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.

Yale New Haven Hospital

Hannah Brady ’13 with Gateway studentsA 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

Activities:

  • Met individually and discussed what Brady does on a typical day, how she interacts with other health care professionals at work, and her path to get to her job 
  • Talked about each student’s career interests and goals
  • Examined a sample patient case and had students think through the best approaches to interview and examine that patient 
  • Held a group interview with women leaders on the hospitalist team  

Soundbites:

  • “I hosted students to help them gain critical work experience and exposure to several jobs in the health care field as they try to plan out their career path,” says Brady. “I hope they have a better idea of what a career in health care is like and see the reward of pursuing a vocation that cares for the well-being of others.”

Accenture

Alexandra Rau ’08 with Gateway studentA 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
Philadelphia, Pa.
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

Activities:

  • Started with an introduction to cable networks
  • Met daily to discuss consulting work and also to discuss their work on their research projects
  • Shared research presentations and provided feedback 

Soundbites:

  • “It’s important to provide students with a look into what it’s like to have a career and provide advice to the best of my ability,” says Rau. “When I was at Lafayette, I didn’t know very much about consulting and ended up choosing this industry because an ECE alum shared his great experience with me, and the rest was history.” 
  • “I have always been interested in learning about the consulting industry and the types of projects consultants work on,” says Ieong. “Alex was able to connect me with a few employees at Accenture who matched my interests. I learned how important it is to advocate for yourself on projects and not be afraid to put yourself out there. That is a skill I rarely get a chance to practice in a traditional college setting. I also realized I was able to utilize my knowledge from school and apply it to my research. My background in computer science truly provided me the ability to adapt to many different projects.”

Base Beauty Creative Agency

Aleni Mackarey ’16 with Gateway studentsA 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

Activities:

  • Introduced students to the agency
  • Met with agency’s social media department
  • Worked together on a mock assignment before presenting it to the agency for feedback

Soundbites:

  • “We love to show students there are so many directions in which they can take a liberal arts education,” says Mackarey. “I hope the students learned the value of using their voices in an industry where there is an opportunity to do more and say more to consumers. We have a chance to leverage the beauty industry for bigger conversations around inclusivity and mental health.”
  • “This opportunity definitely opened my eyes to the more hands-on, imaginative work being done in the marketing industry,” says Littley. “After this amazing experience I realized that I want a professional career that enables me to incorporate my creative side into my work!”
  • “I learned how much love and thought brands put into their products,” says Michaelis. “I will be able to carry what I learned from this experience to the classroom.”

NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes

An emerging leader in the field of nuclear medicine technology with stable, domestic, and environmentally friendly radioisotope supply solutions
Beloit, Wisc.
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

Activities:

  • Invited three COVID-19 guest speakers, including an expert in drug and device distribution logistics, an emergency room physician, and a pharmacist 
  • Discussed the parameters of students’ COVID-19 project 
  • Provided some informal career development advice

Soundbites:

  • “This is my chance to give back to future leaders because many students who are interested in health care aren’t aware of careers in drug and device regulatory affairs,” says Kim. “I want them to connect what they’ve learned in the classroom and apply it to solve real-world problems and put into context what is going on with this pandemic from a scientific, medical, logistical, regulatory, legal, and policy perspective.”
  • “I am usually stressed about making a ‘wrong’ career choice during my college years, but this experience made me realize that perhaps there aren’t so many ‘wrong’ choices to make, but only different choices that await,” says Pandey. “This event and its remote nature was actually a silver lining for me. I still can’t stop smiling at the wonders of technology when I reminisce about being a part of this event and in conversations with Stu, his colleagues, and my group mates while staying at my home in Nepal. Our calls were filled with people from various other time zones, ranging from morning to night!”
  • “As I further develop my interest in medicine and public health, this program provided me with unparalleled exposure to different study fields,” says Koestler.

AMP International/Alameda Entertainment

Lindsey Dier ’14 with Gateway studentsAn independent production and distribution company that acquires independent genre films and television shows for distribution and also develops films for production
Burbank, Calif.
Host: Lindsey Dier ’14, content coordinator and screenwriter
Students: Anthony Orlando ’21, Danielle Sanchez ’22

Activities:

  • Discussed the ins and outs of film and television distribution and development
  • Shared what to expect from entry level positions in those respective areas
  • Provided students with a coverage assignment so they can walk away with a polished sample ready for future job applications
  • Talked about how to further their creative careers with tips about pitching both their work and themselves
  • Met with a television writer/fellow Lafayette alum who discussed his experiences selling a TV show
  • Held a special Q&A with the head of distribution and acquisitions

Soundbites:

  • “I want to arm the next gen of Lafayette FAMS majors with the information and practical experience that they need to enter a fairly tough business,” says Dier. “So much of your ability to succeed in entertainment comes from access and knowing all of the unspoken rules, and I am happy to do whatever I can to help open doors and answer any questions.”
  • “The ins and outs of contracts were exciting. Despite not being too interested in the industry’s legal side, I did learn valuable skills and red flags to search for when I am looking to license or distribute my own work,” says Sanchez. “I also learned many industry-specific terminologies that will help me get my foot in the door and be prepared for entry-level positions and which entry-level jobs to avoid.”
  • This experience has given me more confidence in my ability to acquire and maintain a career within the film and media industry,” says Orlando. “It has motivated me to continue searching for a desirable career while encouraging me to keep my options open.”

Discovery Center at Murfree Spring

Dale McCreedy ’78 with Gateway studentsA hands-on children’s museum, nature center, and wetlands boardwalk
Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Host: Dale McCreedy ’78, Ph.D., vice president of audience and community engagement
Students: Oyuntugs Gantumur ’23, Emily Tuchman ’22, Cassandra Wilk ’22

Activities:

  • Met as a group to get to know each other
  • Held individual sessions to talk about specific interests, career considerations, available avenues, and a variety of resources. Discussions covered curriculum development, early childhood and play research, and gender and science
  • Built a customized approach for each student
  • Introduced to professional contacts
  • Shared lessons learned

Soundbites:

  • “Support and mentorship is incredibly important in general and is especially satisfying when I can support young women interested in STEM,” says McCreedy. “I really ‘fell into’ my career in informal education and museums, so I feel that there is huge benefit to increasing awareness of some of the nontraditional and diverse ways one can be engaged in promoting and integrating science and education.”
  • “I learned that the museum industry allows you to be very creative and work with people of all ages,” says Wilk. “I also learned that education can be so much fun and inspirational, especially in a field such as science that can sometimes feel really rigid. This experience really solidified the idea that I want to get involved in museums and can see myself working in science education.” 
  • “What made this experience personal for me is that Dale sent each of us on our individual way to do a project that surrounded our interests,” says Tuchman. “Because I want to be a teacher, I was able to research a lot about what makes the divide between informal and formal education. I learned that there are so many different ways to educate outside of a school setting than one might have thought.”

Resource Capital Funds

Russ Cranswick P’23 with Gateway studentsA mining-focused alternative investment firm that partners with companies to build strong, successful, innovative, and sustainable businesses
Denver, Colo.
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

Activities:

  • Introduced students to mineral exploration and mining with an initial focus on Peru
  • Asked students to research the geology, mining, social and environmental issues, and political situation within Peru
  • Met two CEOs of newly listed public companies focused on exploration projects in Peru
  • Gave students a Peruvian mining investment project, where they presented their findings

Soundbites:

  • “As a geologist, I wanted to provide an eye-opening and authentic experience for the students to learn that there are many different ways to employ a geology degree and that mineral exploration and mining can take you all over the world, to work on a variety of commodities and deposit models, and that in remote areas, a geologist can have significant input into the local community, whether it be in hiring locals or initiating and assisting with social programs,” says Cranswick. “I was excited to see the young talent that is coming through Lafayette and was impressed with the sophistication and thought process the students demonstrated.”
  • “I learned about economic geology and its various facets—something I had not yet considered,” says Dempsey. “As a dual major in geology and government & law, I felt this experience combined my two passions into one and allowed me a look into how I might pursue a future in geologic investment, as well as make a use of my degree I had not yet considered.” 
  • “We got the amazing opportunity to chat with CEOs of two mining companies and got to really dive into the work of an analyst, exploring what variables affect company valuations,” says Hummel. “The experience as a whole was very eye opening for me. I was able to explore an industry that really interested medovetailing both my interests in finance and natural resources perfectlyand be introduced to an industry and career path that I know I want to pursue.”

Amazon Web Services

John Stephenson ’05 with Gateway studentsPart of Amazon and the world’s most comprehensive and broadly adopted cloud platform, offering over 200 fully featured services from data centers globally
Washington, D.C.
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

Activities:

  • Outlined a project of identifying best practices and approaches to engage states and local communities around our company announcement to train 29 million people in cloud computing
  • Guided students using their own research and analysis as they wrote and presented to the public policy team
  • Had students meet with members of the team to learn about their career paths, graduate school, and other professional options
  • Held a virtual social hour with more than a dozen Lafayette alumni at Amazon, who work in various fields across our company 

Soundbites:

  • “My time at Lafayette was transformative, providing me with the knowledge and experiences that have served me well through my career,” says Stephenson. “Amazon is always looking to hire and develop the best talent. Many of the same values that motivate students to choose and succeed at Lafayette, such as a passion for invention and a commitment to excellence, are what make Amazon successful. I believe Lafayette has the type of talent Amazon is looking for.”
  • “This experience has opened my eyes to experiences outside of the typical ‘government and law’ industries,” says Eppolito. “Through the social hour of Lafayette alumni working at Amazon and Amazon Web Services, I was able to understand the vast variety of backgrounds and paths there are to jobs pertaining to my specific interests.”
  • John connected me with one of his colleagues who is an accomplished lawyer. I had a great time speaking to her, and I appreciated her advice and direction regarding law school,” says Larsen. “I know that the advice that was given to me during this experience I will take to heart and will be useful as I decide what to do after Lafayette.”

 

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