The Lang Fellowship Program Bridges Social Sciences and Society for Undergraduate Students
Popular culture still stereotypes liberal arts college graduates as overeducated and underemployed. But graduates of Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts can attest to the many varied career options they have discovered that allow them to both think critically about pressing issues and apply their knowledge to real-world challenges. A Lang program, the Social Science Fellowship, gives undergraduate students a taste of what it’s like, placing them in internships and supporting independent research projects that allow them to learn about how organizations use research. Two Lang graduates who participated in the fellowship are returning to the program, this time as mentors welcoming current fellows to their work sites. They hope to give students the opportunity to explore their interests and begin to develop their own professional networks.
“I spent years at Lang thinking deeply about politics and issues, and I didn’t think it was something I was going to be able to continue doing after I graduated,” says the former colleague Michelle Mason, BA. Political science ’19, who later worked at John Jay’s Institute for Innovation in Prosecution. “However, I was able to bring this theoretical approach that is so unique to Lang into my work, which I didn’t expect to happen so early in my career.” Mason, who will begin studying at Rutgers School of Law this fall, credits the scholarship with helping set her on this path.
During the fellowship, students spend the fall semester interning at an organization that is related to their academic interests. The spring semester is dedicated to an independent study course, during which students complete a research paper related to their internship. Throughout the fellowship, students are also paired with a PhD student from The New School of Social Research who advises them in the development and implementation of their research project.
When Bernadette DeVito, BA Psychology ’19 MS Public policy ’21, was assigned to the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, for her internship, she was initially disappointed not to receive a placement in one of her top picks. But she found that working with this organization on policy development, legislative advocacy and political advocacy on the ground had given her skills that would inform her work later. “When I applied for the scholarship, I chose two writing-focused positions in the mayor’s office. I didn’t expect to get the job on the Labor Council, but it turned out to be the best fit for me and it really shaped my career trajectory,” says DeVito, who currently works at Hollis Public Affairs. “I now do policy and legislative advocacy, and I think working at the Central Labor Council has given me a taste of what it looks like from a stakeholder perspective. Now I see the intersections of many stakeholders, from political figures and groups to unions and nonprofits to other organizations. This knowledge of the influence of trade unions and their interests has given me a unique experience in carrying out my work today.
Thanks to her placement, she was able to organize and carry out campaign operations in the field. She even had the opportunity to work with Letitia James, now New York’s attorney general, on her campaign, leading teams of union canvassers. “It was special because the Attorney General has a very good relationship with unions and was herself a union member and leader,” DeVito recalled.
Mason and DeVito credit the program with not only giving them the research and administrative skills needed to thrive after graduation, but also helping them begin to develop their own professional networks.
“When you look back, you can connect the dots in your life and see how everything is coming together the way you wanted it to,” Mason says. “Lang encourages fellows to attend the Dean’s Honor Symposium. After that, I was asked to present my research to the Board of Governors to give members a better understanding of the scholarship program. After my presentation, one of the members of the jury offered to introduce me to her sister, who does this kind of work. This person became my former boss at the John Jay Institute.
“The Social Science Fellowship gave me more legitimacy, experience and connections which led to these other opportunities. It also provided me with experience that was immediately useful to me once I joined John Jay.
“Having access to someone gives you access not only to that person but to their network, which can help you focus on what you specifically want to do,” says DeVito. “Gaining hands-on experience in a professional environment is important, and having a connection with an alumni will help you create that rewarding relationship. Alumni can help students in unique ways because they have a common history at The New School. »