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Winter 2002
Volume 39, No. 2
Issue Home

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PCMOnline Editor
Sarah Dolinar


Pomona and the Real World

Pomona's Internship Program offers students real-world experience with a real-world paycheck.

While Amy Bertken ’04 fights rush-hour traffic on her way back to campus from her internship at Flintridge Consulting in Glendale, she sometimes has to remind herself of what she’s learning from the experience. “I know where Glendale is now, and that’s half the battle,” she jokes. “The commute home is the other half.”

Daniel Chen '04

One of approximately 80 students working in various jobs this semester as part of the Pomona College Internship Program, or PCIP, Bertken spends seven hours a week compiling research gathered by her coworkers into a database for the L.A. County schools. Despite the dreaded commute, she says the experience is turning out to be a very positive one.

“This business depends on the interns, and I’ve learned what consulting is about,” she says. “While this program wasn’t one of my first choices, I feel it really has a bearing on the greater concept of what the field of consulting entails.”

She even manages to be philosophical about the long freeway commute. “I made the horrible mistake of checking the box saying I could drive to my internship,” she explains. “I definitely know now that I don’t want to commute. While it’s sort of an escape from the ‘bubble’ of Pomona, it’s just too long of a drive during rush hour. But it definitely is a valid learning experience.”

Of course, not all PCIP internships are at such distant locations. Daniel Chen ’04 has interned at Pomona Valley Hospital in neighboring Pomona for the past three years, working at different times in the hospital’s Family Health Center, Cardiac-Cath Lab and Secure Care Center (Pomona Valley’s version of the ER). This year he’s working with children in the hospital’s Pediatric Center, transporting patients and medications, taking vital signs and assisting doctors in various procedures, among other responsibilities.

“This experience has solidified my desire to be a doctor,” he says. “You have the option to interact with patients, especially in pediatrics. For kids, you’re there to make sure they’re comfortable as patients in the hospital. Getting to know the patient lets them feel like they’re in a friendly area.”

The Pomona College Internship Program was established in 1976 to provide Pomona students with valuable experience in the working world. PCIP is open to students from their first year to their last, though it is most frequently used by juniors and seniors. Best of all, at least from many students’ point of view, the jobs come with real paychecks.

“One of the best things about it is that it is paid,” says Neena Arndt ’03. “I feel like I can go out and get real-world work experience, and not have to work another on-campus job. That’s a big plus.” Arndt—who has held previous internships as an aide in a Claremont elementary school and as a docent at a children’s museum in Pasadena—currently works as a journalist for the Claremont Courier, where she reads press releases and writes a regular summary article. “It’s fairly low-key and informal, but I feel like I’m getting a good idea of how to put together an article and make something interesting to the public, rather than making something interesting to my professor. It’s wonderful to get off campus and communicate with someone who isn’t a student or a professor.”

Like Bertken battling rush-hour traffic, though, students sometimes find that the experience isn’t precisely what they bargained for. But PCIP Coordinator Brian Cross points out that even a bad work experience can be a valuable one if the student learns from it. “While it’s always good to have a positive experience, the primary goal is to have a worthwhile experience and to learn something,” he says.

Cross joined the Career Development Office a mere 13 months ago, but he has already made significant changes in the program—among other things, placing all internship listings on the Web.

“We’ve brought the program into the computer age to make it easier for students to see what opportunities are out there,” he explains. “It also eases the feedback process.”

Today, the program offers approximately 140 internships each semester, about half of which are in areas of non-profit or governmental agencies. “Pomona students naturally tend to gravitate towards these humanitarian-type fields,” Cross notes. “We also have many positions in finance. Pre-meds generally look for the internships at Pomona Valley Hospital.”

He adds, however, that the program is always looking for new internships. “We love to have alumni sponsors who understand the PCIP experience and know about Pomona students. It’s a really great way for alumni to reach out to current Pomona students and help to ease their transition from college to the work world.”

—Antoinette Morales '04

Photo by Andrew Nuibe '04