Carnegie Mellon University
September 09, 2020

Dietrich College Interns Help Local Organizations Blossom

By Cameron Monteith

Three Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences students helped to raise nearly $4,000 for a local nonprofit this summer through their involvement in the the college’s Pittsburgh Summer Internship Program (PSIP).

Tanvi Siddharthan, a junior pursuing a degree from the Institute of Politics and Strategy, spent the summer as an intern at the consulting firm Paramount Pursuits. This was Siddharthan’s first internship experience.

“What drew me to PSIP initially was how strong the support system was with there being multiple seminars and a supervisor that allowed for a point of reference if there was any trouble,” Siddharthan said. ”It was super helpful.”

Kimberly Piatt, the PSIP program manager, explains the importance of the program in providing students the opportunity to gain experience within their fields.

“This program is designed to play an integral part in our students’ education,” Piatt said. “The skills learned and confidence gained through experiential learning, coupled with ongoing support and structured professional development opportunities, have allowed us to establish a program that is shown to have significant impact on the future success of Dietrich College students.”

At the beginning of the PSIP process, Siddharthan and two other students were matched with Paramount Pursuits. The firm focuses on developing local, minority-owned businesses and the idea of main street revitalization in small towns.

Jonathan Roman, a junior pursuing a degree from the Department of Statistics & Data Science, was another Paramount Pursuits intern. He describes the firm as one focused on the good of a community over personal gain.

“At Paramount Pursuit’s core, they are a small business focused on helping other small businesses,” Roman said. “All of their clients are either single business owners or local community leaders in small towns to organize community events. [Paramount Pursuits] really are Pittsburgh lovers at heart.”

The interns at Paramount Pursuits focused on helping clients manage their businesses’ media presences. This could be through physical fliers and advertisements, to a group’s online presence, to other companies and the public through social media.

Rebecca Kim, a student pursuing a degree in Ethics, History, and Public Policy and the third intern at Paramount Pursuits, began to understand how different media was used based on the generation of an individual.

“I really appreciated that people communicate differently [whether] because of different personalities or through technology,” Kim said. “Visual marketing is important today when we practically speak through pictures because of social media.”

One significant accomplishment of the Paramount Pursuits interns was directly related to the nonprofit client named Soil Sisters. The mission of the Soil Sisters is to help local communities become self-sufficient in growing their own produce and to provide more overall access to fresh farmed goods.

Raynise and Taray Kelly run Soil Sisters. Photo courtesy of Raynise and Taray Kelly.

Roman describes the impact Soil Sisters already had on the local Pittsburgh community.

“The Soil Sisters is a relatively recent company, starting only six or seven months ago, and is really well-established,” Roman said. “I would talk to customers at my other job and most had recognized and had already bought goods from them.”

After becoming a client of Paramount Pursuits, the Soil Sisters planned to run a summer camp introducing farming and gardening techniques geared towards younger children in the city.

The interns helped to develop and grow the presence of the Soil Sisters through advertising on Instagram and developing fliers that showcased the best way to care for certain seedlings.

With the interns’ help, the Soil Sisters began to ask for donations to operate the summer camp using a button on the company’s website. Within a matter of weeks, they raised about $4,000.

soil-sisters-button.jpgImage courtesy Jonathan Roman

Following the stream of donations, the Soil Sisters were able to operate the camp for free for a larger number of children.

Kim was especially touched by the impact the Soil Sisters are making through their summer camp and their larger mission.

“They really are making a huge impact for these kids,” Kim said. “They’re teaching the kids about the land while helping out these areas located within food deserts, where someone’s next meal might come from the dollar store.”

The Soil Sisters anticipates expanding efforts of community gardens and self-sufficiency, and Paramount Pursuits is looking forward to helping small businesses and small towns in their efforts to develop economically and independently.

Siddharthan expressed that the greatest lesson she learned from her experience with PSIP is how to be resourceful.

“A lot of what I’ve had to learn is how to think on my feet and how to figure things out without being told to — to act on my own,” Siddharthan said.