A Way In - Black Enterprise

A Way In

Named after the New York community activist herself, the Emma Bowen Foundation was founded in 1989 and sponsors four- to five-year, nationwide internships for minority students interested in careers in broadcast media. The internships expose students to aspects of corporate operations and help them develop company-specific skills. Interns are often hired after they complete their college degrees. In total, there are 250 Emma Bowen interns nationwide, with an average of 60 to 70 new interns that join each year. Some of the foundation’s corporate partners include NBC and CBS; both donate the foundation’s space in Washington, D.C., New York, and Los Angeles. Black Enterprise spoke with the foundation’s president, Phylis Eagle-Oldson, about the program’s benefits to both the student and corporation.

What is the purpose of the Emma Bowen Foundation? How do you measure success?

The purpose is to make career opportunities in the media available to minority students. The interns gain skills and confidence, and benefit from the teamwork among the alumni, graduates, and corporation. They earn a stipend from $7 to $10 an hour, plus matching funds, all paid for by the corporation, who pays the foundation a fee. The salary depends on the market. Sixty percent to 70% of our students graduate, and that’s how I measure our success, especially since it’s been a tough time economically. I’m ecstatic that despite the tough times we didn’t lose one corporation.

How is the foundation’s program unlike traditional internships? What’s the benefit to the student?
Unlike traditional internships our students have four- to five-year summer internships. The standards are high. The students enter the program in their junior year in high school and have to maintain a 3.0 grade point average. In turn we teach them all the things no one tells them about corporate culture, such as how to dress every day; how to avoid typos in e-mails; and how to send thank-you notes. Every student has a rotation schedule. They can work in the news department, human resources, public relations, and the technology department. Over the course of five summers they have different opportunities to see how their skill sets match with this or that position. Plus they develop a more holistic view of the opportunities.

How strong is your full-time job placement after a student completes the program?
Very strong; more than 60% of our students are hired by sponsoring companies and 70% to 75% remain in the media industry for three years or more. Some of the students come from backgrounds where focusing on academics isn’t viewed as a positive, but it is at the foundation. So there’s that confidence that comes from being an Emma Bowen graduate. The multiyear internship also helps. When you put a Bowen graduate’s résumé next to a résumé of someone who’s only had an internship for a summer, there’s no comparison.

We just got a recent announcement that one of our grads, Jada Miranda, was made a vice president for drama development at NBC Universal. We stay in close touch with all our graduates.