Robins student receives Civic Fellowship, interns with Alvin Ailey American Dance

August 28, 2019
When looking for internships in the non-profit industry last year, Gabriela Telepman, '20, dreamed of interning at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Gabriela Telepman, ’20, has been dancing since she was three years old. And when looking for internships in the non-profit industry last year, she dreamed of interning at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

“I consider the company one of the greatest dance companies in the world,” Telepman said. “I have been interested in pursuing a career in non-profit management for some time now, and this summer I wanted to try my hand at Arts Administration, as it combines my interest in and passion for the performing arts with non-profit service.”

She was accepted into the Ailey internship program for this past summer, and applied through the University of Richmond Civic Fellowship program for students hoping to intern with non-profits. She was the only business student selected for the fellowship.

The Civic Fellowship is a branch of the Richmond Guarantee organized through the Center for Civic Engagement. Students who knew they would be interning at non-profits or government organizations applied for this grant, which involved creating an idea for an research project that would connect the student’s summer internship responsibilities to their academics at Richmond. This was also developed with the help of a faculty mentor whom the applicant had to select, and the application was eventually completed together.

Telepman formed two research questions for her experience at Ailey:

  • To what extent does dance and movement practices give youth populations the tools to work and organize toward social justice?
  • Does the corporate structure of the Ailey organization follow its ideals and mission? Can diversity, inclusion, and equity exist at the same time on the ground level and at the corporate level?

“I not only did my own outside research about dance and social justice, but also applied them to my life at Ailey,” Telepman said. “My role as a civic fellow pushed me to question everything, and be open to criticism where it was needed.”

In addition to her research project, Telepman served as an institutional giving intern in the development department at Ailey.

“I was really interested in this particular role because my central career goal is to connect businesses and communities, and I was able to correspond with corporations that give to Ailey first hand,” Telepman said. “I worked to create grant proposals and submit reports to our funders, researched prospective funders, staffed events like Ailey's Lincoln Center Gala, and analyzed sets of data to draw conclusions about successes and shortcomings of certain projects.”

Her unique combination of business smarts and passion for dance made her perfect for the role, helping her develop her professional skills and explore social justice and diversity in the performing arts industry.

“Thinking critically about how Ailey operated only added to my internship experience, as it allowed me to see every side of things,” Telepman said. “This motivated me to suggest new ideas to my supervisor from time to time, and at the end of my internship, she noted that I had good instincts and intuition, which is positive feedback that I had never heard before.” 

The business administration and Latin American/Iberian studies double major has been studying management at the Robins School, and her time at Ailey confirmed that she wanted to pursue it into the non-profit industry after graduation.

“I loved that I was able to connect my passion for dance to both academics and my career, and solidified the idea that I want to pursue a job in this industry where I can continue to combine my interests after I graduate,” Telepman said. “And on a more personal note, I realized how independent I am, and how prepared I feel to enter life after graduation, which puts my mind at ease.”

Telepman will present the findings from her Civic Fellowship research project this fall at the Civic Fellows Symposium to pinpoint the connections between her internship and the corresponding academic work.