Wasserman Center raises record funds for unpaid interns

The NYU Wasserman Center has raised a record amount of funds to provide money funding for students with unpaid internships for the 2011-2012 year.

Six years ago, the Wasserman Center for Career Development began granting $1,000 awards to students who worked for companies that do not offer paid internships.

James Sillcox, director of the Wasserman Center at NYU-Poly, said the fund is at its highest point to date. When the fund began in 2006, there were $15,500 available.

Sillcox said the funded internships became vital for students, especially during these years of recession.

“We found that many NYU students felt they had to forgo educationally valuable unpaid opportunities in order to earn money for their day-to-day expenses,” Sillcox said. “Others elected to pursue these internships, but had to subsequently secure additional paid work, exerting significant stress on their academic and extracurricular lives.”

Marc Wais, vice president for Student Affairs, said the funding comes from the Office of the Provost, Student Affairs  and various donors.

Wais said students who are eligible to receive financial support must be working more than seven hours per week for more than 10 weeks. Students applying for a summer grant must work more than 20 hours per week for more than eight weeks. A 3.0 GPA and a secured unpaid internship are required for students to apply.

“[The program] opens the playing field for students who are going through financial struggles, but still want the connections and experiences unpaid internships bring,” Gallatin freshman Marcus Jones said. “Being able to cover transportation costs at the very least will help unpaid interns.”

The Wasserman Center is also working with NYU-Poly to bring more research opportunities to engineering students at startup companies.

Ali Al-Ebrahim, a junior at NYU-Poly, created NYU-Poly Incubator Initiatives by partnering with the Wasserman Center. The initiative links students to start-ups that normally do not pay their interns. So far, the initiative has offered grants to student interns at more than 50 companies.

He said the initiative has made more jobs possible for NYU-Poly students.

“[There are now] 550 full and part-time jobs including 220 student [internships] from Poly,” Al-Ebrahim said.

NYU students can apply for grants through their NYU CareerNet accounts. Applications are available online at the end of May, August and January.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Sept. 17 print edition. Tae Young Woo is a contributing writer. Email him at [email protected]