Students and volunteer hosts connect in virtual career exploration
By Stephen Wilson
With COVID disrupting interstate travel, hotel stays, and access to offices, the College’s noted in-person externship program sadly had to be put on hold in January. Gateway Career Center took this as an opportunity to dream up a new program that would leverage the benefits of a virtual world: Explore and Connect.
The program matched students with alumni, parents, employers, and friends of the College, and provided students with an opportunity to expand their knowledge of a career field, professional network, and their acumen in remote formats.
“With so much uncertainty around COVID, while we felt like we had developed a good program, we weren’t exactly sure what the response would be from students or alumni,” says Mike Summers, assistant vice president of Gateway Career Center. “We were thrilled with the response. Our alumni, parents, friends AND students responded in a big way.”
Nearly 350 students participated, with mentoring from over 130 volunteer hosts.
The program centered around each volunteer offering industry materials to review, an informational interview, networking introductions, and a sample work assignment, case study, or other hands-on exposure.
The beauty of the virtual format was the expansion of offerings from across the country and around the world, including Canada, Italy, and U.S. locations from coast to coast. Beyond the roles and industries students could explore, virtual participation made it possible for students to join Zoom meetings from across the world including Ireland, Ethiopia, Mongolia, and Nepal.
“We were committed to finding a creative way to leverage virtual technology to provide students with a valuable career exploration opportunity,” says Melissa Schultz, senior associate director at Gateway. “Another priority was to develop a program format that would be feasible for our volunteer hosts, considering the many COVID-related professional and personal circumstances they were navigating.”
Those hosts rose to the challenge.
“They extended themselves to connect with multiple students, created robust and tailored experiences, embraced new technologies, and exercised tremendous flexibility,” says Schultz.
Here’s a sampling of hosts, students, locations, and industries that made this January unique.
A 1,541-bed not-for-profit hospital serving as the primary teaching hospital for Yale School of Medicine, with a combined medical staff of about 4,500 university and community physicians practicing in more than 100 specialties
New Haven, Conn.
Host: Hannah Brady ’13, physician assistant with hospitalist team
Students: Rachel Freedman ’23, Annika Murray ’23, Rachel Wywoda ’23
A global professional services company offering strategy and consulting, interactive technology, and operations services across more than 40 industries and serving 500,000 clients in more than 120 countries
Host: Alexandra Rau ’08, network and connected services practitioner within the technology strategy and advisory group working with the cable industry, along with nearly 30 other Lafayette alumni
Students: Mei Ting Ieong ’21, Takudzwa Mujuru ’21, Taffeta Rakotozandry ’22, Joshua Virtell ’22
A powerhouse team of females who accelerate growth across all sales channels and marketing touchpoints for beauty and wellness clients and create a top-rated podcast, Where Brains Meet Beauty
New York City
Host: Aleni Mackarey ’16, chief operating officer and podcast executive producer, along with founder/CEO Jodi Katz, ’97
Students: Juliana Littley ’23, Libby Michaelis ’23, Jessica Whitman ’22
An emerging leader in the field of nuclear medicine technology with stable, domestic, and environmentally friendly radioisotope supply solutions
Host: Stuart Kim ’88, vice president of regulatory affairs and legal affairs
Students: Lawrence Chen ’22, Aimee Koestler ’22, Swati Pandey ’23, Elizabeth Weisgerber ’22
An independent production and distribution company that acquires independent genre films and television shows for distribution and also develops films for production
Host: Lindsey Dier ’14, content coordinator and screenwriter
Students: Anthony Orlando ’21, Danielle Sanchez ’22
A hands-on children’s museum, nature center, and wetlands boardwalk
Host: Dale McCreedy ’78, Ph.D., vice president of audience and community engagement
Students: Oyuntugs Gantumur ’23, Emily Tuchman ’22, Cassandra Wilk ’22
A mining-focused alternative investment firm that partners with companies to build strong, successful, innovative, and sustainable businesses
Host: Russ Cranswick P’23, partner and head of RCF Opportunities Fund, along with two RCF investment colleagues; Martine Ventello ’12 also works at RCF in compliance
Students: Caitlyn Dempsey ’22, Kaelyn Gormley ’22, Jeffrey Hummel ’21, Aaron Katzman ’22, Anouk Sarma ’24
Part of Amazon and the world’s most comprehensive and broadly adopted cloud platform, offering over 200 fully featured services from data centers globally
Host: John Stephenson ’05, director of U.S., state, local, and education public policy, along with at least 30 other Lafayette alumni
Students: Fatimata Cham ’23, Carolyn Eppolito ’23, David Glasser ’22, Eleanor Griffiths ’22, Shiloh Harrill ’23, Madeleine Holden ’21, Magdalen Larsen ’23