Knight Foundation internships immerse students and young professionals in real-world work

Tucked in Knight Foundation’s North Conference Room, eight summer interns work on projects spanning multiple departments: arts, community and national initiatives, communications, grants and administration, and journalism. Affectionately dubbed “The Fishbowl,” the room, with its panorama of the Miami waterfront, also offers an expansive view of Knight’s work for students and recent graduates pooled from around the nation.

“I think working together is the best part because you get to see all of the organization,” said Raul Carril, a community and national initiatives intern. “You have people from all different departments coming together, giving you this rich overview of what is happening at Knight. It brings knowledge to the table, and reinforces the concept of becoming informed and engaged because we are all collaborating and communicating.”

In his internship, Carril, a recent graduate and current Master of Business Administration student at Rollins College, has worked on the changing urban economy. He has looked into the physical spaces in communities, and how society can use these spaces to empower independent workers.​ Carril also worked with Yida Hernandez, a rising senior business student at Miami Dade College, on the Knight Cities Challenge Winners Summit held in Detroit this June. Hernandez worked on planning the event, and helped grantees prepare their presentations.

“The autonomy we have been given in the work is unique to Knight,” Hernandez said. “When you think about an intern, you usually think about them fetching someone coffee or filing, but coming in here and receiving the responsibility given to us is motivating.”

Chris Caines, a rising senior at Wesleyan University studying psychology and sociology, also believes intern autonomy is a distinctly Knight experience. He also works in community and national initiatives. With Matt Haggman, the Miami program director, Caines has worked to categorize Miami entrepreneurship grants made in the past three years as well as to consolidate contacts from Haggman’s “Meet Knight Foundation” breakfasts.

“There is a lot of freedom, but still a strong enough structure where you feel supported,” Caines said.

In addition to the three community and national initiatives interns in Miami, Alex Shannon, an accounting student at the University of Akron, works in the Akron office, but keeps in touch with his colleagues in The Fishbowl, where a picture of him gets its own chair. Shannon has helped young professionals discover distinctly local restaurants, activities and venues through the “Akron: Out of the Box” initiative, which aims to help them develop an attachment to the city.

“The foundation’s beginning was in Akron, which makes the relationship between the foundation and community unique,” Shannon said. “I see the value in living in this area and want to share that with others.”

Initially, Alfredo Cubiña, a Miami native and a rising sophomore engineering student at Columbia University, wanted to work in community and national initiatives, but found a home in grants and administration. He processes grant agreements, specifically overseeing financial details, and develops ways to make Fluxx and KForce, systems that manage grants, contacts and events, more useful to the staff.

“While I don’t have one big project to represent everything I’ve done, I am helping each of the grants and administration employees with smaller assignments to support the efficiency of the department in any way possible,” Cubiña said.

Despite their diverse responsibilities, the interns agree that Knight Foundation’s intern program provides an extensive opportunity to prepare for future jobs. Paige Levin, a rising junior studying journalism and political science at the University of Florida, has worked closely with Eric Newton compiling information for young journalists to update his book “Searchlights and Sunglasses,” covering events and writing articles for KnightBlog.

“Instead of saying journalism is dying, [Knight is] saying journalism is expanding, and they are trying to show that to everyone,” Levin said. “Everyone says you can’t prepare for a job that doesn’t exist yet, but I think Knight Foundation is doing just that.”

Communications intern Sophie Braga de Barros, a Brazilian rising junior studying journalism and Latin American studies at the University of Miami, has analyzed press mentions, quantified media outreach and compiled an image and video inventory for active arts grantees for social media use.

“For someone trying to establish a career in journalism, Knight Foundation is the place to be,” Barros said. “That is not only because of its grants and support of the journalism world, but also the environment and culture Knight fosters around these ideas.”

Arts intern Matthew Eisenberg, a rising marketing sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania, has been benchmarking how other foundations give film grants while also monitoring current arts grantees’ progress reports.

“My appreciation for the arts grew from attending [Miami’s] New World School of the Arts, so I still wanted to maintain a connection to it even if I’m not necessarily going to do that as a career,” Eisenberg said. “So much of [Knight Foundation] is about ideas, so I want to see how creative people can be especially from the arts side of things.

Alec Schwartzman is an editorial intern for Knight Foundation. A Miami native, he recently graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Management with honors from Tulane University, where he studied marketing and English. He most recently worked as arts and entertainment editor for the university’s student-run newspaper, The Hullabaloo. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @AMSchwartzman.