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Instead of working locally, sophomore biology major Raffi Kajajian was able to intern with Dr. Roula Farah at Saint George Hospital in Beirut, Lebanon.
October 25, 2017

UMass Boston fellowship makes internships, volunteer, research experiences possible


  • Boston
Foundation, alumni, and individuals support fellowship program

Zakisha Horton volunteered on an agriculture project in Mexico this summer while Yaa Opoku-Agyeman was interning with Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson, and Yabin Chen was taking classes at Korean University in South Korea. All of these experiences, and more than 60 others like it, were possible thanks to generous support from alumni, friends and an anonymous family foundation to the Beacon Student Success Fellowship.

Since 2014, the BSSF has given 184 students a total of $250,000, giving them the ability to take on unpaid or low-paying internships, do research with faculty, volunteer, and study abroad. Sixty-seven students participated in the program this year.

At a symposium last week, students got to share their experiences during a poster session and speaking program.

Mackenzie Patterson, who did faculty-supervised research in the Dowling Lab, explains her project during the poster session.

“It’s one thing to learn from reading a book, it’s one thing to learn from your faculty members, it’s a very different thing when you have the opportunity to take that learning from the classroom and see what happens when you are out in the field,” Vice Provost of Academic Support Services Joan Becker said.

Senior international management major Yabin Chen participated in an exchange program in South Korea, with the goal of opening a clothing store in Boston focused on East Asian fashion. He was able to take classes in accounting and finance and go to a pop-up event featuring South Korean fashion and music.

Instead of working locally, sophomore biology major Raffi Kajajian completed an internship with Dr. Roula Farah at Saint George Hospital in Beirut, Lebanon, where he learned that relationship-building is just as important to a doctor’s job as a diagnosis.

“I realized how tough this job is. Looking outside of it, you just treat clients, you learn everything, it might be easy, but it’s more than that. You’ve got to be connected to the parents," Kajajian said. "They should trust you, so you have more responsibility on yourself, because the lives of the kids are on you."

The BSSF paid for senior biology major Zainab Moumoud to take on an internship at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. The experience has confirmed her desire to go to medical school and made her want to become an ophthalmologist. She says she wouldn’t have had this experience without the fellowship funding.

“I would have needed to work to pay for all my expenses. The BSSF gave me the opportunity to do something I like without thinking of the finances,” Moumoud said.

Senior political science major Heaven Reda has known she wanted to study abroad ever since she was in first grade. Thanks to the support of donors Janice and Ralph James, she was able to take part in an exchange program in Germany, again, not an experience she would have had without the BSSF, and donors like the Jameses.

“I was working overnights and coming straight to classes. Working more than that, I wouldn’t have been able to be a successful student, work those hours, and still try to make a trip happen. Not only did I take classes, I also had the opportunity to network with students from every corner of the world. I got to travel throughout other parts of Europe,” Reda said.

Winston Pierre ’15, a former BSSF fellow also supported by the Jameses, who is now the engagement specialist for the City of Boston, encouraged future fellows to seize opportunities like the Beacon Student Success Fellowship.

“As long as you are a student at UMass Boston, seize any opportunity that will prepare you for your personal and professional journey,” he said.

Undergraduate students interested in the Beacons Student Success Fellowship will be able to apply starting in March 2018. Anyone interested in supporting the fellowship should contact University Advancement at 617.287.5328.