Scholars Program launches new personalized internship program

January 5, 2016

By Matt Ellsworth

To conclude the Professional Leadership Internship Program experience, the Flinn Scholar makes a capstone presentation to leaders at the host company or organization.

Steven Reed, a Class of 2013 Flinn Scholar attending Arizona State University, was one of the first Scholars to have an opportunity to participate in the program’s new Professional-Leadership Internship Program.

He spent last summer creating a business plan and developing grant proposals at Translational Genomics Research Institute in Phoenix, which is applying advances arising from the Human Genome Project to the development of diagnostics, prognostics and therapies for cancer and other diseases.

“My position seemed almost tailor-made just for me: I read constantly, talked about bleeding-edge science with leading experts, and helped brainstorm product ideas. I hope that I can now utilize the work experience and recommendations to propel my career,” Reed said.

Flinn Scholars are invited to participate in the off-campus program typically during their third year of undergraduate studies, or in the summer preceding or following that year. The Professional-Leadership Internship Program, which provides funding of up to $5,000 to participants, is not a requirement for Flinn Scholars, but is highly encouraged.

Flinn Foundation staff members facilitate the placement of the Scholar with a local company or nonprofit organization. To date, Scholars have interned at prestigious research institutes, a fast-growing bioscience firm, and a high-achieving charter-school network. There are plans to expand the number of organizations in the program to include additional for-profit companies, arts groups and government, among others. The first five Scholar internships took place in summer 2015 with the next cycle planned for spring 2016.

The paid internship program is set apart from others because of the opportunity to interact with key leaders at the host organizations, the ability to take on a substantial project that complements the Scholars’ academic studies, and the requirement that clerical work cannot exceed 20 percent of the time spent on the job.

“This new benefit for Scholars is designed to enrich the undergraduate experience and provide opportunities for meaningful real-world experience in some of Arizona’s leading companies and organizations,” Flinn Scholars Director Anne Lassen said. “We understand the impact internships can have on advancing career goals, and we want our Scholars to have every advantage as they pursue their passions.”

Lizzie Hannah, a 2013 Flinn Scholar who attends the University of Arizona, interned with Critical Path Institute, a Tucson-based organization that works to improve the drug-development and regulatory process for medical products.

“I learned about pharmaceutical development in a way that would not have been possible in a classroom setting,” said Hannah, whose project defined standards for the qualification of safety biomarkers. “My internship experience reaffirmed my desire to enter a career in science and health policy, and I would absolutely work for C-Path again in the future.”

The program also gives the companies and organizations an opportunity to work closely with a Flinn Scholar, often for the first time.

“They were full of energy, engaged in all that was happening, and not only accomplished the projects they were assigned but ended up teaching us a lot in the process, especially related to recruiting young and exceptional talent,” said Martha Brumfield, Critical Path Institute President and CEO.

Leslie Pearlman, Director of Assessment Systems and Psychometrician at BASIS Educational Group, an Arizona-based charter school system, said: “This was an absolutely wonderful experience for BASIS.ed. The Scholar’s ‘outsider’ perspective combined with theoretical knowledge and problem-solving skills really helped us … to improve our process.”

The Flinn Foundation will be announcing its 31st class of Flinn Scholars in April. The 20 Arizona high-school seniors who become Scholars will be chosen from 761 applicants and will attend Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University or the University of Arizona.

The benefits of the scholarship, in addition to covering eight semesters of study at an Arizona public university and the internship program, include:

  • A three-week summer seminar program in China following the freshman year and at least one additional study or professional-development experience abroad or within the United States;
  • Mentorship from top faculty and exposure to local and world leaders, including Arizona’s leading business, civic, and academic minds;
  • Fellowship in an extraordinary community of about 80 current and 480 alumni Scholars; and
  • Membership in a university honors college/program with the many amenities it provides, such as small classes, guest lectures, and research experiences.

Please contact Ruben Aguirre, Flinn Scholars Program Manager, with any questions about the Professional-Leadership Internship Program. He can be reached at or (602) 744-6835.