Oscar Castillo '19 spent the summer bringing a piece of his childhood to the children of Northern New York through a SLU PIC internship with the North Country Children's Museum.

Emerson Foundation Challenges St. Lawrence’s Public Interest Corps

$250,000 Match Campaign for SLU PIC Kicks Off


Carol Smith

“Challenge” is defined as “a call to take part in a contest or competition.” This fall, “challenge” meets “grant” in a new fundraising initiative launched with the assistance of the Fred L. Emerson Foundation in Auburn, New York. To receive grant funds of $250,000, St. Lawrence must raise matching funds of $250,000 by December 2018. The Emerson Challenge grant offers Laurentians an exciting opportunity to answer the call to action to achieve our ultimate goal: to build  a permanently restricted endowment fund to support the continued growth of the St. Lawrence University Public Interest Corps, or SLU PIC.

SLU PIC was launched by President William L. Fox ’75 during the 2014-15 academic year. His vision was to establish an AmeriCorps-inspired program for St. Lawrence students and recent graduates in order to complete summer internships sponsored by local nonprofit agencies. Since 2015, between five and eight interns have worked each summer to help boost the capacity of already-stretched-to-the-limit North Country organizations, while also developing and applying their problem-solving, research, and leadership skills in meaningful ways. Student responses have been overwhelmingly positive: Applications doubled between 2015 and 2016; participant blog postings describe SLU PIC as having “a tangible personal impact” and that broaden their perspectives and future opportunities; and, one 2017 participant remarked that “my understanding of the world around me has never been so deeply challenged.”

Why take the challenge approach? The underlying rationale is driven by several key factors, including the alignment of the Emerson Foundation’s funding interests with SLU PIC’s mission; the need to build resources to sustain and grow a program that is increasingly important to St. Lawrence and the North Country; and, the ability to spark a sense of urgency among potential donors to reach the funding goal within the relatively short challenge timeframe.

St. Lawrence now seeks to build upon SLU PIC’s success and enhance its potential to contribute to the key aspirational goals of providing guaranteed internships to all students. SLU PIC program coordinators, Director of Career Connections Geoffrey Falen and Associate Director of Student Activities and Leadership Ashlee Downing, envision doubling the number of participating SLU PIC partner organizations, adding year-long post-baccalaureate positions, and extending the geographic scope of the program outside its current 30-minute radius from campus. With the SLU PIC endowment fund jump-started by a generous gift from Laurentian parent Patricia Donovan P’86, meeting the Emerson Foundation Challenge by December 2018 will result in an endowment of more than $600,000 to support the SLU PIC program.

Sponsoring organizations such as the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce are enthusiastic. Executive Director Brooke Rouse ’06, who has hosted SLU PIC student interns for three consecutive summers, commented that she is “extremely thankful for this program. Your students are well prepared, hard-working and talented … Having fresh ideas, creative thinkers, and individuals who are tech savvy and very familiar with social media provides us with opportunities to advance many of our initiatives.”

In addition to the Chamber, 2017 SLU PIC summer interns worked at the Canton Free Library, the Church & Community Program, Renewal House, GardenShare, Deep Root Center, and the North Country Children’s Museum.

A successful conclusion to this initiative could translate to meaningful impact in the North Country. 


The Challenge: Raise $250,000 by December 2018.

Join our efforts to meet the Emerson Foundation Challenge to support SLU PIC.

To make a gift to the SLU PIC Emerson Grant Challenge, please contact:

Tom Pynchon
Vice President of University Advancement
E: tpynchon@stlawu.edu
P: 315-229-5583