We’ve helped win hard-fought ballot initiatives on critical issues like gay marriage and personhood. And we’ve helped raise tens of millions of dollars for campaigns and non-profit organizations.

We work exclusively for political campaigns and non-profit organizations; we have no corporate clients. All of us at Rising Tide Interactive are strongly committed to using our knowledge of the Internet to create positive change – helping candidates and organizations who focus on promoting social justice.

Zoe Albano-Oritt writes: "I had a great experience at Rising Tide Interactive this summer. They taught me the basics very quickly and I was able to get into the swing of things within the first week there. A typical week would involve many different responsibilities, including compiling analytic data reports for both digital advertisements and fundraising emails, creating and managing fundraising pages for clients, drafting email and ad copy, and managing multiple forms of social media for clients as well. For example, I wrote and edited fundraising emails for large-scale fundraising campaigns such as those of Senator Tim Kaine, the Democratic Party of Virginia, and Mayor Nan Whaley, current mayor of Dayton, Ohio and Democratic gubernatorial candidate. I also managed a database of major political campaign disbursements and learned basic HTML and CSS to format fundraising emails before we sent them out to our clients' lists of subscribers, along with CRMs used by political consultants such as ActBlue, Blue State Digital, and NGPVAN, and other applications like Email on Acid. One of the things that struck me the most while I was working for RTI was when I received a finished email that I'd written for Senator Kaine. It was really incredible to see the words that I'd written being used to fundraise for a candidate who I admire, and see how directly I was able to make a difference in this way. Additionally, everyone in the office was very helpful and friendly to me, and I left knowing I'd made connections that would last."