Intern programs kick off spring semester

Students at the Sophomore Institute Keynote

“When you’re doing what feels right, it feels like all the stars are aligning,” explained Angela Wu ‘09, to the crowd of sophomores in Gamble auditorium. “Sometimes you will get lost, and that’s okay. When you do, your Mount Holyoke education will get you through it. Whether it’s a call from your best friend or words from a mentor that you ignore for years and years before you take them into account.”

Wu was the keynote speaker at this year’s Sophomore Institute, a pre-professional conference aimed at giving Mount Holyoke College sophomores practical career skills for internships and networking. It was the first of several events held this semester for students looking for career guidance. The Career Development Center (CDC) also hosted a Finding an Internship workshop and hands-on lab, as well as an internship fair for MHConnect opportunities. While those later events were open to students at all grade levels, Sophomore Institute is an annual event specifically for sophomores, who often fall through the cracks with regard to career planning.

Last year, Sophomore Institute won the NACE Career Services Excellence Award. This year, the workshop drew over one hundred sophomores. The day started with a keynote by Wu, who told students about her uncertain path after college. Needing to help support her family, she found herself in several jobs that didn’t line up with her interests and values. On the verge of applying to law school—never a real passion of hers—she called her Mount Holyoke best friend and got a firm re-framing.

“Angela, you’ve only ever talked about education. Why aren’t you studying that?” Wu changed course and was ecstatic to find out that her passion for social justice and educational reform could become a career. She now works at with underrepresented students at the Davis Center at Williams College. According to Wu, “the job I have now is in many ways my dream job. I get to work with student populations that I really care about.”

Later in the day, students chose from three different sessions. One focused on incorporating identity and values into work, another on authentic networking, while a third gave students a chance to explore internship opportunities and have a LinkedIn photo taken. Each was helpful in different ways. Cassie Fernandez-Dieguez ‘19, attended “Being Human”, which focused on identity and values.

“I liked the opportunity to take the time to think about who I am and what would make a job or internship really valuable to me,” said Fernandez-Dieguez. “Before I work on finding a job, I want to know I’m headed in the right direction. The session was a time for introspection, and I got to hear other student’s insights, too.”

The “Authentic Networking” session was held by the Weissman Center for Leadership. “We decided to focus the session on authenticity because the concept of networking is often charged with negativity, such as images of rubbing elbows with people in an empty way or talking about oneself in inflated ways for personal gain,” said Becky Packard, Director of the center and co-leader of the workshop.

“We encourage active listening and reflecting on what you most want to learn. We find that most people feel comfortable talking about something that excites them and questions naturally stem from this in a way that puts the conversation at ease. If the conversation is meant to lead to an internship lead or similar, it will. But it might be that the person remembers you as curious, interested, and as an engaged listener—and the person is more likely to pass your name along or introduce you to a relevant lead to an opportunity.”

In addition to imparting important career advice, the conference brought together a group of students who might not usually spend time together. After the break-out sessions, everyone gathered for a networking mixer, and students put some of the skills they’d just learned to use.

“I’ve only been here for about a week,” said Pax Carberry ‘19, a new spring transfer. “I liked the opportunity to get together with other sophomores because I really don’t know any yet. I was scared of being lost in the shuffle because that tends to happen to both sophomores and transfers. So in addition to all the stuff we learned today, it was nice to regroup with my class.”

More career development opportunities followed in the weeks after Sophomore Institute. The Finding an Internship workshop helped students prepare for and begin the first steps in the search. The lab that followed it matched students with a career expert to help them research internships. Next was the MHConnect Internship Fair, where students received information on a variety of summer internship and research positions curated by a variety of centers and departments across campus. These opportunities are with organizations that have a special application pathway for Mount Holyoke students and range from the Fulbright Commission to WWF China.

All of these events are at the perfect time to prepare students for getting their internship applications out and apply for Lynk UAF, Mount Holyoke’s universal funding program. Lynk UAF provides funding for eligible students’ summer unpaid internships and research positions. With step one of the applications due February 17th, sophomores and juniors are kicking their internship search into high gear.

Beth McGregor ‘69 is the Connections Chair between her class and Mount Holyoke’s current sophomore class. She attended Sophomore Institute and said she loved to see all the real world footing that current Mount Holyoke students have today.

“When I went to Mount Holyoke, career development was a one-person office. I got a great education here, but it was too ivory tower. I love coming back to see that students here today are getting the same great education, along with more resources to equip them for life.”