Magdalena Henke ’16, Princeton Education Foundation

Maagdalena-HenkeFor three days during spring break of my freshman year at Princeton University, I was lucky enough to do a Princeternship at the Princeton Education Foundation. The PEF is a nonprofit organization that tries to ensure excellence at the local public schools by functioning as a link between schools and the community – encouraging private philanthropy to support many great programs that students benefit from. Relying heavily on volunteer work, the PEF has only one paid employee, Executive Director Adrienne Rubin ’88, who I was “princeterning” with.

For the PEF, a big fundraising gala was coming up soon, so finalizing all plans for that took up a substantial amount of time.  I got involved by updating files that kept track of items to be auctioned off at that gala, sorting through letters and sheets and getting a tad creative while writing descriptions for all the articles that were not in the data system yet. On my second day I had the opportunity to attend two meetings, including a “Women in Development” meeting which gave me new insights into the how and why of fundraising. On my last day, I spent some time researching existing programs similar to a new program the PEF is thinking about starting, so I collected data and came up with some suggestions on details of the program. All the while I not only felt like I was getting a much better idea of how the PEF functions, but was happy to also feel like the results of my work were in fact useful.

On the go, I learned a lot about PrincetonEducationFoundation1how valuable personal relationships are in fundraising, or really in organizing any bigger event. If you need people to be committed to a project, spending time with them on a personal level is hugely important, and only after that personal connection is built can other requests successfully follow. In the end, the best relationships, in the workplace or really anywhere, are the ones that create a winning situation for both sides.

However, I learned so many more things than “just” about the work of the PEF or nonprofits in general. I would consider my opportunity to meet Adrienne Rubin herself and get to know her better as just as valuable an experience. Mrs. Rubin has an interesting story to tell: as she originally graduated from Princeton with a degree in music and an opera voice, her path from there to the PEF was incredibly fascinating to hear. Since we were working almost side by side in the office, I luckily had plenty of time then and at lunch times to ask questions, all of which were thoughtfully and honestly answered. For all of this, I owe Mrs. Rubin a big thank you.

PrincetonEducationFoundation2After all, I not only got new insights into the PEF, but also took home many new ideas and thoughts about Princeton University, my time here, and how the Alumni network might influence my life after. Friday afternoon I left the office and found myself sad that the Princeternship had only been three days. It was an amazing experience I definitely would not have wanted to miss.

Kelly Kremer ’15, Princeton Education Foundation

Kelly-Lin-KremerDuring my Princeternship experience at the Princeton Education Foundation, I shadowed Executive Director Adrienne Rubin ’88.  On the first day, she warmly greeted me and showed me around the building and her office before we settled down to chat about my interests in education and non-profits over a cup of tea. We also discussed the many stages of her career and how she had arrived at the Foundation. I found it fascinating that she, a music major, had first worked as an actuary, then for Alumni Relations, and then for a different non-profit before the Foundation. Probably the most important reason I found this Princeternship experience so rewarding was because Mrs. Rubin was a model of someone who had enjoyed her work at all times of her life. She was not afraid to switch paths when she started to be less innovative and enthusiastic about her job. I think I’ll reflect back on this first conversation with her several times throughout my life because I think it is the first time I’ve had a candid discussion with someone who genuinely found her work interesting and satisfying and not just a means to an end.

During my Princeternship, I assisted Mrs. Rubin with preparationsKremer 2 for the upcoming Spring Gala, one of the Foundation’s annual fundraisers.  For the first two days, I merged data from two lists to create a master list of local businesses approached in the past years for the Gala and researched even more businesses to add to the list of potential donors.

On the third day, Mrs. Rubin picked me up from the University at 8:20 am, and we drove directly to John Witherspoon Middle School.  The first meeting was a PTO meeting. Since I am interested in education, and am thinking about pursuing a Teacher Preparation certificate so I can teach math at the secondary school level, I really enjoyed this glimpse at how adults think about education. Mrs. Rubin talked about the latest project the Foundation is funding, a program to help teenagers deal with grief, as well as the Foundation’s mini-grant program. The parents at the meeting also raised their concerns about the pros and cons of national assessments of student academic achievement and security in the Princeton schools in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. At the second meeting, the fruits of my work on the potential donor list were handed out to volunteers who would contact the businesses about the Gala. Seeing others making use of the work I’d done was very rewarding. After we had lunch, I started a final project that compared and analyzed data from the past two years of fundraising campaigns.

Overall, I highly recommend the Princeternship program. The length of the program fits conveniently and relatively easily into break or reading period, and two or three days really is enough to give you a taste of what it is like to be out in the working world. I learned a lot about education foundations and nonprofits from this experience, and I am extremely grateful to Mrs. Rubin for this opportunity.

Sara Good ’15, Princeton Education Foundation

Sara-GoodBefore starting this Princeternship, I did not know much about the world of nonprofits, but I was excited to learn. On the first day, Adrienne Rubin ‘88, my host (who is currently planning her 25th reunion!), invited me to join her at Community Works, an event held at Frist where many people associated with nonprofits attend and give presentations. Adrienne was a presenter and her presentation was centered around planning a fundraising event. She gave some really great tips. I really enjoyed seeing how the two different sessions differed from one another. Even though the content of the presentation was the same, the audiences’ reactions and interactions were very different. Adrienne and I discussed later that it is always important to cater to the audience. A more active audience might enjoy more open communication and audience interaction, while a less active audience will probably prefer more information and less interaction. Before, during, and after the event, I met many people: executive directors of other nonprofit organizations, board members of the Princeton Education Foundation, and other Princeton alums.

The next day, I met up with Adrienne at The Red Onion, a really cute and affordable little sandwich shop on Nassau Street. There, she bought me an egg salad sandwich to have for lunch later in the day (the sandwich was delicious, by the way). We drove down Witherspoon to her office, held in an old Princeton Public School building. She showed me how she organizes her data, and then she showed me an error in this data. She asked me if I would look at a list of names and email addresses of donors, trying to find out what happened to the data and why some email addresses and names did not match up. It took a while, and I felt like I was trying to find a pattern that did not exist, but I finally figured out the problem. While it was not an easy fix for Adrienne, she was really grateful that I figured it out. I was really glad that I was able to fix the problem so that she didn’t have to spend all that time looking for the problem.

Day 3 was a really fun day. In the morning, Good 1I went with Adrienne to the Women in Development meeting that was held at the Arts Council building. I met so many wonderful people, many of whom were intrigued by the concept of the Princeternship. During the meeting, I was impressed with the way the women interacted. One woman led the discussion, but throughout the meeting, somebody would ask a question. It would not be just the speaker to answer. Everyone in the room would contribute and help one another out. The sense of community that I felt was so strong. These women came from all over but were nonetheless willing to share their ideas with each other.  After the meeting, we went back to the office where I sorted through some instructions, correcting for continuity. For lunch, Adrienne took me to her son’s favorite pizza place: Conte’s. I can see why she and her family love it so much. It is the best pizza I have had in Princeton! We talked about my schoolwork, the highs and lows of her work, and the work of nonprofits in general. My final task of the day was to enter the new donors into the database she uses.

I really enjoyed my time at my Princeternship. I got to learn so much about the sense of community within the world of nonprofits. If I was not considering joining a nonprofit before, I certainly am now. I cannot thank Adrienne enough for the wonderful experience.