Beyond the Quads
More relevant than ever, UCPIP matches public service-minded grads with local internships.
Like many seniors, Piotr Korzynski, AB’07, was approaching graduation with question marks in his future. When he heard about the University of Chicago Public Interest Program (UCPIP)—then partnered with Princeton’s Project 55—Korzynski was immediately interested.
Project 55 was founded 20 years ago by members of Princeton’s Class of 1955 to place graduates in paid public-interest fellowships and internships. Beginning in 1999, UCPIP partnered with Project 55, finding such positions for Chicago grads when Princeton couldn’t fill openings. This year marks the first year of independence for the Chicago program, which uses the Project 55 model.
By March, UCPIP had lined up nearly a dozen local organizations, including the Archdiocese of Chicago, in anticipation of 50 or so applications this year. Rather than apply to specific organizations, hopefuls submit applications to the program, which then matches grads with groups and arranges interviews. Those hired receive a stipend for a year, attend a weekly seminar with other program fellows, and, most importantly, have the opportunity to work full-time in the public-interest sector.
He’d taken a course on urban planning and also worked in a legal aid office dealing with immigration cases, but Korzynski didn’t have any real “ins” with nonprofit organizations when he was a senior. UCPIP arranged two interviews for him, and the Greater Southwest Development Corporation selected Korzynski for a fellowship as an industrial assistant in August 2007. Like several of the organization’s recent UCPIP fellows, he was hired at the end of his one-year term.
Now an industrial coordinator, he works on Greater Southwest’s industrial retention and attraction project, providing assistance to companies in the city’s southwest industrial corridor. Much of his job involves working the phones to help businesses cut through the red tape of city bureaucracy on everything from tax incentives to truck weight limitations on Chicago streets. The goal is to make it worth their while for companies to stay in the corridor, rather than leaving the city for financial reasons.
Like many public-interest workers, Korzynski has to be versatile; he manages the Greater Southwest Web site, helps immigrant mothers get jobs in the public school system, and has coauthored a grant proposal that was awarded $680,000 from the MacArthur Foundation for the Keep Our Homes campaign, launched to fight the recent foreclosure crisis.
“You fly by the seat of your pants,” he says. “You see what others are doing, learn from the people you’re around, and they put faith in me that I can do things.” That faith is based on a strong bond between the organization and the school; Greater Southwest has taken on 18 fellows from the University over the years.
“They walk out of here with all this knowledge,
and it really helps them in the long run, whether
it’s getting a master’s, getting a law degree, or
working elsewhere,” said Lenora Dailey, Greater
Southwest’s director of commercial and industrial
services. “They know better what they want to
do, and the fellowship has been a stepping stone
for a lot of them.”