Tumelano Gopolang '08 Interned with Trinity University's Haiti Program
Topic of Research Was Uses and Delivery of Economic Aid
By Lisbeth Redfield
September 6, 2006
Tumelano Gopolang '08 (Orapa, Botswana) spent her summer chasing money. As an intern with the Trinity University Haiti Program in Washington, D.C., Gopolang researched the uses and delivery of economic aid pledged to Haiti in 2004.
Gopolang was not only employed in a highly competitive internship, but also one of 13 Hamiltonians who received college funding to conduct her internship. Thanks to generous gifts from alumni and parents, Hamilton students can apply for funding to support them while they work in a field of interest with an organization that cannot pay them.
Though Gopolang worked in what is known as an "unpaid internship," she received money from Hamilton's Joseph F. Anderson Internship Fund, given in honor of a 1944 Hamilton graduate who served the college for 18 years as vice president for communications and development. The fund in his name provides individual stipends to support full-time internships for students wishing to expand their educational horizons in preparation for potential careers after graduation.
Directed by Dr. Robert Maguire, the Haiti Program runs out of Trinity University and is committed to gathering and disseminating up-to-date information about Haiti. Gopolang did not know a much about Haiti going into the project, but she was interested by Haiti's current economic status, pointing to the "huge contrast" between the U.S. and Haiti.
Gopolang's task was to understand the problems which had created Haiti's current economy, how other countries had offered to help, and how to fix these problems. In 2004, a number of groups such as the E.U., USAID, Canada, the World Bank, and the U.N. offered aid to Haiti. Gopolang was interested in what had happened in the two years after the meeting: the amounts pledged, what it was used for, and how much had actually been given to Haiti.
She worked by herself and was advised by Maguire, with whom she met once a week to discuss her findings and "roadblocks." "I've learned to work by myself," she explained, "[and] to be independent." She also learned how to deal with rampant bureaucracy, inconsistent fund reporting, out-of-date press releases and other frustrations.
A double major in economy and biology, Gopolang had been deeply interested in issues of economic development since taking a class with Visiting Assistant Professor of Economics Richard Stahnke. She found out about the Haiti Program from a friend who worked there during his stay with Hamilton's semester in Washington. Gopolang, who ought to know, said that networking was one of the most important aspects in the work world.
As advice to future interns, Gopolang recommended "keeping your options open: even if you think you're overreaching yourself, go out and try." She also emphasized the importance of spending time on applications and interviews. "You need to put in a lot of effort."
On the Hill, Gopolang is a member of the Gospel Choir, the West Indian and African Students Association, and the Black Students Union. She is also a multi-cultural ambassador for the Admissions Office. After leaving Hamilton, she hopes to attend graduate school to study economic development, possibly with an emphasis on health issues.
- Lisbeth Redfield