With $3 Million Gift to Drexel, Lenfest Foundation to Fund Student Co-op Jobs in Cultural Nonprofits

Rosalind Remer, founding executive director of the Lenfest Center for Cultural Partnerships.
Rosalind Remer, PhD, vice provost and executive director of the Lenfest Center for Cultural Partnerships.

With a $3 million gift to Drexel University, the Lenfest Foundation will fund paid cooperative education jobs for students in the nonprofit, cultural sector. In recognition of this generous gift, the University will name its Center for Cultural Partnerships in honor of Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest. The Center was established in 2015 to fortify cultural institutions like museums, libraries and historical societies and make their offerings and experiences more accessible to Drexel students.

“We are incredibly grateful to Gerry and Marguerite for their generosity,” said Drexel President John Fry. “This gift will offer Drexel students meaningful, substantive interactions with our community’s cultural sector, while providing cultural organizations with much-needed insight from a young demographic as these organizations consider how to sustain themselves and thrive in the future.” 

Since its founding, the newly named Lenfest Center for Cultural Partnerships has engaged 61 students through special topics classes in partnership with a range of organizations, and provided 20 paid co-op jobs and internships that are awarded to students through an application process. The new gift will allow the Lenfest Center to add eight paid co-op jobs a year for students. The co-op job experience is the cornerstone of a Drexel education and allows students to work full-time for six months in a field that is aligned with their career goals.

Drexel students may have as many as three co-op jobs to help them gain professional job experience before they graduate. Students in positions within the corporate, health sciences, technology and other for-profit centers are traditionally paid between $15,000 to $30,000. However, many co-op positions in the nonprofit sector are unpaid. The gift will make it possible for students interested in these opportunities to earn money on par with their peers in corporate settings, all while providing much needed expertise to cultural organizations.

“Simply visiting a museum or attending an opera is not usually life-changing. But working for employers who steward great art and historical resources, or who mount musical or theatrical productions, has the potential to be,” said Rosalind Remer, PhD, the Lenfest Center’s executive director. “These co-op opportunities are open to all students regardless of their major as we believe they have the power to transform a new generation into tomorrow’s audience members, visitors and leaders. And our nonprofit partners tell us they’re energized by our enthusiastic students who bring with them a fresh outlook.”

Most recently, Paris Gramann, a Drexel student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in social entrepreneurship and product design in the Pennoni Honors College, worked at the Philadelphia Cultural Alliance in a co-op position funded by the Lenfest Center. She curated content for the Phillyfunguide website, and assisted with all aspects of marketing, communications and events.  “I’m getting to be part of so many programs and initiatives at this co-op,” Paris said.

Jennifer Cutler, a history major in the College of Arts and Sciences is enthusiastic about her paid work conducting research on Alexander Hamilton’s Bank of the United States through the Lenfest Center’s partnership with the National Park Service. “This experience has given me a look into exhibit planning that I think very few students are lucky enough to have,” she said. “Being involved with conceptualizing and researching various aspects of an exhibit is an invaluable experience.”

The Lenfest Center has also partnered with the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the African American Museum in Philadelphia, Reading Terminal Market, International House of Philadelphia, National Museum of Industrial History in Bethlehem, the Library Company of Philadelphia, and the National Park Service at Independence National Historical Park, and is exploring new partnerships for the 2017-2018 academic year.

“Providing these students with real work experience in the nonprofit sector is in line with our Foundation’s mission of making sure that young people gain the education, knowledge, skills and opportunities that lead to a fulfilling, productive life in adulthood,” said Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest. “We’re gratified that Drexel has found a unique way to provide that experience, while helping to address the many challenges facing the arts and culture sector in our city.”