Pomona Launches Summer Internship Program
Recent Pomona graduates are finding the work experience they’ve gained from internships during their college years offers more than a leg up in launching their careers. In today’s exceptionally tough job market, internships have become an essential addition to their portfolios. “It’s no longer enough to work in an ice cream parlor over the summer,” says Nate Brown ’12, president of the Associated Students of Pomona College. “More and more employers have a requirement of past experience in industry-specific settings.”
The College hopes to expand its summer internship program so that along with that program, the Summer Undergraduate Research Program, and community involvement at the Draper Center, “Every student will have at least one significant summer experience”—one that the student will also be paid for, says Iris Gardner ’09, the internship coordinator in Pomona’s Career Development Office.
Alumna Kristin Horne ’93 believes strongly in the value of such experiences: “Encouraging more unique internship opportunities really helps kids figure out what they want to do after school.”
Horne, an economics and mathematics major who became a founding partner in a private equity firm, has donated the money to fund an annual internship for women students. With Horne’s assistance, Courtney Powers ’12 was able to work in a healthcare clinic last summer, using economic cost-benefit analysis to help solve some of the problems facing the clinic.
“That’s the kind of thing that’s very hard to replicate in a school environment—applying math and economics to a real world situation,” Horne says.
Pomona has a long history of providing such opportunities. Since 1976, its internship program has paid students to work five to 10 hours a week during the semester for employers throughout Southern California. The summer will allow more students to take challenging internships in places much farther afield.
The new program is “a more enriched experience,” says Gardner. “We want the summer to be 40 hours a week for at least six weeks,” she says.
Last year, 60 students applied for the summer program. Because of funding limitations, only eight were chosen. The funding is crucial because many internships, particularly in fields such as education, don’t pay. “It’s difficult to find jobs working with children that will pay you if you don’t have any sort of professional training,” says Emily Miner ’12.
Miner, an English and sociology major, received funding through a gift from George Billman ’77 to work at Upward Bound in western Massachusetts, teaching and mentoring disadvantaged high school students. Without such help, Miner wouldn’t have been able to live away from her home in suburban Chicago, gaining valuable experience in her chosen career field. “It did a lot to shape my ideas about teaching. I’d never gotten the chance to work in such an independent, hands-on way, to discover my own methodology,” says Miner, who will join Teach for America after graduation.
Often, the most rewarding internships are far from home, in cities with high costs of living, such as Washington, D.C.
“Internships are absolutely essential if you want a job after graduation on the Hill,” says Brown, a politics major who spent a summer working in the office of Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut. Allowing students to take on unpaid or low-paying internships greatly increases the opportunities available, Gardner says: “It may not be exactly what you want to do, in exactly the right city, but any organization is willing to take on an unpaid intern if they have the time to train them.”
Although student interns often gain incalculable benefits from their time working in the field, in some nascent industries, interns also can forge new paths. Jonah Raduns-Silverstein ’13 has traveled this road. A recipient of the Kevin Unck Memorial Internship, established by the Jenzabar Foundation, he worked the past summer for JukeboxU, an Internet video recommendation service.
For Raduns-Silverstein, a media studies major, it wasn’t a matter of learning at the knee of a veteran, but of helping to create a business from the ground up. Although he started out performing rather basic functions, “by the end of the summer, I was the one training interns and rewriting the manual,” he says. Raduns-Silverstein plans to work for Jukebox through the next year and past graduation.
The value of interns as future employees cannot be underestimated. A survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers recently reported that 67 percent of summer interns received a full-time job offer.
Reza Zafari ’82, a managing director of investments at Merrill Lynch and Pomona trustee, has been using interns from the College for the past 10 years at his firm.
“We try to mentor, but it just doesn’t stop there. The best way to hire analysts is by taking a close look at them, much more than what you would get during a half-hour interview on a campus,” Zafari explains. Zafari and his colleagues give the interns various projects during the course of the summer, monitor their progress and see whether they can work with the team: “By the end of the summer, we have enough data points to see if they should be considered for full-time employment.”
Last summer, of three interns who were working at the firm, two were hired permanently, Zafari says. “This is a two-way street. As an alumnus and a trustee, I have an interest in helping Pomona students. But I also realize the ability of Pomona students and the value of a liberal arts education. They can think and they can communicate. I know the product is superior.”
This article was originally published in the Pomona College Campaign Journal. To learn more about Campaign Pomona: Daring Minds or to help fund future internship opportunities, please visit our Campaign site.