Giving in Action: Bill (WCAS82, KSM89) and Carolyn (WCAS82, KSM84) Glastris
Alumni support provides students chance at life-changing internships
For Emilie Ross (WCAS10), the most profound experience of her summer internship started as “a nightmare.” She now smiles widely as she recounts the incident.
The psychology major was working at Ride On Center for Kids, a Texas non-profit specializing in therapeutic horseback riding for individuals with cognitive and physical challenges. On the day in question, she and a therapist struggled to put a young boy―blind and severely autistic―on a horse while keeping him from pulling the helmet off his head.
He had no intention of going without a fight.
Then, suddenly and unexpectedly, the struggle ceased as the horse made its way around the ring. Peacefully, the boy reached forward to run his fingers through the horse’s mane, then leaned back to touch the animal’s tail.
Ross was stunned by the sudden transformation. Now, it’s part of what fuels her to pursue clinical psychology as a career.
“If I can replicate that for even one more child in my life,” she says, “it makes it all worth it for me.”
For Ross and 29 other Northwestern students, these life-changing internships would not have been possible without alumni Bill (WCAS82, KSM84) and Caroyln (WCAS82, KSM89) Glastris. The couple generously supports University Career Service’s Summer Internship Grant Program (SIGP), which for the past three years has provided $2,000 stipends to students who accept internships in traditionally unpaid fields.
On September 29, University Career Services gave the Glastrises a chance to see what kind of impact their philanthropy has made by hosting a reception for them and four SIGP recipients who completed their internships in summer 2009. In addition to the chance to meet the students and hear their stories, the Glastrises were shown a thank-you video produced by another SIGP recipient.
“It’s great to hear the enthusiasm of the kids,” Carolyn said after the reception. “It’s refreshing and it really makes you want to come back and do it again. It reminds you what it’s like to be young.”
Added Bill: “For me, the thing that’s so exciting is to see these tremendous individuals and the things they’re doing to help others. It’s entirely possible that they would not have had the chance to realize that about themselves without these internships.”
That would have been the case for Lalith Polepeddi (WCAS10). The biology and computer science major used the stipend to pay for travel to Ghana where he interned at the Hope Outreach Peer Education clinic. The experience that he says “would not have been an option” without SIGP ultimately changed his perspective on medicine.
“Now I want to pursue medicine from a side that recognizes that disease is not simply a mutation―a patient is not simply a mutation; they’re organisms interacting with their environment,” says Polepeddi, who had previously considered disease strictly in genetic terms. “Medicine must place a human in the context of their environment to get a full diagnosis. (Ghana) changed fundamentally how I look at medicine.”
Bill Glastris’s enthusiasm for the program stems from his own life-changing internship. While at Northwestern, he spent a quarter in San Francisco working for legendary rock concert promoter Bill Graham. He calls it the most meaningful part of his college career.
“It’s funny because what I do now has nothing to do with that,” he says. “But it changed me.”
Recently, SIGP has seen a surge in popularity among Northwestern students. It began in 2007, receiving 79 applications for 10 available grants. In 2008, 154 students applied for 30 grants. This year, the application figure skyrocketed to 286.
This past year, students used the grants to intern at a wide variety of organizations, ranging from the Gender Violence Recovery Center to the Lincoln Park Zoo to Ralph Lauren. After meeting with the recipients, Bill Glastris said he saw potential for expanding the program.
“This is a program that in my opinion wants to grow, but it needs to grow in the right way,” he says. “I think over time it will find its life. My sense is that a lot of alumni would like to be involved with something this impactful.”
Posted: January 20, 2010