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Power of the Gift

The Power of the Gift

Mike Brown '76 funds travel and living expenses for students pursuing internships

$105,000 gift will create “best of its kind” internship program at Wofford. Mike Brown ’76 funds travel and living expenses for students pursuing work experiences.

When Caroline Winn ’15 received an email about internship scholarships from the Career Services Office last spring, she was thrilled. Winn, a Spanish and economics double major, had just learned she’d been awarded a highly competitive summer marketing internship with the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.

“It was my dream internship, but living expenses in D.C. are insane,” she says. “I’m from Pennsylvania, and I wasn’t sure I could afford to go to Washington for three months.”

Winn applied for and was awarded a $1,500 internship scholarship funded by Mike Brown ’76, a former member of the Board of Trustees. The money allowed her to pay rent on a shared apartment for the summer. “It was the best summer of my life,” she says. “The internship was the perfect bridge between what I’ve studied at Wofford and my future career as an architect.”

This spring Brown made a $105,000 gift to the college to fund 40 scholarships similar to Winn’s, enabling more students to participate in a variety of significant work experiences that will help determine or secure future career and graduate school opportunities.

The goal, says Brown, is to allow students to connect their liberal arts classroom experiences to practical, real-world career opportunities without being hindered by a lack of funds.

“College has always been a time to mature and experience independence, but more emphasis is now placed on the value of a degree,” says Brown. “The type of job received upon graduation determines that value for some. Employers now use internships as a way to evaluate future employees, and it allows the interns to determine whether the company or job fits their goals.”

Scott Cochran ’88, dean of The Space in The Mungo Center, which oversees Career Services, agrees with Brown. “A recent Wall Street Journal article (citing a Chronicle of Higher Education study) reports that when making hiring decisions, employers give nearly twice as much weight to graduates’ work experience as they do their academic credentials,” says Cochran. “Without an internship, Wofford students will be at a disadvantage in two areas: they will not have the practical experience employers demand, and they will not understand which career paths will be a good fit.”

Over the past decade, Brown, a successful entrepreneur, steadily has increased his financial support of internships, beginning with sending three Wofford students to intern at the Aspen Institute in Colorado each year.

“Back then the emphasis was on having an experience, making contacts, growing as people,” he recalls. “Now we understand the importance of internships in our students’ future career plans.”

“Thanks to Mike Brown, Wofford will significantly expand its internship program,” Cochran says. “In 2015, 40 students will receive funding to complete robust internships in the United States, Brazil, India, China and the United Kingdom.”

But first, Cochran says, Brown has asked that they complete an extensive professional development training program in The Space. (See below for program details.)

Brown believes students will be more successful interns if they take advantage of skills training and mentoring opportunities offered by The Space. “We’ve got an outstanding resource at Wofford, one that no other college has,” he says. “If you combine the financial support to pursue their interests with the professional training in The Space—things like public speaking, communication, etiquette, project management—you’ve got an internship program that’s the best of its kind, anywhere.”

The Mike Brown Internship Program

Guidelines for eligibility for an internship scholarship:

  • Students must find their own internships. The Space staff will help students understand how to conduct a search, and Brown’s funding allows them to dream big without being limited by financial constraints.
  • Students must present their internship plans to an internship board for approval. Not all internships are created equal, and the board will ensure that the experiences are appropriately structured and that students are accountable for the work they promise to do.
  • Students must complete professional development training to prepare them to be successful and productive from day one.
  • Students must produce a post-internship writing assignment to digest the lessons learned during the experience and to share them with future interns.
  • Students must become mentors to the next summer’s group of interns. “I talk often to Wofford students about the value of giving back,” Brown notes. “And these students look forward to giving back.”

by Lisa Mincey Ware