The New Zicklin Summer Fellows Program steps up to help students take summer classes and serve internships.

During summer 2014, Brooklyn College will launch the first Zicklin Summer Fellows program, a critical step toward graduating more students within six years of matriculating and opening up internships to students who otherwise could not afford them.

Thanks to a grant of $150,000 from Carol Zicklin ’61, a trustee of the foundation and sponsor of chairs in the Honors Academy and the School of Natural and Behavioral Sciences, more students will be able to study during the summer and graduate sooner. Currently, students at Brooklyn College do not qualify for the New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) for summer enrollment. Zicklin’s gift will fund stipends so that students will be able to take either two summer courses or one course and one internship.

For the 70 percent of Brooklyn College students whose families earn less than $50,000, unpaid internships are generally not an option. The result is an abundance of missed opportunities. About 86 percent of companies surveyed use internships to recruit students for future employment; about 61 percent of student interns receive job offers from those employers; and as many as 69 percent of companies with more than 100 employees offer full-time jobs to their interns.

That half of all internships are unpaid is probably the main reason why only 37 percent of Brooklyn College students get them, in contrast to 63 percent of college students nationwide.

Summer courses, too, are out of reach for less affluent students, which is another serious hardship. The longer students take to finish their degree, the more debt they accumulate. And yet, until the announcement of the Zicklin program, no scholarships for summer studies were available. 

Not surprisingly, then, students reacted swiftly and with great enthusiasm to the announcement of the Zicklin program. Within days of the March 13 deadline, more students had applied to it than to any other scholarship program in its inaugural year, says Evelyn Guzman, director of the Office of Scholarships. “It’s enormously impressive,” she states — even more so, given the absence of any major publicity campaign.

Although the fellows have yet to be chosen, Guzman estimates the program will be able to support several dozen students. The Magner Career Center and the Center for Academic Advising and Student Success will assist with its implementation. After three years, the success of the program will be assessed, with administrators measuring the six-year graduation rate of the Zicklin Fellows against that of a control group. 

The program’s rapid launch and funding were also notable. In November 2013, trustees of the Brooklyn College Foundation were presented with the proposal. By December, Zicklin, the current board secretary, responded with an offer to fund the project at $50,000 for each of three years.

“I think it is fantastic that Mrs. Zicklin decided to assist the college and these students in overcoming what we now see, from the students’ reaction, was so obvious a barrier,” says Guzman. “It’s impressive any time a human being sees a challenge and does something about it.”