Graduating Politics & Society Major Gets Real-World Cultural Experience at Local Internship

Graduating Politics & Society Major Gets Real-World Cultural Experience at Local Internship

by Kassidy Taylor

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Politics & Society major Chad Cowan, right, chats with his internship supervisor Lenette Peterson, executive assistant at the Turkish Cultural Center New Hampshire.

Chad Cowan will graduate from UNH Manchester this month. And, armed with practical and cultural experience through an internship at the Turkish Cultural Center New Hampshire, he’s ready for the future.

Cowan, a Politics & Society major, began interning at the Turkish Cultural Center New Hampshire (TCCNH) in January as part of his senior project. His main focus throughout the internship has been a water well project in Kenya, which Cowan has essentially helped to manage—from making contacts to fundraising. He said the skills he’s learning at his internship will translate seamlessly into a career.

“I ideally want to do something with project management,” Cowan said. “That’s talking to people, making calls, making meetings. Interning here has prepared me for that, and for the business world.”

The Turkish Cultural Center New Hampshire is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization that advocates for Turkic Americans and promotes cross-cultural awareness through educational and cultural activities. From Turkish coffee nights to community Friendship Dinners, film screenings to visits to Turkic countries, the TCCNH aims to promote respect and understanding among all cultures and faiths.

Lenette Peterson, TCCNH executive assistant and Cowan’s supervisor, said the organization exposes interns like Cowan to a new culture.

“Most New England kids only know New England, and anything outside of that can seem scary,” Peterson said. “This forces you out into the community—and Manchester is a diverse community. It’s good to get them out of their comfort zone.”

The TCCNH supports charity and relief efforts for more than just Turkic Americans—endeavors like Cowan’s water well project demonstrate the scope of involvement. In partnership with the humanitarian aid group Embrace Relief, the TTCNH’s latest efforts bring fresh water to areas that don’t have access to it.

Peterson said they began this project last fall with a well in Uganda dedicated to the memory of James Foley, the New Hampshire-raised journalist who was killed by the terrorist group ISIS last summer. She said the project was an overwhelming success, and a lasting tribute to Foley’s memory.

“The well brought water to thousands of people that had to walk, I think, five miles to get water,” Peterson said. “And every time they get water, they see James’ name.”

Cowan said his involvement with African well projects and local Turkic events has really opened his eyes to the need for cultural acceptance and understanding on a global scale.

“What has really solidified through this internship is that people aren’t that different,” Cowan said. “We have different traditions and customs, but that doesn’t make us that different. We can all get along.”

After graduating from Pinkerton Academy, Cowan decided to pursue civil engineering at University of New Hampshire’s Durham campus. Cowan said he was sitting in a math class his sophomore year when he realized, “I don’t want to do this at all.”

Cowan said he was always interested in world issues and how the government works, so he was drawn to the Politics & Society program at UNH Manchester. With renewed focus, Cowan enrolled.

“I originally chose Politics & Society to get more educated in world issues,” Cowan said. “But then kind of developed by own sense of the world.”

Cowan said his internship at TCCNH not only developed practical skills—like overcoming his “phone phobia”—but also cross-cultural skills, heightening his awareness and understanding of diversity. Skills, he said, that he’ll carry throughout his personal and professional life.

Students interested in interning at the TCCNH or other local organizations should visit the Internship & Career Planning office, or contact the team at 603-641-4394 or unhm.career@unh.edu.

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