Summer in the Heartland: Reflections on Tulsa

by Susie Pentelow, Communications Coordinator
March 11, 2019

In recent years, American universities have opened satellite campuses in exotic places. Yale in Singapore. NYU in Abu Dhabi. Cornell in Qatar. And soon, Brown in … Tulsa?

Why not? says Ken Levit ’87, executive director of the Tulsa-based George Kaiser Family Foundation, whose driving ambition is to reverse the generational cycle of poverty, focusing on very young children and families. “I thought we ought to be a real magnet for Brown students, given their dynamism and their commitment to social justice and service,” he says.

- Sarah C. Baldwin, “Straight to the Heartland,” The Watson Institute

Launched in 2018, the Brown in Tulsa Kaiser Fellowship Program provides up to seven undergraduate Brown University students with an 8-week summer internship opportunity in Tulsa, where they explore and engage with issues affecting the region. 

Alongside the Watson Institute, who launched a separate, yet parallel fellowship for two Master of Public Affairs (MPA) students, the Swearer Center's program provides undergraduate students with the opportunity to engage meaningfully with organizations in the region. Students spend the duration of the fellowship interning at nonprofit agencies in Tulsa, where they gain valuable exposure to the intersection of policy, philanthropy, and community engagement.

According to Jennifer Romano, the Swearer Center’s Associate Director of Academic Engagement, students get “not only hands-on experience, but also learning experiences from mentors who are committed to ensuring their work is positive and meaningful. The staff at the foundation really want to make sure Brown students have a wonderful experience. It’s personal to them. Tulsa’s their home.”   

This was certainly true for Connor Sullivan '20, who participated in the program in Summer 2018. Sullivan, a History and Economics concentrator, was placed with Birth through Eight Strategy for Tulsa (BEST), who work with families in Tulsa two provide a continuum of support in order to give children a healthy start and break the cycle of inter-generational poverty. “My organization gave me a lot of autonomy in my work and research,” said Sullivan of his experience. “The Brown in Tulsa program afforded me the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live in a fun, vivacious city with other students.”

Applications for the Summer 2019 Brown in Tulsa Kaiser Fellowship Program cohort are due March 21. To find out more, visit the Brown in Tulsa Kaiser Fellowship Program page on our website. Students can attend an information session on March 12, 2019, at 12 p.m. at the Swearer Center to find out more. This fellowship is made possible by the generous support of the George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF).

Portions of this article are excerpted with permission from Sarah C. Baldwin’s article "Straight to the Heartland," published by The Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University on March 7, 2018.