Three days per week this semester, Chris DeFilippi ’14 is not making the short drive from his Staten Island home to the Wagner campus for classes.
Instead, the senior major in government and politics gets dressed up and boards a Manhattan-bound express bus at 8 a.m. to arrive at the office of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation on 125th Street in Harlem by 10 a.m.
A huge international nonprofit founded by President Bill Clinton, the Clinton Foundation employs about 65 interns at its offices and initiatives in New York City. DeFilippi was placed in the scheduling department — a position so privileged that he can’t share any details about it with Wagner Magazine’s readers. Suffice it to say, as DeFilippi points out, that “it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work for a former president.” Besides doing a steady stream of scheduling work in the office, he gets to attend special events, like the closing ceremonies of the latest Clinton Global Initiative meeting, featuring speeches by Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton; and a seminar with the former president, held especially for the interns.
DeFilippi sees this internship as an important training ground for his career path. “I wanted to take what I’ve learned here [at Wagner] — leadership skills, communication skills — and apply them to a nonprofit. The Clinton Foundation is the biggest nonprofit in New York City.” (In addition, the foundation has a strong connection to Wagner College through Laura Graham ’95, who has served with Bill Clinton since his White House days and is now his senior advisor to global programs.)
Why nonprofits? That’s been an evolution of DeFilippi’s interests. It started in his First-Year Learning Community about dissenting voices in literature and politics. He read Liberian literature and worked in the African Refuge Center located near the Wagner campus, where a large Liberian immigrant community lives.
Then, as a sophomore, he took Feminist Political Theory with Professor Patricia Moynagh. The seminar-style, discussion-driven class was so engaging, and the ideas so inspiring, that he has made the women’s equality movement his personal focus. As a gay man who just recently came out, he identifies with women’s struggles to gain a voice in society. To that end, he has been working this semester for another nonprofit with strong Wagner connections, the women’s leadership organization Take The Lead, co-founded by former Planned Parenthood Federation President Gloria Feldt and investment banker Amy Litzenberger, whose husband is Robert Litzenberger ’64. DeFilippi is building the group’s social media presence.
“That’s what I do in my spare time — the very little of it,” he says wryly.
Back on campus, he meets with his Senior Learning Community’s capstone seminar and Reflective Tutorial, where all of his fellow senior majors in government and politics as well as international affairs discuss their internships and work on their senior theses. DeFilippi is writing about the garment industry in Bangladesh, compared with sweatshops in New York City as well as in Milan, where he studied abroad last year.
“That’s what I like about the Wagner Plan. Through my learning communities and also being abroad, I found out there’s a lot that could be done in the nonprofit sector, and it could bring about great change, with more and more people getting involved.”
READ MORE IN 'BACK TO CLASS'
During the fall semester of 2013, we set out to see what's happening on the Wagner campus to prepare students for the future. We found a lot of evidence that Wagner students are getting the most out of the college experience, whether they are in class, in labs, in the city, or abroad.
- Emerging Global Health Concerns — First-Year Learning Community
- Exploring the Cosmos — Intermediate Learning Community
- International Immersion — The Center for International Studies Abroad
- Developing a Voice — Senior Learning Community in Philosophy
- Liberally Educated, Professionally Prepared — What Employers Want