Family starts internship endowment for students to work with vulnerable populations

Nov. 07, 2018 — Over a three-decade career as a professor at Texas Southern University, Lalita Sen has seen the important role internships have played in her students’ lives. And as a Grinnell graduate, her son Samir Sashikant ’00, a Los Angeles-based marketing consultant, greatly benefited from the two internships he had during his college career.

So when the two decided last year to give back in a long-term way to Grinnell, they funded the Samir Sen Sashikant ’00 Endowed Internship. Every summer it allows two Grinnell students to work with vulnerable populations – veterans, people with disabilities, elderly or low-income groups – or with organizations that can’t fund an intern.

Samir Sashikant ’00, right, with his mom Lalita Sen.
    Samir Sashikant ’00, right,
    with his mom Lalita Sen

“It’s important for students to get a feel for doing something in the community and to get involved in real-life issues,” says Sen. “I also felt that there must be students who would benefit from an internship opportunity but might not be able to afford one, so we wanted to provide that chance for them to develop interests that might lead to a graduate program or more training in a particular area.”

For Sashikant, the internship was all about giving students the opportunity to work with the disadvantaged, no matter what they go on to become later in life.

“If they had the chance to impact a group or even one person in the course of their summer while at Grinnell, it will help guide them through the years to come,” he says.

This past summer, Ala Akkad ’19 and Anjali Jha ’19 became the first two Grinnellians to benefit from the 10-week long Sashikant internship. Anjali, a biological chemistry and math major, worked in a lab at Boston Children’s Hospital, researching children’s health and learning new lab skills. And she received a full-time, post-graduation job offer from the hospital.

Ala, a sociology and English major with an interest in law, interned at the VA Central Iowa Health Care System, working in the Quality and Safety Department.

“It solidified my interest in law, as well as highlighted to me the importance of being customer-driven, because all the work we did was to benefit the veterans, which was very inspiring,” she says. “My supervisor spent a lot of time responding to satisfaction surveys from veterans to ensure that they were being heard.”

The internship is open to any Grinnell student. The student must write a proposal, which is then reviewed by the Center for Careers, Life, and Service, which chooses two students. Funding unpaid internships is especially important because the experience can have such a direct benefit on students’ career goals, says Jovan Johnson, the College’s assistant director of employer engagement and internships.

“Who knows if Anjali would have had the opportunity to do this – and look at the impact it had for getting a full-time job offer,” he says.

For Sashikant, the internship provides a chance to honor both his family and Grinnell.

“This internship is a way for students to work with people that they may not otherwise have worked with later,” says Sashikant. “It really lives up to my mom’s legacy and what she has taught my sister and I to always try and help others.”

—by Anne Stein ’84

For your information:

Learn more about Grinnell College’s internship funding and other ways the Center for Careers, Life, and Service help engage in experiences that promote students’ professional and civic growt.

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