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Summer Interns: Applying Skills for Impact

By: Margot Dushin 01 Feb 2017

It’s a cold, February day here at HBS, but my mind is on summer. I’m reflecting on the summer of 2016, and the experience of our Social Enterprise Summer Fellows. I’m also planning for summer of 2017, working with students who want to work in social enterprise and with organizations who want to hire HBS summer interns.

Developing and applying skills

In 2016, 74 HBS Social Enterprise Summer Fellows worked in 17 countries. From Cambridge to Cameroon, from New York to New Delhi, our students took on projects focused on new business development, strategic planning, partnership building, marketing, and high-tech initiatives.

Our students take on these roles because they want to develop skills and knowledge while having significant responsibility and high impact on organizations.

I’m thinking about Francisco Guarisse (MBA 2017), who was a summer intern at Rising Academies in Freetown, Sierra Leone. The organization was scaling from three to thirteen schools, and he was excited to help it prepare for such a change. During the summer, Guarisse worked on improving revenue assurance measures, creating process guides for managers, developing strategic partnerships with national and international players, and developing internal operations for schools. He took the role because he wanted to better understand the low-cost private school model in emerging economies: “I believe this model has a huge potential impact in several areas of the world, including my home country of Brazil.”

I’m also thinking about Kate Welsh (MBA 2017), who told us “I had always wanted to work at a museum, and the internship at the Whitney Museum of American Art came along at such an exciting time for the museum.” Visitation and membership at the New York City museum had grown at enormous rates since the new building opened a year prior, and leadership was looking to codify the processes for retaining and acquiring members. Kate notes that her first year at HBS gave her “the confidence and skillset to work on a very quantitative, analytical project.” She worked across departments to analyze the success of current membership benefits, used member data to examine behavior as it relates to retention, and implemented internal and external programs to improve acquisition and retention. 

Skills + passion = lasting impact

I’m also reflecting on the experience of our hiring organizations. Hiring an HBS summer intern is an infusion of talent for organizations. Students spend 10-12 weeks on-site at the organization and play a valuable role for organizations in tackling issues that utilize their analytic and strategic training. Our 2016 employers told us that HBS summer interns come to their organizations with a combination of skills (“brought a productive approach and ownership of work, project management skills, and strategic thinking”) and passion (“passionate on the subject area and able to learn quickly and grow into owning the area of a project very quickly”). And we’ve heard that the students’ contributions will have lasting impact (“the impact was tremendous in helping develop a growth strategy for one of our signature initiatives”).

Since 1982, over 1,500 HBS students have pursued Social Enterprise summer internships. From February through late April, we’ll be receiving applications from students for the 2017 HBS Summer Fellows Program, which supplements the salary of hiring organization. We look forward to giving students the freedom to realize their unique career visions, while they bring their skills to organizations and the field.

For more information

  • For Organizations: The Social Enterprise summer website for employers offers guidelines on planning for the summer and posting a position, and the process for students to apply for supplemental funding through the HBS Summer Fellows Program.
  • For Students: HBS students may apply for funding through the HBS Summer Fellows Program, which supplements the salary of hiring organization.