Internship with The Malini Foundation
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Teressa Hamsher

Teressa Hamsher

Paterno Fellow
Hometown: Nazareth, PA
Major(s): International Politics & Psychology
Minor: Spanish

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I learned about this opportunity through a Schreyer Honors College listserv announcement for an information session. After the information session, I reached out to the founder, Valerie Handunge and applied to be an intern.

Tell us a little about your experience.

My internship lasted a full calendar year including a trip to Sri Lanka. Throughout this time, my role evolved into a “Senior Intern” position, which included managing three other interns for the Foundation. Therefore, a large part of my responsibilities as a Foundation manager was to work collaboratively with these interns, and to provide guidance, assistance, and my expertise to ensure their projects were a success.

The Malini Foundation is a nonprofit based out of Sri Lanka which is committed to “inspiring girls and investing in women.” The Foundation accomplishes these goals through several programs in Sri Lanka and also here in the United States. Some of the Foundation’s projects include establishing a home for talented orphaned girls, building a collaborative grassroots network, EFL programing, and engaging students in building a global perspective. I have been fortunate as a part of my internship to be engaged in all of the different programs that the Foundation is working on, especially when I traveled to Sri Lanka and engaged directly in volunteering for two EFL programs in a school and orphanage. In the United States, I was the lead intern regarding all student programming that occurred at the Pennsylvania State University, the Foundation’s main student partner.

Not only have I grown academically but I also have made myself more marketable to future employers.

How did this experience impact you academically?

As a part of managing this partnership, I have gained experience and expertise in building a supportive and passionate culture at Penn State, specifically the Schreyer Honors College, which collaborates with the Foundation to ensure the success of the Foundation in both its mission in Sri Lanka, humanitarian work, and here in the United States, encouraging students to build a global perspective. Building this culture demanded taking somewhat ambiguous and abstract goals and then formulating a strategy not only to accomplish these goals but also to execute that strategy with quantifiable components to measure success. While The Malini Foundation is a nonprofit, every program, event, or campaign is formulated around an analytical and strategic core to ensure optimal success. Because the Foundation is relatively new, my responsibilities include standardizing the processes through which I am building my partnerships to ensure the models we are using can be replicated in the future. I accomplish this duty through meticulous record keeping and effective organization.

Organization is a key skill I have developed through this internship because of the nature of my work. Interning remotely has forced me to manage my own schedule while still completing complex deliverables according to deadlines and with high quality. Working remotely also means that, at Penn State, I am the ambassador for the organization, and often the face of the organization. Therefore it is imperative that I conduct myself professionally, effectively, and with passion. Being professional extends into nearly every facet of my internship as I am also responsible for interacting with other professionals and building a network for the Foundation. Therefore, I have gained skills in researching and communicating with diverse persons, organizations, and companies.

What are your career goals and plans? How did this experience impact them?

This experience impacted my career goals because I now believe that I want to start my own non profit and work in international development. Additionally, it truly awakened in me a passion for women’s and girls’ rights, especially the right to have access to education. While I still plan on going to law school after college, I now want to focus in international law, especially international human rights. Additionally, I am far more open to different possibilities and paths that my passion can take me, especially in the nonprofit field. My internship has shown me that one person truly can make an impact.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students? If yes, why?

I would absolutely recommend this experience to other students. My work with an international nonprofit has given me valuable knowledge about the greater global community, humanitarian issues, government approaches to social issues, and effective grassroots strategies. This has supplemented my International Politics education in making me culturally sensitive and open minded. Additionally I have gained important skills such as critical thinking and problem solving. I believe that this experience has made my experience at Penn State unique. Not only have I grown academically but I also have made myself more marketable to future employers.

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