Notre Dame College Develops Internship Experience for First Generation College Students

Notre Dame College has received more than $100,000 from the Cleveland Foundation to create a progressive internship experience for low-income students who are the first in their families to attend college.

The College will use its newest Fenn Educational Grant from the foundation—a total of $104,000 over two years—to provide a career coach and coordinate phased professional development and paid work experiences for first generation students at Notre Dame.

This grant program intends to provide real-world, hands-on learning opportunities for 60 low-income, those who are the first in their families to attend college through Notre Dame's Enterprise Development Center, called EDC @ NDC. Working with the EDC, first generation students at Notre Dame are expected to gain experience in the starting, scaling and sustaining of nonprofits and social enterprises and, in so doing, support the economic development of new Northeast Ohio businesses.

“Fenn funds will help support a dedicated staff person to work directly with this student population, as well as contribute to the provision of transportation and modest internship stipends to reduce barriers this population often faces in securing and completing internships through ‘traditional’ models,” the Cleveland Foundation stated in the grant announcement.

The program calls for a progressive approach, combining soft skills development with job search strategies, to build the confidence and competence of the College’s first generation students in preparation for starting their internships.

Those at Notre Dame who are among the first in their families to pursue bachelor's degrees will advance from one-hour informational interviews to one-day job shadowing experiences to one-week micro-internships to one-month or one-semester internship experiences. Both the micro- and full internship experiences will be paid and carry course credit.

Two years ago a $150,000 Fenn Educational Fund grant from the Cleveland Foundation to the College helped create more than 100 paid, on-campus internship experiences for Notre Dame students in all majors, while supporting high- and low-tech startups and small businesses through the College’s EDC.

This new grant builds on those efforts by providing internship stipends specifically to first genearation students at the College. Because many students who are the first in their families to attend college are actively financing their own education, internship experiences without financial compensation are not always realistic options for them.

As part of the internship programming, first generation students will work with the dedicated coach to complete a career success course to develop lifelong career development skills. In addition to writing professional cover letters, resumes and thank you letters and practicing job interviews, students will assess their personal strengths, skills, interests and values to target their career searches, identify marketable skills developed from their liberal arts education and demonstrate how to convey the value of transferable skills to employers. The course also will emphasize networking strategies to help students identify future employment alternatives and use online professional websites.

The College already requires all students earning Bachelor of Arts degrees to finish a full internship for course credit. In addition, nursing students complete clinical training, science students participate in research projects and education majors fulfill student teaching requirements.

About 40 percent of the students at Notre Dame are the first in their families to attend college. 

Select first generation students at Notre Dame also are part of a FirstGen Center during their first year at the College. The center provides students who are among the first in their families to pursue bachelor's degrees with individualized resiliency coaching and related programming based on established research to help the students persist to graduation.

August 2017

About Notre Dame College

For almost a century, Notre Dame College has educated a diverse population in the liberal arts for personal, professional and global responsibility. Founded by the Sisters of Notre Dame in 1922, the College has grown strategically to keep pace with the rapidly changing needs of students and the dramatic changes in higher education. But it has never lost sight of its emphasis on teaching students not only how to make a good living but also how to live a good life.

Today, the College offers bachelor’s degrees in 30 disciplines plus a variety of master's degrees, certification programs and continuing and professional development programs for adult learners on campus and online. Notre Dame College offers NCAA Division II intercollegiate athletic programs for men and women and is located in a picturesque residential neighborhood just 25 minutes from the heart of Cleveland. Hallmarks of the Notre Dame experience include stimulating academics, personalized attention of dedicated faculty and staff, and small class sizes.

Notre Dame College is located at 4545 College Road in South Euclid. For further information contact Brian Johnston, chief communications officer, at 216.373.5252 or


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