Reflections from the 2023 Dwight Hall Summer Fellows

Summer Fellows, undergraduates, and alumni attend Dwight Hall meet-and-greets in Washington, DC and San Francisco, CA in July 2023.

The 2023 Dwight Hall Summer Fellowship season has come to a close, wrapping up the internships and projects of 20 Yale undergraduates who spent their summers supporting social change organizations in New Haven and other cities nationwide.  

In total, the 2023 Summer Fellows contributed 6,600 hours of service work. Dwight Hall disbursed $115,500 to fund students’ experiences.  

The program also saw the addition of in-person initiatives aimed at connecting Fellows to potential mentors. In July, Dwight Hall hosted meet-and-greets in Washington, DC and San Francisco, CA, connecting local alumni and the cohorts of Fellows in those cities. In total, these receptions brought together 16 Fellows and undergraduates with 26 alumni. The Hall extends its gratitude to Laura Huizar ’06, ’12 J.D., Benjamin Staub ’06, Sandra Lee ’97, and Zoe Mercer-Golden ’13–current and former Dwight Hall Board members–for helping make these events possible.

In the final evaluation survey, 100% of Summer Fellows said they had a positive experience in the program, with two-thirds of students ranking it as “Excellent”, the highest category. Furthermore, for the second consecutive year, 100% of Fellows said they would recommend the program to other students, and the statement “Dwight Hall positively complemented my formal Yale education,” received one of the highest scores across all graded questions. Overall, 94% of Fellows said that Dwight Hall positively influenced their long-term career trajectory.  

When reflecting on their summers, some Fellows found their experiences to be seamless, reinforcing their decisions to continue on their current career paths. Others were met with challenges or struggles that caused them to reassess their plans for the future and reimagine how to most authentically advance public service or social justice in their personal and professional lives. These experiences–and all those in between–are central to Dwight Hall’s mission of nurturing and inspiring students as leaders of social change. 

Below, hear from many of the 20 Summer Fellows via excerpts from their final reflections.  


Name: Claire Chang ’24

Position: Legal Orientation Program (LOP) Intern with Capital Area Immigrant Rights (CAIR) Coalition

Location: Washington, DC

“I had all the experiences I wanted and even more than I dreamed of. One of the immigration judges had commented that an internship at CAIR was like two years of on-the-job training. I definitely feel that way! In ten weeks I have learned so much and have been able to do so much.

I wanted to have an experience in immigration law beyond just doing typical intern duties of filing paperwork. I also wanted to help migrants as much as possible and understand what a job in this field would be like beyond my academic interest in the subject. I do not think I would have gotten such an in-depth, hands-on experience at another organization, and I am really grateful to my supervisor, Katie, and the rest of the LOP team for ensuring that all of this could happen. My summer has been even better than I imagined.”


Name: Resty Fufunan ’24

Position: Data Policy Fellow at Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA) National Center 

Location: New Haven, CT and Washington, DC

“During the OCA National Convention, I had a chance to moderate several panels with important Asian American and Pacific Islander organizers, and I also got a chance to visit the House offices for the first time. I also met some of my biggest heroes, and it was nice to learn about their experiences and potential future pathways after graduation. 

I’ve mostly been focused on Asian American youth issues, but this summer I had the opportunity to work with different generations. Asian American elders especially have unique challenges, and I think moving forward I will be more conscious about taking a cross-generational approach to my policymaking.”


Name: Patrick Hayes ’24

Position: Investigative Intern at Texas RioGrande Legal Aid 

Location: Mercedes, TX

“While I wish I would’ve been able to do way more investigative work, I really saw what it’s like to work at a public defender’s office a) in a rural setting, b) that’s underfunded, & c) that faces political pushback. This perspective, to me, makes my experience absolutely worth it.

I learned much about the relationship between systems change and individual representation. My supervisor and I talked a lot about how different people approach public defense work and how people focused on systems change often burn out really quickly when they represent individual clients in a public defender setting. We also talked about possible remedies to the issues facing our service area. Ultimately, she helped me realize that I need to look at ways of service other than trial-level public defense if I’m laser-focused on addressing the systemic issues in the criminal-legal system.”


Name: Mina Caraccio ’24

Project: Research Evaluating Positive Behavior Support (PBS) Plans and Clinical Work at Connecticut Mental Health Center (CMHC) 

Location: New Haven, CT

“My fellowship at CMHC has been meaningful in many ways—but my relationship with Dr. Carr has been the most instrumental in shaping my vision of my vocation and future. I learned so much from her clinical acumen, including what recovery-oriented care looks like in practice, and how to tactfully redirect patients when encountering problematic behavior without curtailing their rights or compromising empathetic care. 

Beyond benefitting from her clinical expertise, I greatly appreciated having a mentor with whom I could critically examine the flaws marring the mental health system. It requires tremendous emotional labor to constructively combat these issues on a daily basis instead of burying one’s head in the sand and complacently going through the motions at work, or confronting the issues and falling into a helpless pit of despair. I feel so fortunate to work alongside a mentor who constantly champions social justice, despite the formidable structural barriers.”


Name: Emily Xu ’24

Position: Seeding Change Fellow at Chinese Progressive Association of San Francisco 

Location: San Francisco, CA

“Because of this summer experience, I feel more deeply committed to organizing work; I feel pretty set on pursuing it further after I graduate. I learned that organizing is all about relationships — it’s all we have in the movement. Relationships with other organizers are critical so that we can build interdependence on each other. Relationships with member bases are also important so that the people who are affected by the issues that we’re fighting against know that we will show up for them.”


Name: Zenaida Aguirre Gutierrez ’24

Position: Legal Aid Intern at La Raza Centro Legal 

Location: San Francisco, CA

“My main goal this summer was to determine whether or not I would pursue a career in the legal field. I am so happy that this opportunity has shown me the possibilities that the legal field presents for immigrants of Latine and low-income backgrounds, such as bringing security in their everyday lives and presenting economic opportunities. After this summer’s experience, I have decided to pursue law school and immigration law to continue to support these communities.”


Name: Norah Laughter ’26 

Position: Organizing Intern at Students for Educational Justice

Location: New Haven, CT

“My understanding of charter schools changed greatly and my understanding of New Haven Public Schools was strengthened. I feel that I know a lot more about the system in New Haven and the issues that face it–which are different, but also not THAT different from issues facing schools in Kentucky.”


Name: Sophia Zhao ’23 

Project: Understanding Barriers to Primary Care Use Among Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) Clients at the Connecticut Mental Health Center

Location: New Haven, CT

“I was lucky to have completed twenty-one interviews with ACT Team clients and clinicians. Beyond meeting this primary goal, I felt incredibly fulfilled to have built rapport with clients and learn more about their lives—factors which drive me to continue helping the ACT Team produce a deliverable in the months to come. I also appreciated the opportunity to understand first-hand the perspectives of ACT Team clinicians and learn how a multidisciplinary team truly functions on a day-to-day basis.

At its core, the Dwight Hall Summer Fellowship allowed me to discern how trust is one of the most essential components to bridging underserved populations with acceptable, accessible, and adherable medical care. This experience served as an invaluable starting point to my goals of helping develop various community-clinical and community-academic partnerships that align with community needs.”


Name: Zoe Groh ’25 

Position: Development Intern at Saint Joseph Parenting Center (SJPC) 

Location: Stamford, CT

“Since I interned at SJPC last summer, I cannot say my knowledge of urban issues has increased, but due to the cases of our clients that I have recently seen, I have noticed how the varying causes and effects of child abuse and neglect all contribute to generational poverty. Compared to projects and internships I participated in before attending Yale, SJPC has opened my eyes to how child abuse and neglect create barriers to equal access to education. I definitely plan to continue to assist in solutions to the challenges I have observed, if not towards child abuse and neglect specifically, then to the larger issue of how the lack of access to education contributes to generational poverty.”


Name: Pia Gorme ’23

Position: Immigrant Community Health Clinic Specialist at Korean Community Services (KCS) 

Location: Anaheim, CA

“This was my first internship experience and working towards health equity in immigrant communities and other underserved communities is something I’m really passionate about. Contributing to this work through KCS has been a really great experience, and I’m grateful to have had this opportunity.

I’ve gained experience doing public health and health equity work and learned a lot about the non-profit world, specifically Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs). I learned more and more throughout my internship about how essential FQHC’s and community health clinics are especially for providing culturally inclusive, expert, and quality care for immigrant, low-income, and other marginalized and underserved populations. On the other hand, I also learned about how complicated the U.S. healthcare system is, even at the local level, and there’s lots of work to do to make healthcare more accessible and equitable.”


Name: Andrew Wu ’25 

Position: Clearinghouse and Development Intern at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest

Location: New York, NY

“One rewarding part of working with Pro Bono Clearinghouse was working with pro bono attorneys to address the variety of nonprofit legal needs. Our nonprofit clients serve communities from underrepresented backgrounds such as employment for previously incarcerated populations and housing equity for NYC senior residents and residents with disabilities. Clearinghouse’s work ran the gamut from employment and incorporation matters to intellectual property advice. In this experience, I learned a lot about the possibilities of community lawyering and nonprofit capacity-building with the private bar.”


Name: Michael Chen ’23 

Position: Immigration Law Unit Intern at The Legal Aid Society

Location: New York, NY

“I began this internship during a critical time in NYC. In the past year, states like Texas bused thousands of migrants to the city, and more than 50,000 migrants entered the city’s shelter system. I not only solidified my knowledge about the key issues in immigration law, but I also experienced firsthand the importance of assisting nonprofit organizations on the front lines, especially in cities where there is a drastic increase in the number of recent arrivals who deserve the community’s support after a difficult journey to reach this country.”


Name: Conner Hua ’25 

Position: Intern at Immigration Center for Women and Children (ICWC)

Location: San Francisco, CA

“I think this summer was extremely fulfilling; it was really nice to be able to contribute to the same type of legal work that had previously helped my parents so much when they were still refugees in the U.S. It warmed my heart a lot to know that there are families, children, parents, etc. that were benefitting from the work of ICWC that I was helping.

As I go forward in life, I hope to continue to advocate for organized labor, for improved living conditions, for basic standards of living, for wealth redistribution, and comprehensive rethinking of social problems and their root causes.”


Name: Jennifer Richburg ’24

Position: Teacher’s Assistant at Yale Prison Education Initiative (YPEI)

Location: New Haven, CT

“I can’t say I made an institutional impact. That’s a very big thing to do. I will say, however, that both my coworkers and students get excited when I enter a room. But that’s the nature of YPEI. Excitement for the work we do, and endless support for everyone who walks through the door.

My ‘chosen field’ is very niche. Ask Google for ‘prison reform jobs’ and the results do not look promising for someone just graduating. But that’s okay. Because through the fellowship, I learned that all you really need is the drive to reform the corrupt incarceration system. I’ll start off in a job that will help me build the skills needed to end up in prison reform, and I will build my way up to it. Plus, there are a myriad of forms prison reform can take, and I need to explore those. If anything, this fellowship reassured me. It reassured me that getting a career in this line of work is possible, and it helped me realize the steps required are not so straightforward. And that is okay.”


Name: Kat Moon ’24 

Project: Fostering Stronger Network of Community Partners at HAVEN Free Clinic (HAVEN)

Location: New Haven, CT

“As I achieved the goals I set out to complete, the biggest emotion I felt was appreciation for the people around me. None of these accomplishments—whether it is securing grant funding, organizing a sex education workshop, or receiving mentorship from Integrated Refugee & Immigration Services (IRIS)—were solely mine. Instead, they were the accomplishment of HAVEN directors who spent nights writing and revising the application with me, Anjali—my Community Relations and Engagement Committee (CREC) co-chair—who is passionate about reproductive healthcare, and IRIS staff who generously invested their time to mentor students like me and build a network of inter-organizational resources. This summer fellowship has truly humbled me, and I feel more encouraged to reach out to professionals and colleagues to learn about their professional journey and motivations to serve.”


The 2023 Summer Fellows and staff express gratitude to the following partners and alumni who supported these experiences: Yale Alumni Nonprofit Alliance, Yale Club of New Haven, Dr. Peter Muehrer ’82 Fund, Charlotte Foundation, The Rev. Teresa M. Danieley ’98, Jay Dougherty ’71, Hugh R. McCombs ’68, Dr. & Mrs. David L. Warren ’70 M.Div., ’70 M.U.S., and the Dwight Hall Summer Fellows Fund.  

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