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Seniors as Student Interns

The Barnard College Internship Program, administered through the Career Development Office, assists students in gaining exposure to the world of work through its many opportunities in a variety of career fields. An internship provides career-related learning and gives students the chance to participate in projects and practical work assignments, develop skills, gain experience, make connections, and become exposed to an industry. This important and often invaluable step toward defining professional goals and preparing for life after college, can also provide an understanding of different work cultures and allow students to connect with mentors and possibly obtain offers of full-time employment after graduation. On the following pages, Barnard highlights five seniors whose internships helped them focus their career pursuits, and, for several, confirm the work they want to pursue.

Theo Balcomb

WNYC–Radio

On my application to Barnard, I was asked to describe a daily routine that might seem ordinary to others but held special meaning for me. I explained my close attachment to National Public Radio newscaster Carl Kasell’s affirming, never-wavering voice on the morning news headlines. At Barnard, I chose to pursue internships in the media so that I could aspire to be that informed voice.

Theo BalcombAfter many communications-related internships in politics, nonprofit organizations, and television found through the Office of Career Development’s eRecruiting, an online database—I made my way back to public radio. I spent a summer in my home state, copyediting stories and recording my own at the Maine Public Broadcasting Network. Back at Barnard, I promptly sent my resume off to WNYC. Three weeks later, I rose early, hopped into my car service (how posh!), and entered the exciting world of The Takeaway, a new national morning news program from WNYC and Public Radio International.

While the mornings are filled with the usual coffee pouring and breakfast ordering, I do have the chance to write news headlines and speak with the in-studio guests. Simply being in the control room—watching the work of the producers and the hosts—is informative. The constant interplay among the staffers is fascinating and beautiful to watch. As a child, I listened to public radio on my way to Saturday morning dance classes. I’ve continued both the dancing and the radio listening, and at my internship I begin to see some correlation between the two. Both are small performances within themselves, designed to elicit strong emotions from the audience, and products of vibrant, creative minds. My experience at The Takeaway gave me the technique, preparation, and enthusiasm to take on any possible performances in the media world, and it will serve me well for the internship I have this summer at NPR’s All Things Considered.

Allison Farer

NARAL Pro-Choice

Allison FarerReading about the communications internship with NARAL (National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League) Pro-Choice New York/National Institute for Reproductive Health on Barnard’s eRecruiting database, I knew that the position would be the ideal opportunity for me to combine my interest in writing and editing with my passion for women’s issues. Pursuing a degree in American studies with a gender and sexuality concentration helped me to develop an academic knowledge of the politics and history of women in the United States; this internship would shed light on the practical application of my studies.

I made use of the writing and editing skills that I developed as a fellow in Barnard’s writing program and a copy staffer for the Columbia Daily Spectator. The internship also furthered my understanding of the successful operation of a nonprofit organization. It helped me to expand my organizational, project management, communication, and online skills as well. The online work that I did—maintaining social-networking sites, conducting Internet research, and writing blog-posts—kept me in the forefront of the communications field and taught me how to use the Internet as a tool for social and political change.

I completed a wide variety of assignments during my internship, but I most enjoyed working on the National Institute’s “How Much Time” campaign—an issue advocacy campaign highlighting the dangers of criminalizing abortion. From researching candidates’ positions on Roe v. Wade and the criminalization of abortion to editing materials and providing feedback, I played a hands-on role in each stage of the project’s development. Through this work, I believe I made a unique and tangible contribution to an historic presidential election last year.

Erica Seldin

Penguin Group

Erica SeldinAs a comparative literature major, it seemed logical to pursue an internship in the publishing industry. I have always had a deep love for books—the variety of stories they tell, the way they look, the way they smell—and I can’t imagine a better way to spend an afternoon than browsing the shelves at a local bookstore. I was certain that a career in publishing would align perfectly with my academic and personal interests. I worked in the marketing department at Dutton, a Penguin imprint that publishes adult fiction and nonfiction. I never worked in marketing before, and I quickly realized that I had much to learn about the industry. Daily responsibilities included researching Web sites, blogs, magazines, and television shows and writing outreach letters to these sources requesting that they promote our books. I also prepared the PowerPoint presentation for the 2009 sales conference. The most exciting part of the internship? I had the chance to meet authors in person, and I participated in marketing and publicity meetings with a variety of interesting personalities, including author and humorist John Hodgman and fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi. The internship provided excellent insights into the book publishing industry, but in the end the experience did not leave me eager to pursue a career in the field. I learned that I enjoy working in a smaller, more interactive environment where I can have a greater impact. Nevertheless, I did gain many marketing skills that I am certain will carry over into my professional career, whatever it turns out to be. In the future, however, my love for books will remain purely avocational.

Thao Le

Pension Partners, LLC

Thao LeI have been interning for Pension Partners, LLC, since February 2008. I discovered this finance internship through my Columbia sorority sister in Kappa Phi Lambda. Finance has always been an interest of mine, so I feel very fortunate to have found the position. Before this internship, I had very minimal knowledge of the financial field and was intimidated by its ambiguity. But, this internship exposed me to its various aspects. It absolutely lived up to my expectations because I was able to work one-on-one with the portfolio manager. I learned about the various stocks, mutual funds, updating client account keys as well as being able to mark and analyze stock charts. My research and Excel spreadsheet skills were greatly improved; I used them constantly at work. I had different to-do agendas separated according to daily, weekly, and monthly tasks, enabling me to work efficiently. I enjoyed going to work and knowing that I would always have someone at the office to guide and assist me: My boss is always open and willing to help answer any questions to better my understanding. The internship has definitely increased my interest in pursuing finance as a future career. I look forward to increasing my knowledge—hopefully being able to open my own firm.

Avigail S. Oren

Queens Library Healthlink Project

Avigail OrenI did not come to college knowing what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew I loved Latin-American literature and physical fitness. I pursued a degree in the former and got a job in the Barnard weight room to indulge the latter. My junior year, I completed two internships in journalism and corporate communications. Although I gained incredible professional experience, I knew I would eventually want to apply my interpersonal and writing skills to my passion for health and wellness. Confused about how to combine Spanish, health, and communications, I took a mentor’s advice and decided to look into public health internship opportunities. I found my current internship, the Queens Library Healthlink Project, through the career development office. The Queens Library Healthlink Project is a five-year community-based participatory research study funded by the National Cancer Institute. The American Cancer Society, Queens Cancer Society, Queens Borough Public Library, and Albert Einstein College of Medicine run the study as partners. The goal is to identify new ways to address cancer disparities and improve cancer outcomes for underserved communities. The collaborative research recognizes that community members can provide unique insight and offer potential solutions to the complex health issues they experience.

My principal responsibility is to spend two days a week in Queens conducting surveys with randomly selected adults. I speak to individuals about their perception of the health-care system, assess the frequency with which they visit a physician and receive cancer screenings, and evaluate their awareness of health information and services in their neighborhoods, especially those services related to cancer and cancer screening. While some people answer quickly and move along, my most rewarding interviews are with subjects who tell me about their experiences and ask about how they can contribute to improving the quality of life in their neighborhoods. I am excited to have found a field that combines communication, health, and often, the Spanish-speaking community. I hope to always work in a capacity that incorporates all of these elements.

-Photographs by Martien Mulder