Sean Stefanik - Intern at the Clinton Global Initiative
When asked about the most exciting moment of his internship experience so far, Sean Stefanik responds, with a laugh, “I would definitely have to say that it was meeting President Clinton!”
Sean beat out some very stiff competition at McGill to land a position so closely associated with the work of the former U.S. president and McGill doctorate honoris causa. He is McGill’s 2011 Pascale International Fellow at the William J. Clinton Foundation, the first McGill student to be awarded this honour. He has been placed in the Commitments Department, where he asks the CGI’s partners to make Commitments to Action in the form of projects which he helps them articulate and plan to address challenges related to global health.
Even at such an internationally well-regarded and prestigious foundation, Sean feels like he’s part of the action. “The interns are given actual responsibility; we feel like we’re doing something meaningful,” he says, as he describes his day-to-day work among a group of interns drawn from some of the U.S. and Canada’s most promising students and most well-regarded universities. These interns support the CGI as it provides its partners with guidance and support in fulfilling their commitments to tackle problems in issue areas including global health, the economy, gender equality, and the environment.
Despite this impressive accomplishment, Sean is modest as he looks back on his path to CGI. He believes his access to this opportunity was strongly related to his internship experience in the summer of 2010, when he worked at Liverpool VCT in Nairobi, Kenya with the support of an Allan A. Hodgson Arts Internship Award. He’s convinced this internship made him a stronger candidate for the Pascale Fellowship and credits his time there with providing him a strong base of knowledge in global health issues, particularly HIV/AIDS. “I’ve found it useful to apply my experience to my work here because if I ever get a request to do some background research on an organization or write up background information on a particular issue, having that background knowledge in global health helps because you know where to look,” he says. “It really speeds up the process.”
Sean advises students aspiring to access such exciting opportunities to take advantage of the many avenues available to learn and make oneself an attractive candidate while at university. Firstly, when an opportunity arises, Sean says it’s worth a shot even if an applicant feels unsure of their prospects. “I’d say it’s definitely worth your time to write up a cover letter and to send in your resumé because you never know what kind of opportunities are available and what kind of things you might be qualified for that you don’t even know you’re qualified for,” Sean emphasizes. “I know that’s definitely how I felt when I applied to Liverpool VCT last summer – I had no idea I had the kind of background necessary to get that kind of a position.”
And how did Sean get that necessary background? Mainly, by taking advantage of all that McGill has to offer when it comes to out-of-class learning. “There a lot of small things you can do along the way through all kinds of extracurricular activities available at McGill,” he says. “For instance, I submitted one of my papers, which I wrote about HIV, to the McGill Journal of Political Studies and I was involved in the McGill Global AIDS Coalition. There are tons of volunteer opportunities that don’t require any background experience whatsoever and they’re great ways to build your resumé and gain access to other opportunities.” In Sean’s case, it’s clear that his efforts and community involvement are also an expression of his drive and passion for the subject matter – two hallmarks of a successful intern.