My three-day Princeternship at World Monuments Fund benefited me in two ways. First, I got a taste of what working at a nonprofit actually entails. Second, I benefited from the advice and perspectives of the people that I met during my stay with WMF.
My first – unofficial – task during my Princeternship was to navigate New York City, a setting that drastically contrasts with the small town where I grew up. Simply navigating the subway and streets of New York was rather foreign to me. Even this basic detail – the location – was a significant part of my Princeternship since it gave me a better understanding of what it actually means to work in an urban office setting. My first real experience living and working in the city would be a grand one, since, as I found out, WMF is housed in the most iconic office building of them all: the Empire State Building.
After successfully checking in as a visitor and obtaining my day pass, I took the elevator up to the 24th floor and began my official work. After being given a quick orientation tour around the office and an introduction to the office’s computer system, I met my Princeternship host, George McNeely ’83 and another Princetonian working at WMF, Yiannis Avramides ’08.
As Vice President for Strategic and International Affairs, George works on the development side of the nonprofit. This means – as one of the program directors explained to me – “he raises the money, and we get to spend it.” At WMF, as with any nonprofit organization, fundraising is a key and ever-pressing issue. George and Yiannis explained to me that, during my three days with them, I would be helping them tackle this issue by researching prospective corporate sponsors for “The Watch,” one of WMF’s major projects. Every two years, WMF publishes the Watch List, which highlights the top at-risk cultural heritage sites around the world, serving to bring visibility and support to the initiatives that restore and preserve these sites. My specific task was to investigate corporations that might be interested in sponsoring this project as part of their “Corporate Social Responsibility.” This task continued throughout the three days, culminating in a spreadsheet that compared the philanthropy policies and potential compatibility of about fifty corporations. I appreciated having my own independent project to work on during my time at WMF since it gave me good insight into the reality of workplace tasks and expectations.
Besides working on the development project, I also got to meet a lot of the individuals who work for WMF. On the second day of my Princeternship, Yiannis took me on a quick tour around the office and introduced me to people from various departments within the organization. Each person shared with me the specifics of his or her position and explained how they ended up working at WMF in particular. Through these conversations, I learned more about the general field of cultural preservation – WMF’s area of focus – and about how different interests may fit into this particular niche.
I would say that the personal interactions I had during my stay at WMF – whether around the office or over lunch – formed the most valuable part of my experience. Each person that I talked to was eager to hear about my interests, share their own story, and give me advice. This advice spanned from academic to career to general. The unifying theme of these conversations was encouragement of exploration. I was reassured that, at this point, it is perfectly acceptable to not be totally sure of what career path I want to follow and encouraged to explore my interests by taking advantage of the multitude of opportunities currently surrounding me. This advice, coupled with the exposure I gained to the realities of working at a nonprofit, made my Princeternship a valuable experience both on a personal and professional level.