For Liberal Arts Students Looking to Make A Difference, PIFP Delivers


Liberal arts students are having a moment. Despite rising demands for STEM candidates, American employers increasingly state that ideal hires come from a liberal arts background. Those majors are seen to have honed “soft” skills in critical thinking, communication, creativity, and adaptability—all of which contribute to greater innovation. CC students hoping to exercise those skills in a real-world setting have an opportunity to do so through the Public Interest Fellowship Program (PIFP).

Exclusive to Colorado College, PIFP connects CC students to paid high-impact summer and yearlong positions with Colorado organizations, largely nonprofits. Since the first class of fellows in 2004, the program has placed over 350 CC students in fellowships with more than 75 organizations.

Because students are placed in nonprofit and public interest organizations, fellowships are more than just jobs (yes, they are paid positions, offering $4,080 to summer fellows and $30,000 to yearlong fellows). Previous fellows have contributed to impactful initiatives, including policies to reduce predatory payday lending in Colorado and media campaigns encouraging Coloradans to sign up for state-sponsored health insurance.

Besides offering a chance to work for the common good, PIFP fellowships can be a smart move for CC students. First, the program offers positions in a variety of fields, meaning that many students are able to find positions that align with their skills and interests. PIFP gives CC students an opportunity to gain experience and become more competitive candidates in the job market.

Additionally, many organizations curate their fellowships to appeal to CC students, whose multidisciplinary skills and interests make them good fits for the nonprofit sector. PIFP’s partner organizations value CC students’ ability—honed by rigors of the Block Plan—to manage lightning-fast turnaround times, even when dealing with unfamiliar topics and tasks. Therefore, fellows are often asked to quickly learn new skills, take on diverse tasks, and jump into untried roles.

When they succeed, the work pays off: nearly a quarter of yearlong fellows are offered permanent positions at their organizations.

Emily Michels ’15 was a yearlong fellow for the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative and later hired permanently. She can attest to a liberal arts education’s success in preparing students for work in the fluid and ever-changing “real world.”

According to Michels, “A liberal arts education – and PIFP fellowships – help you to become a ‘Renaissance man or woman.’ We get very diversified coursework at CC, and then we get to participate in lots of different work during the fellowships.”

Despite such varied focuses, PIFP Director Lani Hinkle stresses that any CC student could be qualified for a fellowship.

“PIFP is a good program for CC students, because on one hand it provides great opportunities to gain high-level work experience in specific areas – such as healthcare, education, and the environment. But on the other hand, CC students have that liberal arts mindset,” Hinkle says.

This year, PIFP applications are due Jan. 31. The final information session will take place Jan. 25 at 12:15 p.m. in the WES Room in downstairs Worner.

The Career Center works closely with students to prepare them to apply and interview for fellowships. PIFP mimics real job application processes, meaning that applicants submit resumes, transcripts, recommendations, and applications, and go through two rounds of interviews.

Applicants should note that the Career Center will offer four working sessions at the Career Center in Block 5:

• Application Working Sessions: Jan. 26 12:30 – 4 p.m.; Jan. 29 12:30 – 4 p.m.

• Interview Prep Sessions: Feb. 5 4 – 5:30 p.m.; Feb. 6 12 – 1:30 p.m.

These sessions are in addition to the individual appointments that students can make with Career Center coaches and to the weekly no-appointment-needed Quick Questions hours offered 1– 4 p.m., Monday – Wednesday.

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