The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences awarded four summer internship scholarships that enabled students to develop new skills, improve workforce preparation and experience personal growth. This year’s recipients, Usman Shakil, Rebecca De La Cruz, Jacqueline Aguilar and Monie Seto, each received $1,000 to support low-paying or unpaid summer internships.
The annual program is made possible by a generous contribution from New Paltz alumnus and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Advisory Board co-chair Jeffrey Korn ’79 (Speech Communication). Selection criteria considered the student’s GPA, faculty letters of recommendation and a personal essay describing how the internship related to the student’s academic majors, educational goals and career plans.
Aguilar ’15 (Sociology – Human Services) was inspired to intern at the Autism Charter School in Manhattan after conducting research for her senior thesis on the use of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) to treat individuals on the autism spectrum.
The New Paltz senior participated in a 25-hour training program to learn how the school uses ABA to teach students basic living skills such as brushing their teeth, washing their hands and cooking meals. Aguilar worked in a classroom with a teacher and teaching assistant. She made sure students followed their schedule of activities, kept a daily record of students’ progress and provided prompts when needed.
“The skills that they learn have to be maintained from day to day,” noted Aguilar, who was impressed by the students’ hard work and persistence. “The school concentrates on the very low functioning, so for them to be doing things like cooking, making their beds, brushing their teeth, was very interesting. All these things took a lot of effort.”
As a result of the internship, and her previous fieldwork in the human services concentration, Aguilar is now applying for master’s programs that will enable her to work in a school setting with children with disabilities. She hopes to continue her work with children with autism.
“Doing this internship, I realized that they have such great potential,” she said. “It made me see a different side of autism spectrum disorder that I wouldn’t have known before the internship.”
De La Cruz ’15 (International Relations) interned at U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer’s Hudson Valley regional office, located in Peekskill. The New Paltz senior’s morning routine entailed cataloguing newspaper articles from the region’s top newspapers to provide the senator’s D.C. office a general overview of the top stories within the Hudson Valley. She also helped implement a new electronic filing system for documents related to a range of socioeconomic issues and fielded constituent phone calls on hot-button topics such as the Iran deal and funding for Planned Parenthood.
De La Cruz’s most enjoyable work included planning and executing two regional press conferences, in which the senator advocated for the Montreign Casino development in Sullivan County and spoke on the alarming problem of swatting (making false emergency calls to draw a law enforcement response) in New York state.
At the conclusion of the internship, De La Cruz was required to write a research paper about a local or regional issue. De La Cruz researched the impact of flood insurance policies and practices on Dutchess County, Onondaga Creek and Johnston residents following the adoption of the 2012 Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act. In her research, she discovered that outdated flood maps resulted in a host of problems. In her policy recommendation, she proposed establishing independent commissions of citizens to reevaluate their region’s flood maps every 10 years.
In researching flood maps, De La Cruz benefitted from the skills gained in courses for her geography minor, particularly a Cartography course taught by Associate Professor Lawrence McGlinn. McGlinn gave De La Cruz a student version of the digital mapping program ArcGIS, which she was able to put to good use. “It really helped knowing how to look at a map and analyze the data while looking at these particular flood plains,” she said.
De La Cruz credited her internship with improving her interpersonal and research skills. She is currently immersed in research for her senior seminar paper on civil-military relations and said she is enjoying her “first taste of real social scientific research.” De La Cruz hopes to gain a position as a research associate at a New York City think-tank, eventually working up to a senior analyst position.
Hoping to gain professional experience as a community organizer, Seto ’16 (Black Studies) participated in the National Fellowship Program for Asian American Organizing and Civic Engagement. The fellowship provided “Seeding Change” fellows 10 weeks of training, fieldwork and reflection. Seto completed fieldwork with the grassroots organization Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO).
At APANO, Seto recruited Asian and Pacific Islander youth, college students and parents and co-facilitated workshops on racism, college preparedness and parent involvement. She helped develop a workshop on Asian and Pacific Islander movement history, which will become a part of APANO’s political education series, and also participated in fundraising efforts to support next year’s cohort of Seeding Change fellows.
In a reflection essay submitted to the Dean’s Office, Seto said her experience as a Seeding Change fellow was “deeply personal, one of self-discovery.” As one who dealt with “internalized oppression,” Seto found support and validation during her internship.
“This experience has allowed me to grow into the person I am now, and in two and a half short months, I have grown tremendously,” Seto wrote. “I am not the same person I was at the beginning of this summer.”
Shakil ’17 (Psychology/Philosophy) interned at Abilities First, a day program for adults with physical and developmental disabilities, located in Poughkeepsie. The program offers individual and group therapy, assists participants with basic life skills and provides opportunities for social interaction. During his four weeks at Abilities First, Shakil assisted with activities, helped participants with personal interests such as using a computer, and transported individuals throughout the facility while on outings.
Shakil died tragically in early December, and multiple memorial services were held in his honor on the New Paltz campus. He was remembered as a kind person, dedicated scholar and active member of the campus community.*