Diversity and inclusion has always been a key element of the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts’ programming. In 1999, Wolf Trap expanded its commitment in this area by incorporating diversity initiatives into its internship program.
“In any industry—but especially one that touches so many different cultures and ages—it is imperative to have people around who can offer different ideas, backgrounds, and points of view,” says Cate Bechtold, Wolf Trap’s assistant director, internships and community programs.
“Wolf Trap believes that all individuals should have the opportunity to succeed. By offering professional development events focused on inclusion and acceptance, we are educating the next generation of professionals in the hopes that they will carry the important lessons learned with them to their next internship or job.”
The initiatives continue to evolve. Wolf Trap’s current diversity initiatives were implemented in summer 2014 to be inclusive of students of all underrepresented ethnicities as well as of students who demonstrate financial need. These initiatives are the:
- Multicultural Diversity Initiative—Wolf Trap’s Multicultural Diversity Initiative support’s promising young professionals, including those from cultural or ethnic backgrounds underrepresented in arts management.
- Economic Diversity Initiative—This initiative provides a stipend to offset the cost of housing and transportation for eligible students who qualify for financial aid at their college or university; this gives them with the opportunity to gain valuable professional work experience and expand their resume without the burden of financial constraints. If selected, these students receive a $5,000 award paid biweekly over the course of their internship.
Wolf Trap offers part-time internships during the spring and fall, and full-time internships each summer. Major support for the Wolf Trap Internship Program is provided by the Rubenstein Next Generation Initiative, with additional support provided by the Anthony and Beatrice Welters Family.
The number of interns varies depending on the year and the foundation’s needs, but, on average, Wolf Trap has five fall interns, 10 spring interns, and 20 summer interns. From 2014 to 2016, the foundation saw a 72 percent increase in the number of applicants for its internship program’s diversity initiatives.
“This shows that there is a need for economic assistance and that our industry is continuing to diversify, which is our ultimate goal,” Bechtold notes. “I set very intentional goals in regards to recruiting and hiring numbers for each of the initiatives, and am only looking to continue to expand as we move forward.”
Bechtold explains that Wolf Trap’s Economic Diversity Initiative has a very clear measurable outcome: Those who apply for the program and receive the stipend simply wouldn’t be able to participate without it.
“Knowing that Wolf Trap is able to provide an invaluable experience to a student who might not otherwise have been able to participate is extremely fulfilling,” she says. “Their Wolf Trap internship could potentially be the reason that they land their dream job and it was made possible by receiving that stipend.”
The Multicultural Diversity Initiative, however, is harder to measure, Bechtold says.
“This is for the simple fact that, while interns are here, they are expected to be mindful of differing backgrounds, ideas, and opinions,” she says. “However, the true test is when they leave Wolf Trap and either return to school or begin their career. We instill in them a mindset of acceptance, and can only hope that they carry that with them and share those opinions and beliefs with their peers and colleagues.”
Bechtold said these diversity initiatives are important to Wolf Trap, the students who participate in them, the arts community, and beyond.
“Wolf Trap values its commitment to diversity and knows the arts have the power to change society,” she says. “I feel that an inclusive workplace is one that succeeds. That mentality needs to be embraced, not just by hiring managers and senior-level executives, but also by the interns who will eventually be in those leadership roles in the future. If in 12 weeks, I can instill in the young professionals that their opinions, ideas, and beliefs matter just as much as the next person’s, I can feel like I’m helping to cultivate a more thoughtful generation of employees who will be accepting and, ultimately, more successful.”