Income disparity and povertyRacial EqualitySocial Media

Fellow Friday: How to Trend Change

Every summer, the Frank Karel Fellowship places undergraduate students who are first-generation college students and/or represent diverse racial, ethnic and social backgrounds in an eight-week summer internship within the communications team of a carefully selected nonprofit organization. 

The Fellowship honors and advances the legacy of Frank Karel, who established, led and nurtured the field of strategic communications in philanthropy during his 30 years as chief communications officer for the Robert Wood Johnson and Rockefeller Foundations.

Karel believed that racial and ethnic minorities should be better represented in the communications field and that we should be proactive in recruiting and nurturing broader participation and leadership in the advocacy and communications fields.

Throughout their fellowship, the nonprofit offers students guidance, career advice, substantive work assignments, networking and applied experience. This year’s nonprofit hosts included Special Olympics, the Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids and DC Vote.  

In this new series, we hear from the latest cohort of students on their experience as Karel Fellows and what they learned.  This week we are sharing Marcia Puig-Lluch’s post on How to Trend Change.


I can honestly say that this has been one of the most eye-opening summers I’ve ever had. I came into this internship not really knowing what to expect with communications and advocacy appearing in my mind like vague ideas as opposed to concrete, strategic concepts.  As I try to put into words all the things that I have learned, the one thing that really sticks out is how much more there is still out there for me to learn.

I participated in a Twitter storm from 2 to 3 p.m. on July 28 to trend #BlackWomenEqualPay and mark the fact that black women make a mere 64 cents to every white man’s dollar. My contribution to this Twitter storm was through WOW’s (Wider Opportunities for Women) lens of economic security, and how lack of wage equity is one of the reasons why economic insecurity affects the lives of women, families, and, as it compounds, of seniors.Department of Labor

The Twitter storm started out slow. I could see the first tentative tweets appearing intermittently – every two or three minutes. But then the momentum started building up, and the movement started growing. Before I knew it, my Tweetdeck was blowing up – it seemed like every tweet was about #BlackWomenEqualPay, every advocacy group was adding their unique contribution; Representatives, Senators, even the Department of Labor were tweeting about it. But what I thought was most powerful were the individuals who took part in it, who really had nothing to do with the movement except that #BlackWomenEqualPay was their reality. They were living the fact that they were only making 64 cents to a man’s dollar, and having a platform for them to tell their personal stories and participate in this larger conversation is what public interest communications is all about.

And to think I’d never even tweeted before.

Beyond my experience at Wider Opportunities for Women, what I really enjoyed about this fellowship was going to other organizations and hearing about what work they were doing. The organizations that participated in this year’s fellowship were so diverse – the Save the Children Action Network, the Special Olympics and DC Vote, to name just a few. They each covered such a broad range of issues and it was great to see how they were each able to carve their own little niche in the advocacy world. I feel so fortunate to have been able to learn a little bit more about the passionate people that work there and their own personal stories as to how they got into the non-profit world.

I went out for tea with a co-worker the other day, and she told me about the amazing journey she took to get to where she is now. There was one thing she said that I had never heard before and that I loved: the first time she came to D.C. she got Potomac Fever. This city has a particular energy that simply buzzes with a desire to see positive change in the world. I think I might have caught the fever, too. And as I move on to my junior year at American University, I know that I will be taking that energy with me, and that it will motivate me to not only continue working as an advocate (whether professionally or personally is something that only time will tell), but how important it is to be able to communicate effectively in everything that I do.


This post originally appeared on the Frank Karel Fellowship blog.

Marcia Puig-Lluch, a junior at American University, is majoring in International Relations, with a focus on Human Rights and Development.

 The Karel Fellowship is made possible by the generous support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Moriah Fund and public interest communications firms including Burness, Spitfire Strategies, Brodeur and Fenton.

Posted: October 30, 2015