Grace Singleton ’16, World Monuments Fund

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 Singleton 1International 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.

Michelle Nedashkovskaya ’16, World Monuments Fund

During the Spring Break of my junior year, I had the opportunity to spend three days as a Princetern at the World Monuments Fund (WMF) office on the twenty-fourth floor of the Empire State building.

Upon arriving at the WMFMichelle 1 office, I was greeted by a warm, comfortable atmosphere and a hot cup of tea to help me recover from the harsh winds that gusted through the city streets that morning. I first made the acquaintance of Yiannis Avramides, a colleague of my Princeternship host and, coincidentally, a member of the Princeton Class of 2008. After enjoying a brief introduction into the general background of WMF’s mission and current projects, we were joined by my charismatic host and the organization’s VP of Strategic and International Affairs, George McNeely of the Princeton Class of 1983. Though I did my research beforehand and was already fairly familiar with the goals of WMF as a private, international, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of historic architecture and cultural heritage sites around the world, it was fascinating to talk to George and Yiannis about their particular roles in the organization and how they got to where they are today. With the completion of my short orientation for the Princeternship, I was led on a tour of the rest of the well-designed and welcoming office, meeting and greeting the rest of my “colleagues” for the duration of my time at WMF.

Several hours into the day, I was given a few interesting assignments that I would be tackling over those three days. The list of brief assignments included a research project on the Old Summer Palace built during the Qing dynasty in China, the summarization and outline of a text on international cultural preservation organizations, and conducting a short investigation into Russian media coverage dealing with the potential destruction of the Shukhov radio tower in Moscow. Overall, I found the completion of my assignments to be extremely rewarding because I could see first-hand how my efforts were relevant to the tasks being undertaken by various professionals at the World Monuments Fund; each of them was extremely appreciative of my minor contributions and it was generally a pleasure to assist them in any way possible.

To comment on my experience at the World Monument Fund as a whole – I must say that I genuinely enjoyed it and benefitted from it. It was an incredible and rare opportunity to glimpse into the professional environment of people that are so passionate about and dedicated to the cause that they work for and to be so hospitably taken in and introduced to their everyday life. My goal coming into the Princeternship was to get a feel for what it would be like to work at a non-profit office like WMF, and though I remain unsure of where exactly I see myself after Princeton, the experience and insight I have gained by simply being around such a professional environment will definitely help me further along my journey to discovering my place in the world.

I would absolutely recommend participating in a Princeternship to all Princeton undergraduate students because I believe that experience is a great one to carry while continuing along our professional paths and making the decisions that will shape our futures. I would also like to take another opportunity to thank George, Yiannis, Katie, and everyone else I had the pleasure of meeting at WMF for making my Spring Break such a memorable, enjoyable, and productive time of my sophomore year.