One thing a shutdown can’t hold down: students’ visions for their future and their contributions in the workplace. Pomona College students have continued to seek and find remote internships during the COVID-19 pandemic—and alumni are poised to hire.
In the midst of an economic crisis and the side effects of shrinking budgets, alumnus Patrick Pelegri-O’Day ’15, who works for the City of Alameda in Northern California, says interns like Kylie Wong ’22 allowed them to move work forward with more constrained resources, advancing some of the city’s major priorities. Interns worked on social equity mapping tools, policy recommendations, a new climate fund and a website, among other things.
“Pomona interns enabled our team to accomplish much more than we would have without them,” says Pelegri-O’Day.
And the rewards were mutual.
“Each of the interns demonstrated and further developed professional skills that will propel them to success in whatever they pursue next,” he says.
Meta Valentic ’90, consulting producer with Entertainment Media Management, hired three Pomona College interns in the last nine months. And the reason she cites is that they bear the hallmarks of the best kind of liberal arts education.
“Pomona students are mature, great writers and critical thinkers. Pomona students are flexible and willing to learn, so you can use them to help with all kinds of projects. They are proactive with communication and always met the timelines given.”
Lucas Cunningham ’23, who interned with the Los Angeles-based production company, connected with Valentic through a Career Development Office email bulletin. He saw a posting that a Pomona alum was looking for a development intern. Cunningham applied, and Valentic got in touch a few weeks later.
That connection literally paid off. The Pomona College Internship Program (PCIP) offers a generous stipend for rising sophomores, juniors and seniors so that they can learn by way of experience and apply the skills they are gaining in the classroom to jobs in the world outside the College Gates. In the summer of 2020, Pomona awarded 93 PCIPs.
Supported by PCIP funding, Cunningham wrote script and book coverage for the company, which specializes in telling compelling new stories based on real people and events. Working remotely, Cunningham read story proposals and wrote summary reports. He also contributed his opinions regarding how well the stories could be adapted into film or television.
Valentic notes that her Pomona interns are mature, articulate, curious and ambitious. And, despite being students, they operate well in the professional world. The added value is they are a boon for the production company, not only because Valentic’s reading workload is reduced but also because she gains access to fresh perspectives.
Cunningham got some fresh perspective, too.
“It was really fun to read scripts that hadn’t been produced yet, and I learned a lot about what makes good stories good, as well as gaining insight into how I could apply those principles to my own writing,” says Cunningham.
Alumna Valentic has one wish for her company’s interns.
“I hope they hire me when they become the boss!”
Thoughtful. Creative. Pomona students often exhibit those two traits in abundance, which is why Matt Thompson ’96, senior vice president of the investment firm Skyview Capital, says he has hired dozens of full-time and intern students since 2012.
Diego Vergara ’20 and Thompson met on a field trip organized by the College’s Economics Department to Thompson's office. Vergara made sure that first meeting was not the last.
“I was very pushy when it came to asking Matt for an internship. Aside from being perseverant, what opened the doors to work with Matt was that I helped him take a company online by making a website for a new portfolio company before officially interning for him.”
Once he was in—and he ended up interning twice with Skyview—Vergara wasn’t merely pushing papers. He analyzed new companies the firm was looking at and developed an opinion as to whether those companies would either be a good investment or a hard pass. Vergara worked with existing portfolio companies to make them more efficient and profitable, so that they could sell the business down the line for a price higher than the acquisition price, he says.
During Vergara’s first stint with the investment firm, Thompson asked him to conduct research and write one page with his opinion on Super Coffee, a company that had been rejected by investors from the TV hit “Shark Tank.” Vergara met the company’s chief financial officer at the time and his opinion was to invest. Now, Super Coffee is one of Skyview’s most successful investments and is sold at most major retailers, he says.
Thompson has high praise for PCIP.
“The internship program is a win-win. It allows students to get a real-world exposure to private market investing; and we get some help on projects and exposure to fresh ideas. When we are evaluating new digital media businesses, students have good insights on these new technologies,” says Thompson.
Vergara, who graduated in December, landed a job with Goldman Sachs Private Equity Group as a full-time analyst, which he will start in June— “an amazing start to a career,” says Thompson.
Lily Feldman ’22 interned remotely from New York with Boutiq, a short-term vacation rental startup based in Austin, Texas. As a growth strategy intern, she worked on web content, streamlined Boutiq’s market entry protocol, solidified Boutiq’s brand and ran weekly virtual happy hours.
Feldman acquired this internship on Pomona’s 4/7 Day through an appreciation post for Assistant Dean and Deputy Director of the Career Development Office Wanda Gibson. (“I cannot emphasize how much I appreciate this woman,” Feldman says.) In the post Feldman mentioned she had no job for the summer. Boutiq co-founder Dan Driscoll ’05—who had heard from Alexander Tran ’09 that hiring Pomona interns was a good way to help students out—commented on the post and Feldman emailed him. While Driscoll’s wife was in labor—he notes it was 23 hours of labor—Driscoll responded with a critique of the email Feldman had sent. She revised and resent it. Driscoll emailed Feldman back and told her to call him. What she thought was going to be a further critique turned into a job offer.
For Driscoll, a liberal arts education presented a distinct advantage for Feldman.
“The liberal arts students that we’ve had seem to do better because then they have a better ability to learn. They’ve learned how to learn. They’re quicker at learning something new,” says Driscoll.
And Feldman says students have a lot to learn from alumni.
“I think it’s always helpful to be connected with people who have experiences different than one’s own. As a student, it is easiest to find people who are willing to be these figures in alumni. Alumni are aware of how to use Pomona’s resources and Pomona’s alumni network, which is invaluable knowledge,” she says.
What’s her advice for students seeking internships with alumni?
“Reach out and play to what you have in common. As Dan explained to me in the first email I ever received from him, it is important to have a clear ask. It’s much easier to help someone—even if this just means connecting them with someone else—when you know what they are asking for. People are so willing to help; there’s no downside to reaching out.”