BLOOMINGTON, Ill.— For the 12 students in Illinois Wesleyan University’s Summer Enrichment Program (SEP), Wednesday became their favorite day of the week.
On Wednesdays the students selected for SEP came together to hear guest speakers,
discuss current events and debate questions such as “do women have to possess masculine
characteristics to be considered effective leaders?” Students learned about professional
development from experts and talked about their SEP internships.
SEP is a longtime Illinois Wesleyan program for students of color and was extended
to international students two years ago. The 10-week summer program focuses on academic,
professional and personal growth. Participants complete a paid internship, learn from
formal training workshops and work together on a service project in order to enhance
students’ team building and leadership skills. This year’s theme was “Women at the
Intersections” which complemented Illinois Wesleyan’s annual theme of “Women’s Power, Women’s Justice” for 2016-17.
The program’s highly regarded reputation inspired Ayrren Calhoun '18 to apply. “I
just felt like it would be a really good fit for me,” said Calhoun, noting SEP has
exceeded her expectations.
“It’s a really inspiring and really encouraging program,” said Calhoun, an International
Studies major from Homewood, Ill. She said the group interactions during “SEP Wednesdays”
opened her eyes to varying points of view held by those from different backgrounds
Internships are an important component of the program. An aspiring attorney, Calhoun
interned at local law firm Allison & Mosby-Scott. She secured the position with the
help of her Titan Leadership Program mentor, attorney Matt Majernik ’07. Calhoun said
she’s grateful for the opportunity to get an inside view of a legal practice, but
has also discovered family law is not the area for her. “I just don’t have the heart
for it,” she said of the specialization, “but that’s what the learning experience
is about, determining what you like and what you don’t like and following your passion.”
Students also noted they learned from each other. Emani Johnson ’18 said she recognizes
that her views as a black woman will differ from those of her peers of a different
race, gender or culture. “Everyone has some type of privilege, so it’s been very eye-opening
to hear from other people in acknowledging that privilege, whatever it may be. I like
the fact that we talk openly about those things,” said Johnson, a sociology major
from Berkeley, Ill.
SEP Wednesdays also served as an opportunity for students to lift up each other. On
a recent Wednesday, students were encouraged to give a tap on the shoulder to a peer
who has had an impact on their lives in some way.
For Hunain Anees ’19, a simple tap on the shoulder turned out to be something that
had a tremendous impact on his entire summer. “I was very surprised by the number
of taps I received and I felt very happy about it,” said Anees, an accounting and
economics double major from Karachi, Pakistan. “I later realized we all can make a
change in people’s lives in more ways than we can imagine.”
The 2016 group of SEP participants are:
Hunain Anees’19, accounting and finance double major, Karachi, Pakistan
Anuvrat Baruah’18, economics and financial services double major, New Delhi, India
Cindy Basilio ’17, mathematics major, Streamwood, Ill.
Shravya Bommaveddi ’18, biology major, Bloomington, Ill.
Meri Brown ’18, accounting major, Chicago
Ayrren Calhoun ’18, International Studies major, Homewood, Ill.
Ruby Garcia ’17, Hispanic Studies and educational studies majors, Evanston, Ill.
Guadalupe Hernandez ’18, business administration and computer science double major,
Emani Johnson ’18, sociology major, Berkeley, Ill.
Tung Nguyen ’17, International Studies and political science double major, Hanoi,
Nancy Qu ’17, art major, Changshu, China
Alani Sweezy ’19, philosophy and political science double major, Chicago