Zoe Berg, Senior Photographer

A budding program — led by alumni volunteers — is helping first-generation and low-income students overcome the challenges they may face when entering the academic and professional world through internships, research positions and general guidance. 

The 1stGenYale Summer Bulldogs Program completed its third year with success and is already planning new additions for the upcoming summer. 

Created in 2020, the 1stGenYale Summer Bulldogs Program supports FGLI, first-generation and/or low-income, students in meaningful career exploration experiences, including generating access to jobs now and after graduation. The program matches FGLI Yale College students with employers called “sponsors.” Possible sponsors include Yale faculty, alumni, non-profits and for-profit companies.

When the program first started during the summer of 2020, it matched six interns with their sponsor, Yale Law School Professor Daniel Markovits. Now, the Summer Bulldogs Program has increased the number of nonprofit sponsors and expanded the faculty STEM research positions it had previously offered. In the summer of 2022, the program consisted of 99 students in 74 summer internship projects across the US and abroad. 

“From what I’ve seen, a high-quality internship can change a student’s life,” Vice President of 1stGenYale, Michael Watson ’81 said. “They get insight regarding what they want to do, what they don’t want to do. It can change their trajectory and it could change the future for their entire family because they become role models for the younger brothers and sisters. They become role models for people in their neighborhoods, in the schools they went to.” 

The Bulldog Summers Program offers internships for students in a wide range of fields, including research, law, entrepreneurship, architecture and data analytics.

1stGenYale is an all-alumni volunteer team, with many of the alumni being FGLI students themselves back when they were in college. The team understands the uncertainty and confusion the current students go through when searching for an internship.

Lise Chapman ’81 MBA, president of 1stGenYale, said, “[The program] creates a bridge. We create a bridge and a network.”

To build this bridge, 1stGenYale relies on alumni volunteers, donors, Yale’s Office of Career Strategy ,or OCS, and Yale’s Office of Fellowships and Funding, or OFF. 

This past summer, 1stGenYale Summer Bulldogs Program interns have been awarded a total of over $500,000 in awards and fellowships through Yale’s Center for International and Professional Experiences, or CIPE, with the help of its sponsors, alumni volunteers, donors and coordination with OCS and OFF.

Through 1stGenYale Summer Bulldogs, FGLI students can explore ‘real world’ experiences now in possible future career fields,” Vice President of 1stGenYale Barb Protacio ’81 wrote in an email to the News.

The 1stGenYale Experience

The News talked to three past students about their experiences with the Summer Bulldogs Programs. All three students secured internships this past summer through the program.

Satia Hatami ’25 worked as a board summer project management intern for 1stGenYale. During the internship with 1stGenYale, the biggest and most impactful project that she and two other student interns worked on was Pathfinder

Pathfinder acts as a four-year plan for Yale undergraduates. It has multiple tabs for different Google sheets that range from offering guide points for each year to possible fellowships and awards. The sections offered are based on advice and experience from current and former FGLI Yale students. 

Hatami said that during her internship she “developed a lot of soft skills like communicating more with people who are actually in industries such as nonprofits.”

Jesse Roy ’24 worked as an intern at the Reagle Music Theater in Waltham, Massachusetts under sponsor Linda Chin — the former interim Executive Producer for Reagle who works in the theater business.

Through the internship, Reagle provided Roy with a panoramic deep dive into several components of theater production he had rarely studied from the inside of an organization, such as arts administration, creative devising and choreography, set design, theater education and community outreach. 

This internship guided Roy through his future professional pursuits in the field of inclusive, multigenerational musical theater.

This summer I grew as a team player, a mentor to kids, and through osmosis and active participation, as an artist,” wrote Roy.

Josh Beale ’23 worked as an intern at the Yale School of Medicine under Annie Harper, an associate research scientist in psychiatry.

Beale worked with the New Haven Debt Map project to collect and interpret data about how debt impacts the health and wellbeing of individuals from the greater New Haven area. The project seeks to understand the debt experiences of low-to-moderate income people living in New Haven by collecting the various types of debt individuals had, their stories of how it had been acquired and what they were doing to get out of debt.

“The program’s impact has been in helping me find the direction I wanted to continue in,” Beale wrote in an email to the News. “Prior to my internship with the program I wasn’t sure if I wanted to focus my future research career in public health or in biochemistry since I had interests in both fields. Afterward, I had a much clearer picture of where I wanted to go with my life, and I settled into biochemistry research.”

All three students noted that the Summer Bulldogs Program catering towards FGLI students is crucial, as students often have no idea where to start when they enter Yale. 

The sponsors were also impressed by the interns’ abilities. 

One sponsor was the Honduras Children’s Project led by Yale professor of medicine Deborah Proctor. The nonprofit’s mission is to educate the 45 children who live at Copprome orphanage in El Progreso, Honduras. Founded in 2011, the organization has 10 full-time staff at the orphanage. 

Proctor wrote to the News that she spent the past summer working with two “amazing” interns. Her interns spent six weeks working in New Haven and two weeks working in Honduras.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey also hosted interns this past summer — three of them. 

Interns worked across several different departments. Watson, who is the employee experience advisor at Port Authority, pointed out that interns were able to get to projects and did outreach for Port Authority to external organizations that they would not have had the time or the resources to do, leaving an indelible impression. 

“During the presentations, one of the managers said these presentations were better than a lot of high-level managers they’ve seen over the years,” said Watson. “That’s the caliber of students.” 

In addition to connecting sponsors and students, 1stGenYale also offers a series of webinars. These webinars aim to help both students and sponsors, with video topics ranging from Making Career Choices & Taking Career Breaks to Plan to Prosper at Yale & Beyond

For this coming 2023 Summer Bulldogs Program, 1stGenYale plans to include more paid internships from for-profit companies in addition to nonprofits and faculty internships.

The Summer Bulldogs Program was founded in 2020 and is completely run by volunteers.