Connecticut College Magazine · Fall 2013

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Corrie Searls '14, an art history major from Minneapolis, at the site of her dream internship last summer, Christie's auction house at New York City's Rockefeller Plaza. Photo by Karsten Moran

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Dream Internships

Dream Internships
William Hardy '14 interned with the sales and analytics group at Bloomberg last summer in New York City. he has since accepted a full-time job with the firm upon graduation.

80% of students are taking the College up on an offer almost unheard of in higher education — and it's increasing their employability after graduation

by Amy Martin


To Kelly (Melillo) Sweeting '04, the woman on the 52-foot-high IMAX screen had the best job in the world.

Sweeting, then a high school student, watched captivated as a wetsuit-clad Kathleen Dudzinski, head of the Dolphin Communication Project, swam with wild dolphins and recorded the clicking and whistling sounds they made.

Years later, when Connecticut College career counselor Julia Browne asked Sweeting to imagine an internship that would be perfect for her, she remembered Dudzinski and the dolphins. Unfortunately, the dolphin researcher's website made it clear that her organization wasn't taking research interns. Besides, Sweeting, then a junior majoring in environmental science, was feeling pressure to seek out “real jobs.”

The career counselor encouraged her to reach out to Dudzinski anyway and let the organization know that Connecticut College would fund an internship with a $3,000 stipend.

It worked.

Sweeting contacted Dudzinski and found the dolphin researcher actually was interested in taking on a field intern; she just couldn't afford to fund one. Sweeting ended up spending the summer assisting with the Dolphin Communication Project's research, going out on daily four-hour research trips to record where and when dolphins were sighted and what they were doing. She now works for the organization as a scientist based out of Bimini, a chain of small islands in the Bahamas.

Thousands of dream internships like that have become reality since the College launched its Career Enhancing Life Skills program in 1999, says Browne, now director of the College's career development program. Through the program — known around campus by its acronym, CELS — students attend seven skill-building workshops over their first three years, meet regularly with counselors and qualify for up to $3,000 for a career-related internship or research experience between junior and senior years.

Connecticut College is one of only three colleges in the country that offers all students a funded internship, and it has awarded more than 3,000 in 15 years. This past summer, 318 students — 69 percent of the Class of 2014 — completed College-funded internships. Another 9 percent used their CELS training to land company-paid intern-ships, so they didn't need the College's stipend.

Participating in CELS has become almost a no-brainer because of the generous benefits and because it works. Approximately 80 percent of students choose to take part in the program. In a survey of alumni who participated in the program in the last five years, 9 out of 10 said it helped them find their first job or prepare for graduate or professional school.



'Very desirable to employers'

College-funded internships benefit both students and employers, and in ways that may not be obvious.

Liberal arts students tend to have diverse interests, and that well-roundedness doesn't always align with rigid qualifications for traditional internships. For that reason, CELS counselors encourage students to think beyond advertised internships and pitch their services directly to a company or nonprofit.

At the same time, many smaller companies, nonprofits and government agencies don't have the resources to pay interns.

“The funding makes our students very desirable to employers, especially in today's economy,” says Browne.

Adam Rosenberg '14 parlayed his love of baseball into a jack-of-all-trades internship with the minor-league Connecticut Tigers. The organization is small, so he did everything from make sales calls and run the box office to organizing on-field promotions, preparing the field for game day and even selecting the music to be played during the game.

American studies major Heather Day '09 wanted to intern with a nonprofit organization that would allow her to combine her lifelong love of hip-hop culture with her desire to work with young people who had grown up around or experienced violence. The internship of her dreams also entailed working in New York City, the cultural center for art in America. In researching opportunities, she found eight organizations that used music and art in therapeutic ways. But none advertised internships.

With her career counselor, she composed a cover letter describing her interests and experiences and emailed it to the eight organizations. Of course she also mentioned that the College would provide her with $3,000 for an internship.

Seven of the eight responded and agreed to design an internship for her. She chose Art Start, a New York-based nonprofit that seeks to improve the lives of at-risk youth through art and music.

“I can't imagine my life if I hadn't had the CELS program,” says Day, who now recruits volunteers for the New York City division of Citizens Schools. The nonprofit organization provides staffing and curriculum to extend the school day with enriching activities for middle-school students in low-income districts. Day is also still active with Art Start and this spring expects to earn a Master of Social Work from Fordham University.

Often students are looking to investigate if their major can translate into a career. Corrie Searls '14, an art history major and East Asian studies minor, found what she describes as her “absolute dream internship” last summer at the New York City auction house Christie's. Her work included handling ancient Chinese ceramics and other artwork.

The internship stipend can be used to pay for travel as well as living expenses. That can be a real asset to the nearly 20 percent of students who do College-funded internships abroad.

Paul Dryden '07 says he wanted to find a job in which he could apply his study of Latin American culture and follow his passion for music. The Latin American studies and Hispanic studies double major knew someone who had once worked in public relations in the Latin music business, at Universal Music Argentina, so he emailed the head of press relations there and explained the CELS program to her. She wrote back and offered him a job as her assistant in the Buenos Aires office.

Dryden was thrilled to get the public relations experience and, because his boss spoke only Spanish, the internship doubled as a language immersion. He now works for New York-based ATO Records and Red Light Management, developing marketing strategies for album releases by artists including the Grammy-nominated rock group Alabama Shakes and Mexican guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela.

For many students like Dryden, a College-funded internship reaffirms career dreams. For some, it prompts a rethinking.

Frannie Noble '08, a government major and scholar in the College's Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts (CISLA), was interested in global children's rights. She was initially thrilled to arrange an internship in Mali, West Africa, with the Coalition of African NGOs Working with Children. Her job was to research how the small developing country was implementing the U.N.'s Convention on the Rights of the Child, an international treaty ratified in 1990. She interviewed government representatives and employees of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

She says she learned a lot about policy, but the work left her feeling disconnected from the people she wanted to help. “I learned that I want to work on a big enough level to see change happen but also local enough so that I actually see the kids,” she says.

After graduating, Noble traveled on her own to East Africa to study the care of orphaned and abandoned children. She then worked for Flying Kites, a nonprofit that provides orphaned children in Kenya with residential care in small, family-style homes. This fall she began a master's program in peace, conflict and development at the University of Bradford in West Yorkshire, England.

Making unpaid affordable

Several recent high-profile lawsuits have put unpaid internships under legal scrutiny for not meeting Department of Labor internship criteria. The rules stipulate that, among other things, an internship must benefit the student, and the student must not displace a regular employee. That's put an end to some instances of employers exploiting students for free labor while teaching them nothing. Many legitimate unpaid educational internships do remain. The problem is, students in need of summer income can't afford to take them.

That's where the College's stipend can help.

The Christie's auction house intern, Searls, is from Golden Valley, Minn., a suburb of Minneapolis. She needed the $3,000 for airfare and short-term room and board in New York.

Jamie Gross '14, an environmental science major from Carnelian Bay, a northern California town of about 500 people, wanted to work at a zoo and educate visitors about the animals and the importance of protecting their habitats. But there were no zoos near her home town. The Philadelphia Zoo offered an environmental-education and animal-behavior internship, but it was 2,700 miles away and unpaid. Her CELS stipend helped cover her living expenses.

After completing their internships, CELS participants are required to write a paper reflecting on what they learned, what they liked and didn't, how the experience related to their studies on campus, and how it related to their career goals. The papers are designed to get students thinking about post-graduation plans. They also give students practice articulating the skills they acquired, a kind of rehearsal for future job interviews.

Although some internships lead to permanent job offers, the majority do not. The reason? It's often the same as for why the organizations don't offer paid internships in the first place: Many are small companies and nonprofits that don't hire in large numbers.

But turning the internship into a permanent job isn't the primary goal of the program anyway, the program's leaders say.

“The real benefit of the program is that students can tailor their experience to their interests, they learn hard skills like resume- and cover-letter writing and interview techniques, they gain real experience in their fields and they have an opportunity to network,” Browne says. “They are well prepared to search not only for their first jobs but for the rest of their careers.”

That's one of the key differences between a career services office one would find at a large university and one at a liberal arts college, where students are taught to think more broadly and imaginatively and follow their talents and dreams. Connecticut College's funded internships reinforce those impulses by underwriting them. And it makes a difference.

Sweeting, the 2004 alumna captivated by dolphin research after watching an IMAX film in high school, now manages all of the Dolphin Communication Project's research at the Bimini site and analyzes interactions between the local Atlantic spotted and bottlenose dolphins. Part of her job is to educate the public about the work she does. She says she often talks to high school and college students and always mentions her Connecticut College experience and how her CELS internship got her to where she is today.

“It took my life in a direction I otherwise wouldn't have been able to explore,” she says. “People in my life were telling me to 'be realistic.'… Without this internship, I might have listened to them.”

Amy Martin is manager of media relations at Connecticut College.


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They've got friends

In some cases, having a CELS career counselor becomes a little like having OnStar, the wireless vehicle-assistance service. Help is just a click or a phone call or a few keystrokes away.

One student admitted that her CELS counselor was second on her cell phone's most-dialed list, behind only her mother.

Another, Will Hardy '14, found he needed to condense his two-page resume into one page to apply for a job, and he had only 24 hours to do it. He emailed his counselor, Cheryl Banker '06, even though he knew she was on vacation. She got back to him with advice within an hour, he said. And he got the job.

Many alumni say they have stayed in touch with their CELS counselors. Post-graduation counseling is not part of the program, but it happens on a personal level because of the strong bonds that form.

Four years after she earned her degree, Frannie Noble '08 said she called her counselor to discuss her candidacy for a Rotary Peace Fellowship, which covers tuition and all expenses for graduate school. She got it and recently began a master's program in England.

Matt Frackelton '04 credits his counselor, Julia Browne, with helping him land his job as a scientist traveling the world for ARCADIS, an environmental consulting company. Among other assistance, she helped him develop a resume, conducted a mock job interview with him and eventually helped negotiate compensation.

Browne was more than a counselor, he said.

“She was a friend, and a wonderful resource for helping with the transition from Conn to the real world.”


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A sampling of past funded-internship destinations

Corporate
UBS
Pfizer Inc.
Wells Fargo Advisors
Pepsi-Cola North America
Staples, Inc.
Merrill Lynch
Fidelity Investments

Government & Politics
The White House
U.S. House of Representatives
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of Commerce
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Elizabeth Warren for Senate

International
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
Embassy of Pakistan
Rwanda Women Network
Peace Corps
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
China Population and Development Research Center
Operation Crossroads Africa
Ernst & Young
Vietnam Ltd.

Media
CBS News
CBS Sports
ABC News
MTV
Condé Nast
Food Network
Marie Claire Magazine
Scholastic
Vogue
Rolling Stone Magazine
Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia

Fashion
The Donna Karan Company
Jimmy Choo
Polo Ralph Lauren
Vera Wang
A|X Armani Exchange

Entertainment & Sports
Paul Taylor Dance Foundation
American Ballet Theatre
Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company
Sony Pictures Entertainment
New Line Cinema
Columbia Records
Scott Rudin Productions
The Ellen DeGeneres Show
Boston Celtics
Pittsburgh Pirates
Philadelphia Phillies
United States Olympic Committee

Charities/Philanthropy
Make-A-Wish Foundation
The Rockefeller Foundation
Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind
Education & Research
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Smithsonian Institution Arctic Studies Center
Massachusetts General Hospital
Center for Hispanic Policy & Advocacy

Museums & Public Venues
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
Bronx Zoo
New York Botanical Garden
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Smithsonian Institution Archives of American Art
New York Public Library


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