Recent Grad Fostering a Culture of Helping Others

portrait of a woman in front of spring flowers

An internship in Washington, D.C., gave recent graduate Zeria Cummings a taste of what the capitol city has to offer and now she is looking to return to work for City Year, an organization that partners with public schools in high-poverty communities to help increase graduation rates and to bridge the gap between the support students need and what their schools have the resources to provide. City Year is a highly selective organization, only 2,700 participants are selected worldwide.  

“The work I’ll be doing with City Year will be challenging, which makes me equal parts nervous and excited, but I’m ready to begin this challenge because I know it will be nothing but rewarding,” said Cummings, who will begin training with City Year on July 25.

Before joining City Year, Cummings, who graduated in May with a BA in Humanities-Pre-Law, interned last summer with the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C., an independent, nonpartisan policy institute dedicated to improving the lives of all Americans. Cummings worked in their development department where she researched prospective donors, drafted briefings for donor events, and updated donor files.

a women in yellow blouse standing proudly in front of the Center for American Progress sign

“I learned about donors, different research, trying to find different donors for different policy teams. I thoroughly enjoyed it,” she said. “I also learned about the different issue areas that I could be involved with and that made me think about what I wanted to do after I graduate.”

Her goal is to eventually have a career in law dealing with issues of women’s rights, poverty, and community development.

Cummings, who is from Kentwood, Michigan, said she decided to come to MSU because she wanted to attend a large university.

“My high school was very large and was extremely diverse, and I wanted that same thing when I went to college,” she said.

When she first came to MSU, Cummings was a Political Science-Pre-Law major, but later changed to Humanities-Pre-Law. 

“I changed my major because I wanted a more holistic view on the world, and I wanted more of a humanitarian aspect to my studies,” she said. “I also got to choose from a plethora of different classes. I got to take a lot of classes in global studies and sociology in addition to pre-law courses.”

I changed my major because I wanted a more holistic view on the world, and I wanted more of a humanitarian aspect to my studies.

But by far, Cummings said her favorite classes were the Global Studies courses. 

“The Global Studies program is really small itself, so you know everyone in it and it’s also super engaging and there’s a lot of different readings that you do,” she said.

However, some of her most educational experiences came outside the classroom. Besides her internship, Cummings was an Intercultural Aide for the Office of Cultural and Academic Transitions, Public Relations Director for TEDxMSU, a Tour Guide for the Residence Education and Housing Services Outreach Office, and a member of the Multi-Racial Unity Living Experience (MRULE).

a big group of students standing behind a big TED and MSU sign

“During my time at MSU, the biggest highlights for me were becoming an Intercultural Aide, having my internship in D.C., and definitely being a member of the TEDx community,” she said. 

As an Intercultural Aide, Cummings helped create a space of community within the residence halls and worked to bridge the gap between domestic and international students. Then as the Public Relations Director for TEDxMSU, she oversaw all the social media and worked to promote the event.

“I attended the first TEDxMSU conference in 2015, and I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of,” Cummings said. “I had never done anything with public relations before, but I wanted to be in a role within the board of directors because I wanted to share that passion that I have for TED and all that it accomplishes, and what it brings to different people, and how it inspires people.

It took me to my fourth year to find what passion actually feels like.

“Aside from learning what public relations is, I definitely got a feel for what actual passion is. Being able to put all of my time and energy into something and see a final product and be extremely happy with it is something I didn’t think I was ever going to feel. I think that is something people should try to strive for. You may never find it in your first couple years. It took me to my fourth year to find what passion actually feels like.”

Now that Cummings has graduated, she offers this piece of advice to incoming freshmen: “Take heed of all of the opportunities that are here. MSU is a really large campus with a lot of opportunities and if you blink you could miss something.”