Summer 2017 Interns

The Schull Yang International Experience Award, supported by Joseph Schull (BA ‘82, MA ’85) and Anna Yang (BCL, LLB ’88), helps undergraduate and graduate students gain first hand international experience related to their fields of study. The award provides full or partial funding to assist students with tuition, travel, and other expenses related to their international experience. The Schull Yang International Experience Award is part of the McGill International Experience Awards. For more information, click here.

The Internship Offices Network is pleased to announce the selected McGill students for the 2017 summer internship at Synergos, and recipients of the Schull Yang International Experience Award.

Frida Blackwell, MSc (Applied) Nursing

Frida Blackwell is a graduate student in the Master of Science (Applied) Nursing – Global Health Direct Entry Program at McGill University. She graduated with a Bachelor's of Science from McGill in 2014 in anatomy and cell biology and English literature. Frida’s research project focuses on sexual health education to prevent HIV/AIDS among youth in rural Tanzania. This summer Frida will be completing an internship at the Synergos Institute to help develop programs that support global health initiatives and social justice around the world.

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My name is Frida, and I am pursuing a Master of Science in nursing with a concentration in global health. I am interested in working with vulnerable populations in remote regions of the world with a focus on public health and primary healthcare delivery, and I hope to complete field work abroad before one day starting my own non-profit organization.

I wanted to complete an internship this summer with an organization that works on social justice issues around the world, to gain experience in the non-profit sector and learn how to effectively implement various development projects. I interned at the Synergos Institute in New York City whose mission is to solve complex problems of poverty and create opportunities for individuals and communities to thrive. Synergos has a unique approach to tackling poverty around the globe, involving four key elements: collaboration, systems thinking, bridging leadership, and personal reflection. These concepts may sound abstract at first, but by working at Synergos over several months I started to appreciate the importance of their unique method of implementing these principles in areas where inequality and injustice is widespread, but also internally within the organization. For example, the office in New York is an open-concept, where there are no closed-door offices and everyone has the same type of desk space. Although sometimes this can make for a loud office area, the environment invites collaboration between all the departments from Finance to Communications to Development, etc. We would also take time for personal reflection before group meetings to gain an understanding of how each team member was feeling before delving into the official agenda.

As an intern in the Programs department I worked mostly on drafting strategic briefs on why Synergos should work within a specific sector (such as nutrition, agriculture, or youth employment) and why they should expand in certain countries and regions (such as the Middle East, South Africa, and Michigan, to name a few). I also did a lot of background research on programs and initiatives that are already in place to see what is working, and what are recommendations for further development work in a certain sector.

My own learning objectives for this internship were to experience what it is like to coordinate a development project – I wanted see how a specific program is delivered in a remote region, and to evaluate what kind of progress was happening on the ground. Some highlights of my internship included working closely with the company’s CEO starting on only my second day in the office. Everyone at Synergos is extremely friendly and I made some great friends including other summer interns from other departments.

My academic background helped me in this internship because I have experience with research methods making it easy for me to conduct literature reviews, extract relevant data, and scan studies and articles for sources of bias. My background in health helped me to understand some of the challenges around delivering nutrition programs in Sub-Saharan Africa for example.

This internship will shape my future most likely because of the overall experience, as well as the connections I now realize are possible on many levels. Synergos has a large network of contacts around the world and so I hope that will help me if ever I need to reach out to someone for advice or mentorship.

The funding I received from Joseph Schull and Anna Yang allowed me to complete this internship. New York City is extremely expensive and I would not be able to have afforded any living expenses or travel costs if it were not for their generous support. Thank you so much!

Frida Blackwell (right) at the Synergos office in New York City.


Madeleine Kausel, BA Honours Political Science

Madeleine is a third year student pursuing an honors political science degree with a minor in sociology. She will be an intern at Synergos Institute in New York City, New York. She will be a Communications and Marketing Intern working to further promote the organization's international development projects to their clients and the general public. She holds three citizenships (Canadian, American, and Chilean) and is naturally passionate about international development, human rights, and cross-cultural issues. Madeleine hopes that this summer will prepare her for a future career in international law and political communications, while gaining a powerful insight to the world of nonprofit development work.

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Background

I am a third year student presently pursuing an honours political science degree with a double minor in Sociology and Economics. My current goals are to graduate with honours and go on to attend law school in the United States. I am extremely curious about the social sciences but passionate about diplomacy and political communications. Outside of my academic career, I am heavily involved with the McGill extracurricular community. I currently serve as VP Internal & Communications for the McGill Pre-Law Students’ Society where I lead marketing campaigns, manage the weekly listserv, and act as a liaison between the Executive Board and our general membership. I also serve on the International Relations Society as McGill Inc. Board of Directors as the Vice-President of Delegation Affairs & Head-Delegate of the McGill Model United Nations Team.

I wanted to gain internship experience in the field of marketing to learn more hard skills, such as data analytics, web design, coding, and targeted communication strategy. I also sought immersion in a professional environment that worked towards social good through multi-stakeholder partnerships.

The Synergos Institute

The Synergos Institute’s mission is to “bring people together to solve complex problems of poverty and create opportunities for individuals and communities to thrive”. They are an international development, non-profit organization that connects leaders in the private and public sector as well as civil society. Synergos also maintains an extensive network of social entrepreneurs, Senior Fellows, and major philanthropy organizations. They also have field offices around the world that spearhead multi-stakeholder development projects in agriculture, health, nutrition, and youth employment.

Duties & Objectives

As a marketing intern, I worked in the Development and Communications department under the Director of Communications. Throughout my internship, I helped design the new Synergos website with my supervisor. This also included editing and adding over 600 pages on the site, while managing new content. Throughout this process, I learned basic HTML coding. At the end of my internship I wrote a twenty-page user manual for the site’s content management, including brief branding guidelines. I also completed a data analysis project to help improve the organization’s target marketing strategy and CRM. In addition, I conducted research on intellectual property and international development consulting approaches.

The Internship

The entirety of the internship was a positive experience. I learned valuable hard skills, while making important connections in the non-profit field. I enjoyed learning about how critical multi-stakeholder partnerships are to international development and poverty alleviation. One of the internship’s highlights was feeling valued as an intern. My supervisor was invested in my professional growth and the Development & Communications team was extremely receptive to my suggestions in our bi-weekly meetings. The CEO, Don Mohanlal, made an effort to talk to me when he was in the office and appreciated the feedback the other interns and myself gave him.

As an arts student, I applied my writing and research skills to various projects throughout the internship. I also utilized the critical thinking and problem-solving skills that I have honed through the leadership positions I have held at McGill. I particularly enjoyed going out of my comfort zone of social science to learn about an entirely new field. The skills I have learned in my arts degree proved to be transferrable even in the business realm. Learning design software, HTML, and marketing strategies was challenging at first, but my curiosity and determination helped me overcome my lack of technical expertise.

The Future

The internship at Synergos widened my perspective on the field of international development and the non-profit world. It also helped me realize that I would like to go into the field of political communications after law school. It combines my academic passion—politics—with my newly obtained marketing and communications skills.

I received the Schull-Yang International Experience Award. The award helped me afford housing in New York City, for which I am eternally grateful. Thank you Mr. Joseph Schull and Ms. Anna Yang, for providing me with this invaluable opportunity. I learned skills and made memories that will most certainly last a lifetime. Thank you again for your generous donation to McGill students seeking an international internship experience.

Madeleine Kausel collaborating with her supervisor on website design and content management.