We’ll never forget our summer as Bulldogs in the Big Easy. We spent over two months working at challenging jobs, making new friends in a college dorm environment, and exploring the greatest American city we’d never seen before. And while most of us won’t be back in New Orleans next summer, we think you should have the same opportunity. When we read that the Bulldogs Across America program was under review (“Bulldogs internships under review,” Nov. 18), we decided to speak up on behalf of the program that did so much for us. For its meaningful internships, underexposed cities and dynamic housing setup, Bulldogs Across America is a cut above Yale’s other summer offerings.
At Yale, we learn to value new experiences and to push ourselves beyond familiar, accessible activities. Bulldogs Across America champions this approach by offering jobs primarily in the non-profit sector. We’ve all seen which employers show up at Yale career fairs. With no disrespect to the consulting firms and investment banks — some of us will join them — we realize that these career fairs do not fully represent our range of opportunities.
The charter schools, neighborhood planning groups, and jazz festivals that hired us have neither the time nor resources to track us down on campus. Without Bulldogs Across America, we would never have found them. Aggregated for convenient searches and with a streamlined application process, these non-profit jobs helped us build the same organizational skills we might have learned in any office across the country. Moreover, they also allowed us to get out on the street and build relationships with residents of the community.
Alana Moreno wrote phonics exams to track students through years of literary growth. Brodrick Spencer worked in blighted neighborhoods, consulting residents on their hopes for redevelopment. Seth Extein greeted the smiling children he had recruited as they walked in for their first day of school. For us, these memories are the summer’s payoff.
Everyone should visit New Orleans — but the fact is, without Bulldogs, we wouldn’t have. Like most Yalies, we’re likely to hear about jobs in our hometowns, Yale-sponsored opportunities in New Haven, or internships where our friends are heading — New York, D.C. and Boston.
Bulldogs Across America makes the intentional effort to connect us with employers away from the coasts, in places like Louisville, Cleveland and Minneapolis. Without Bulldogs, we might ignore these places, needlessly restricting our job search. During our summer, we got to know a city without the haste of a tourist. For a time, we became residents, interacting with New Orleans in its museums, schools and sno-ball stands.
Of course, no one wants to venture into an unfamiliar city alone. That’s why the free dormitory housing is essential. Bulldogs Across America doesn’t send individual interns across the country; it sends cohorts of Yalies to live together. In our case, the 21 Bulldogs in the Big Easy roomed on the seventh floor of the Loyola University dorms. Naturally we had a lot of fun, but we also each had the chance to learn about 20 other jobs, exposing us to many different fields.
A second benefit of the group living system only registered when we returned to campus, carrying 20 new friendships with us. Bulldogs Across America enriched our summer, but it also enriched our lives at Yale by introducing us to people we wouldn’t have met in our colleges, classes or clubs.
The final point to remember about Bulldogs Across America housing is that it’s free. This generous accommodation allowed many of us to embrace non-profit jobs without feeling guilty about any financial burden we’d placed on our families. It’s safe to say that none of us chose Bulldogs for the paycheck — and none of us had to regret it for the cost. It was the rare moment in life when money was not a factor.
On the other hand, we recognize that nothing is truly free. While local alumni shoulder most of the housing expenses and are indeed the backbone of the program, Yale does contribute 12 percent — approximately $400 — of each intern’s housing. Because Yale does not guarantee housing for most other internships that students might find through UCS, Bulldogs Across America stands in a costly class of its own. This is why UCS is reviewing the program. We agree that a review is reasonable, but caution the reviewers to consider, as we did in our internship search, more than money. We urge them to consider the value of non-profit experience, the value of time spent between America’s coasts, the value of cross-pollination among interns and roommates, and the value of returning to Yale with new friends.
Bulldogs Across America is a treasured piece of the undergraduate experience. Review it, improve it and expand it — but don’t lose it.
Seth Extein is a senior in Branford College. Jeff Gordon is a junior in Saybrook College. Elisa Gonzalez, Alana Moreno and Brodrick Spencer are seniors in Pierson College. All the authors participated in Bulldogs in the Big Easy this past summer.