Elizabeth S. Pforzheimer '59 Fund Internships Provide Students with Valuable Work Experiences in the Humanities

March 2, 2016
Students talk with Betty Pforzheimer '59

When Betty Pforzheimer '59 retired from Wellesley's board of trustees in 2013 after 15 years of service, her husband, Carl, wanted to mark the occasion with a surprise gift that would allow her to do what she loves most—help Wellesley students succeed. So he worked with the College to create the Elizabeth S. Pforzheimer '59 Fund for Humanities Summer Internships.

Kathryn Lynch, dean of faculty affairs and Bates/Hart Professor of English, hosted a recent breakfast for Pforzheimer and some of the first internship recipients. "The 14 Pforzheimer internships that we will ultimately be awarding across seven summers underscore the important message that students who major in humanities fields have a broad range of professional opportunities open to them," Lynch said.

Pforzheimer, who loved the theoretical and historical aspects of her economics major, was delighted to meet the students and to emphasize the importance of a liberal arts education in today’s fast-paced world. "There is no way that we can learn everything we need to know about any subject," she said. "But there is a way to learn to think critically and to reason intelligently. The study of the humanities opens our minds to the kind of thinking required in every aspect of life—work included."

Pforzheimer intern Leah C. Abrams '16, an English major, learned just that when she worked for publisher W.W. Norton & Co. in New York City last summer. During her first week, she copy edited manuscripts, edited and wrote editor bios, prepped manuscripts for editing, researched authors, and found author photos for the forthcoming edition of the Norton Anthology of Fiction. 

Later, she worked in the company's literature, college religion, media, and sales departments. "My responsibilities were vastly rewarding. Not only could I see the direct and immediate effects of my work in terms of proofing and copy editing, but I honed different skill sets that are easily applicable to future jobs," she said.

"The financial assistance of the Pforzheimers enabled me to accept that wonderful internship, and to enjoy a summer in one of the United States' most exciting and expensive cities," she said.

Clara Bartlett '16, a philosophy major, worked last summer for Cornerstone, a multiethnic, ensemble-based theater company in Los Angeles that creates new plays with and about local communities. When her internship began, the theatre had a new play in production, an adaptation of Shakespeare's The Tempest.

Bartlett's task was to gauge whether the play helped underrepresented groups in the community have a voice and if it was an effective way to educate people about local issues.

"I contacted people on the phone who had acted in the play, and tried to measure our success in accomplishing those goals and how we might better achieve them in the future via theatre," she said. "We also distributed audience surveys, which I collected and analyzed."

This summer, Kethural Manokaran '18 will teach at Vincent Girls' High School in Batticaloa, in her native Sri Lanka, where she hopes to deepen her understanding of post-war Sri Lanka and learn more about the Sri Lankan educational system, which focuses on preparing students for their Advanced Level exams. She also hopes to mentor Sri Lankan girls and, when she returns to campus, talk with her fellow students about Sri Lanka, both its war-torn past and its future of rebuilding.

"Most people are unaware of Sri Lanka's story, and I would be honored to share that with the greater Wellesley community," she said. "Hopefully this project will also foster a bond between Wellesley and Sri Lanka so that students may travel there for study abroad, service work, and internships for many years to come."

"The interns to date have exercised their reasoning, writing, and creative abilities, honed in their humanities classes, in a variety of fields," said Lynch. "We are excited to see what the coming summers have in store for them."

At the breakfast, Pforzheimer urged the recipients to develop all of their talents and to explore various options.

"I confided my secret desire to teach English in Japan for a year to Betty, and she wholeheartedly supported my idea," said Abrams. "She encouraged the notion of taking a risk when its outright success cannot be gauged."

Pforzheimer also offered advice to Bartlett, who is taking an astronomy class, and encouraged her to keep wondering at the stars. "For a philosophy major, that's solid advice—both in and out of class," said Bartlett.

"It is always a privilege to speak with our students. They are following such different paths and using their internships so well," said Pforzheimer. "To me, they are proof that the humanities are the door to a successful future, and I salute them!"