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KLI Sponsored Summers: Real-world Leadership Development

Posted September 24, 2015 in Leadership, News, Program Corner

Thanks to funding from the Kravis Leadership Institute (KLI), sixteen Claremont McKenna College (CMC) students embarked on sponsored internships this summer — serving in diverse organizations from public policy think tanks to start-up incubators. KLI sponsored summer internships provide CMC students with a meaningful experience in an organization and the opportunity to learn and develop personal leadership skills and an increased appreciation for social responsibility.

KLI offers three unique funding opportunities for students through it’s Sponsored Summer Internship Program. This year the KLI International Internship Program sponsored two students, Vivan Marwaha ‘17 and Elaine Sohng ‘17, to partake in transformative international internships in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Nosey Be, Madagascar. The KLI Social Sector Internship Program sponsored eight students who interned in social service organizations located domestically such as The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in D.C., West Harlem Environmental Action, Inc. in New York City, and the Consulate General of Canada in Seattle.

KLI also partners with Kravis Prize recipient organizations to send selected students to internships in domestic and international locations from New York to Mumbai. Kravis Prize organizations are bold, visionary leaders in the fields of micro-finance, education, public health, and women’s empowerment, among others.

Over the next several months we will be featuring blogs written by KLI and Kravis Prize sponsored interns about their summer experiences. For Part I of our series Isabella Romeo ’18 shares about her summer interning with the Media Policy Center, a non-profit documentary production center and public policy think tank, in Santa Monica:

I applied for an internship at the Media Policy Center on a whim. Earlier this year, I had dabbled with the idea of working in the entertainment industry, and I wanted to learn more about film production. Interning at the Media Policy Center (MPC) seemed like the ideal way to spend my summer. It certainly did not hurt that MPC’s headquarters were in the shiny and glamorous Santa Monica. Who wouldn’t want to explore Los Angeles through the eyes of a filmmaker?

During my first day of my internship, I became immersed in production terminology, such as R & D (which I later found out meant research and development), the processes of pre-production, production, and post-production, website design, and the complexities surrounding non-profit management and non-profit politics. I ended up staying later than I had planned at my internship, which would become a habit of mine, in order to complete my tasks and meet the standards of excellence that MPC deserves.  At the risk of sounding cliché, I wore many hats during my summer at MPC. It was a rigorous, yet extremely rewarding experience.

Working at MPC helped me improve and develop three important skills: creativity, willingness to learn, and persistence. As a filming liaison, I helped research potential interviewees, organize shoots, communicate with high-profile individuals, set-up production equipment, and “stage” shots. Days we filmed were my favorite. I was running around constantly, and, needless to say, I learned to multi-task extremely well. As I said before, I had no prior filming experience, so it was awe-inspiring to watch my beloved supervisors, or as they would like to call themselves, my professors, Harry and Dale, construct a frame by setting attractive angles, utilizing natural geometric shapes, staging the lights to create beautiful shots, and connecting with interviewees on an intellectual and emotional level. I realized the creative discipline it took to succeed in documentary filmmaking, and film production in general. I now appreciate immensely things that I never typically notice in a frame of a film or TV show. Seeing the finished twenty-minute preview of a documentary on opioid addiction that I had helped to film was one of the most satisfying moments of my internship.

I succeeded at the Media Policy Center because of my adaptability and willingness to learn. I realized that in any field, and especially in production, one has to have a positive attitude when receiving feedback. I had no idea what a boom, a jig, and a rig were, but was determined to find out and to excel. On the third day of my internship, Dale showed me how to set up the equipment, and from there on, it was my job to stage the shoot. When we were not in production, I was often tasked with finding very intricate and important pieces of information regarding all sorts of projects. How could I develop a website? How do I read 990s? What were the tools that MPC needed in order to develop their board of directors? When tasked with these queries, I was always ready to work diligently in order to find solutions.

Working at an active foundation, or a non-profit organization that needs grants in order to pursue its mission, is a frustrating process. There is no use in sugar-coating it. The organization relies on the beneficence of others who believe in what it does, and sometimes it is hard to get a donor’s attention. The process is long and tedious, but in my opinion, worth every minute. An additional challenge I overcame during my involvement at MPC was finding individuals eager to talk about the opioid and heroin epidemic. There exists much controversy around addiction, and specifically who the “villain” is in the opioid epidemic, so not many people want to talk about it on camera. When trying to find a law enforcement officer to speak with us I called every police station in Los Angeles county and received a non-committal answer. Every week, I would make the same phone calls hoping for a different answer. Finally, the second to last week of my internship the media officer at the Central Community Police Station in Downtown LA replied to my request to film! Harry and Dale were thrilled with my persistence. In whatever I pursue now, perseverance is of utmost importance to me—without determination, success is far from guaranteed.

I believe that the best way to develop as a leader is to immerse myself in situations where I do not know exactly what to do. My internship at MPC was the perfect example of a time of immense progress for me, as a communicator, as a strategic thinker, and as an engaged citizen.