By Katelyn Jacobson
Campus News Reporter

In the face of UC-wide fee hikes and state budget crunches, a handful of Santa Cruz students are gearing up for a year of classes and free tuition from Chancellor George Blumenthal.

The Chancellor’s Undergraduate Internship Program (CUIP) has been active on campus for 15 years, employing students at a variety of campus internships. It is intended to give greater professionalism and job experience to 33 students on the verge of entering the workforce.

Barbara Silverthorne has been the principal coordinator of CUIP since its conception.

“The administration … really wanted to incorporate students in some of the decision-making, or at least have the students at a professional level in different units,” Silverthorne said. “They’re learning what it takes to get things done on campus.”

She cited examples of student involvement, such as the request for food and WiFi in McHenry Library. She said that the TAPS bus route is the legacy of past CUIP interns, whom CUIP folklore has credited with suggesting that the buses run in both directions around campus.

Upon acceptance into the program, students are required to sign up for a two-unit companion class taught by William Ladusaw, vice provost and dean of undergraduate education.

The course is accompanied by lectures from the UCSC administration, and grants students a forum for discussion as well as a chance to reflect on their work.

Blumenthal and Vice Chancellors David Kliger and Tom Vani will be the first three guest speakers in the star-studded CUIP roster, using the university as an example of what it is to be a professional in a large institution.

“They get to learn how the university works, which is a great opportunity in terms of their own career development,” Silverthorne said, “and to look at how what they’re doing fits into the bigger picture of any institution they’re working in.”

Blumenthal personally welcomed students at CUIP’s first class, introducing himself and his job to interns. He ended with a question-and-answer period, commenting briefly on the Long Range Development Plan, and letting interns know that he was available for any future concerns.

Katie Ruffman is a CUIP intern this year. She works out of the Career Center with the hopes of improving the quality of the course itself.

“It’s such an amazing opportunity,” Ruffman said. “We’re working in these organizations and then we get to meet the people who actually fund them, and we can use them as resources if something needs to be changed. If I need to ask about something, I know who to go to and how to talk to them.”

UCSC and CUIP alumna Connie Kehn worked in nonprofit organizations during her time as a campus intern.

“It’s a really good halfway point between real-world jobs — where you’re held accountable, and people expect you to already know what you’re doing — and no experience at all,” Kehn said.

In the past, CUIP interns’ compensation has equaled the annual tuition, a sum close to $9,000.

But with budget cuts abounding, there is a chance that the program will run into financial speed bumps.

“The fees, of course, have gone up over the years, and I do believe we are going to have to cap it this year,” Silverthorne said. “We have a tough choice to make: Do we limit further the number of students that can participate, or lower compensation amounts for everyone?”

CUIP currently requires that students work no more than five hours at an outside job, in light of the mandatory 450 hours earmarked for their internships. With an impending change in financial distribution, those who rely on the program as a much-needed source of financial aid may be shortchanged.

Second-year Michelle Garza, a social justice programming and coordinating intern, cited the liberal income as a big bonus that allowed her parents to get back on their feet after financial difficulties. Garza, who said she is putting in 15 hours on top of her schoolwork, is scared by the possibility of reduced income for interns.

“I’d probably still do it just for the experience, but that definitely could sway people to not apply,” Garza said. “In a few weeks we’re meeting the person who manages budget cuts, and I think it’s going to be a hard class to sit through.”