As a philosophy, politics, and economics (PPE) major, Etelle Stephan ’18 sought a summer internship that would combine her academic interests. Her search led her to Asylum Access, a nonprofit organization based in Oakland, California, that works to advance refugee rights in their countries of asylum. Asylum Access’ goal is for refugees to live safely, work freely, and have access to education for their children in order to build a better life.
Stephan works closely with the fundraising team in her role as a donor relations intern, undertaking grant research and building relationships with organizations that can help increase the funder base. Stephan says her work integrates all three disciplines she’s studying.
“The refugee crisis goes past politics; refugees play a role in the economies of the communities where they’ve settled,” she says. “And there is a philosophical question about the extent to which nations should offer aid.”
According to Stephan, relying on government grants is risky because it can’t be counted on as a sustainable approach. As a result, Asylum Access is increasingly dependent on philanthropic organizations and corporate social responsibility funds for support. She stresses that the financial uncertainty can be challenging, but her coworkers’ “palpable passion” motivates her to persevere through government cuts and lost grants.
“Working in the nonprofit world really requires a lot of willpower to put yourself in an industry that’s not necessarily as lucrative,” says Stephan. “My coworkers are incredibly inspiring. Everyone I work with is part of an active fight and is nowhere near [ready] to give up.”
Working with Asylum Access has motivated Stephan to continue learning about the refugee crisis, and she plans to write her senior thesis about refugee integration. She also says she’s gained some important skills for life after Scripps.
“A lot of donor relations work is learning how to communicate and present oneself in the professional world,” she says. “Going into my senior year, I feel a lot more prepared for interviews and meetings and for being professional in a work environment.”