By Kaila Braley
FSU has begun a new initiative called the Veteran Internship Program (VIP), which allows qualifying student veterans to receive a stipend for otherwise unpaid internships.
According to Kevin Fields, Framingham State’s coordinator of veterans’ services, this program has been funded for 18 months – from the fall 2013 through the fall 2014 semester. Fields said “if the fiscal climate allows,” he hopes the program will not end there but “spread to other schools and take off.”
This program is also being offered at MassBay Community College.
So far, Fields said about 20 FSU student veterans have expressed interest in this program. He is already working with six, whom he hopes will be undertaking internships through this program by the spring semester.
This initiative began when Fields spoke to Carolyn Dykema, a state representative from the eighth Middlesex District, who, Fields said, “was interested in talking to a younger generation of veterans.”
Fields and recent FSU alumnus Nick Armstrong gathered with some members of Framingham’s veteran community, the VFW and the American Legion, among other veteran groups, to do research for this initiative. Fields and Armstrong then presented a concept paper for the program to Dykema, who then included funding for the project in the FY14 state budget.
In a recent press release sent out by both Framingham State and MassBay, Dykema said, “The student members of the Veterans Club at FSU made me aware that many were unable to participate in student internships because most internships are unpaid, forcing veterans, already more advanced in their careers than traditional college students, to decide between an internship that will further their career and work that is less career orientated but allows them to pay for living expenses.”
Fields agreed, saying, “Veterans are often older and have generally accrued more financial
responsibilities. This program is meant to help them do internships when working for free would be impossible.”
Internship Coordinator Dawn Ross explained that student veterans would be paid between $12 and $14 an hour, which is higher than the wage earned through the CHOICE program, since veterans tend to have more working experience. [For more about the CHOICE program, see page 1.]
She added that for students to qualify, they must be military reservists, National Guard service
members or honorably discharged veterans. They must be matriculated, degree-seeking students, fill out the VIP application, hold an interview with University staff to discuss goals for the internship and apply for their position through the Ramtrack website.
It is not required, but highly encouraged, that students coordinate with their department chairs to receive academic credit for their internships, according to Ross.
Executive Vice President Dale Hamel said, “We try to be a veteran-friendly campus.”
He added that of the $100,000 allocated from the state for this program, FSU received $46,000 for internships. MassBay received $24,000 for its veteran internship program. The remaining $30,000 goes toward a workforce training initiative in which students work with the MetroWest Regional Transit Authority.
Hamel said there is “opportunity in the transportation area” that veterans can now “get more involved in.”
The MWRTA has created internships specifically for this program to supplement those the company already offers FSU students.
Sara White, a recent FSU alumna and MWRTA’s director of marketing and communications, is going to be working with the VIP interns. They will be working as MWRTA Veterans’ Transportation Coordinators.
She said this partnership is particularly useful for veterans because they “are already trained in areas, especially in transportation. They can put their skills toward great use.”
White hopes to see the VIP program grow, and is “excited to see where it goes. It has the chance to become wonderful.”
White was herself an intern at MWRTA when she was a student at FSU, and said the experience not only helped her get a job there afterward, but also helped her realize she loved working in the transportation Meld.
Nate Hall, a junior history major, said this program is “brilliant” because veterans “are not just your ‘Everyday Joe.’
“We do not want to work at the mall working at a sneaker store or a clothing outlet making minimum wage,” he said.
Hall added, “It [the VIP program] helps bring us closer to the civilian work force while maintaining our leadership and military skills.”
Junior economics major Justin Martino is currently applying for an internship through the VIP program, and hopes to find a position at Fidelity.
“We’re in a different situation. We’re not the average freshmen. Veterans might be 22, 30, and need to readjust to being a student. Programs like this help,” Martino said.
At the age of 25, Martino has been financially independent since 18, and is now paying for school because “I want to be here.
“My perspective is that just because I’m a veteran doesn’t mean I deserve more, but help is great.”