As an undergraduate student at the University of Richmond, everyone has the opportunity to receive up to $4,000 toward a research experience or unpaid or low-paid summer internship.
“Because many industries and organizations don’t have the resources to pay interns, the university wants to ensure that students can take advantage of these valuable experiences,” said Brendan Halligan, associate director of experiential learning, assessment and exploration.
UR launched the Richmond Guarantee program to begin in the summer of 2015. It is the only program of its kind, in that it ensures all students have the opportunity to receive funding, Halligan said.
“During the last strategic plan and then capital campaign, the term was coined to show that the program would be a part of the University of Richmond education for all students,” he said, “so that’s why the university wanted to use the word ‘guarantee.’”
Since its origin, the Richmond Guarantee program has developed to include more mandatory information sessions leading up to the application deadline for students and has encouraged more faculty and staff mentoring to allow for intentional conversations about students’ experiences, Halligan said.
The Richmond Guarantee is a crucial part of the university.
“The program is so important because students getting experience in their field of interest is really crucial to either being competitive in the job market or if students want to pursue graduate education,” Halligan said. “And also because internships and research experiences really complement what a student is doing academically, and it’s allowing them to apply what they’re learning in the classroom.”
Junior Lisa Pizzagalli, a business administration and German studies double-major, applied for the Richmond Guarantee in 2018 when she found out about Correvio, a pharmaceutical company that could use her help in its marketing and finance departments.
Finding Correvio was the perfect opportunity for Pizzagalli, who said she was trying to decide which business career path she wanted to pursue: marketing or finance.
Pizzagalli is a dual citizen in the U.S. and Switzerland and was looking to get working experience abroad, she said. Correvio has an office in Geneva, Switzerland, Pizzagalli said.
She applied for and was awarded the Richmond Guarantee to compensate her for her work interning with Correvio as well as the Weinstein Grant to pay for her airfare.
Pizzagalli attended a mandatory information session on the Richmond Guarantee application. The application included questions regarding what students want to do in their internships and how the experiences will help students further their professional and educational experiences at UR and after graduation, she said.
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“I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t gotten it,” Pizzagalli said, whose internship was invaluable in helping her decide she wanted to pursue marketing. It also allowed her to work alongside people who spoke multiple languages, Pizzagalli said.
Once she was awarded the Richmond Guarantee and began her internship, Pizzagalli said, she completed various tasks throughout the summer to update Career Services on her experience.
These included assignments such as a one-sided interview answering questions about her experience, writing a thank you note to donors and completing reflections on her progress within her internship role.
First-year India Patel, a biochemistry major with a minor in healthcare studies, was looking to spend the summer after her first year at UR conducting research. She decided to apply for the the University of Richmond Arts and Sciences Summer Research Fellowship, which the Richmond Guarantee can be used for.
Patel met with biology and chemistry professors to decide whose laboratory interested her most, she said. She ultimately found space in biology professor Laura Runyen-Janecky’s lab, Patel said, where she will research the different bacteria that filter out iron in flies' bodies.
For Patel’s Richmond Guarantee application, she wrote a paragraph on what she would be doing in the lab, she said. Her descriptions were based on a longer research proposal written by sophomore students who had spent the past year in Runyen-Janecky’s lab.
Patel applied for the Guarantee in February, she said.
“It was just a very simple application,” Patel said. “So, it was very hard to mess up, which was nice.”
Patel found out over spring break that she had received full funding for her eight-week summer work in the lab, she said.
All professors receive funding to complete their research, Patel said, so she would have been paid from that budget if she had not received the Guarantee. However, Patel said it was helpful that she had been awarded the Guarantee, so she would not have to dip into Runyen-Janecky’s research grant in order to fund Patel’s hourly salary.
While many research opportunities require students to jump into the lab immediately, Patel's introductory steps include reading papers that Runyen-Janecky sent her for background information on the work Patel will be doing.
“[Runyen-Janecky’s] kind of more like, ‘Read the papers before you get here,’” Patel said, “‘As long as you have a basic understanding, we’ll teach you techniques.’”
In addition to reading the papers, Patel said, she plans to secure housing in the next few weeks for her summer on campus.
Contact contributor Margaux Natiello at email@example.com.
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