Each summer, MSU’s MPP students are placed in internships that help them gain real-world experience in working with public policy. Incoming second-year students Xiaodi Zhu and Shuting Deng, both from China, received an immersive education in the workings of U.S. nonprofit organizations and U.S. government at the federal and state levels—and in the process, helped create opportunities for Michigan’s homeless.
Xiaodi and Shuting both interned with the Michigan Coalition against Homelessness (MCAH), a statewide association of housing, shelter, and service providers to the homeless as well as concerned citizens. MCAH provides information, data, and training, and carries out advocacy on issues pertaining to affordable housing and human services.
Interning with MCAH was a good fit for Shuting, whose policy interests include social security, social welfare, employment policy and labor economics. Xiaodi also found the experience to be very relevant given her interest in non-profit organization administration.
Xiaodi’s work at MCAH included organizing materials and staying in communication with other organizations, such as the National Alliance to End Homelessness, involved in advocacy at the federal level. To this end she also did research on HR 2265, pending legislation that includes provisions for helping homeless veterans, and the Homeless Children and Youth Act of 2015 . Xiaodi was also given the task of contacting congressional staffers in Michigan’s House and Senate and making appointments with them for MCAH staff—an intimidating task at first, but Xiaodi rose to the occasion. “After finishing that work, I felt more confident and skillful,” Xiaodi says.
Shuting’s work has focused on improving MCAH’s services to and relationships with its member organizations. “Membership is one of the most important parts of MCAH’s mission,” explains Shuting. For example, MCAH provides members with media to promote their organizations and advocate for homelessness issues, and provides technical support and guidance regarding provision of care. Shuting helped to analyze a member survey, sent out invitations for MCAH’s annual anniversary celebration, and helped to keep contact information in the organization’s member directory up to date.
“As an international student, I knew very little about NGOs [non-governmental organizations] in the United States or about their membership. Through this internship I have gained a better understanding of how they operate,” says Shuting.
Both students highlight their appreciation for MCAH executive director Eric Hufnagel and supervisor Tina Berisha, who went out of their way to make sure the internship experience was educational and meaningful.