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June 12, 2012

Externships Help Students Explore Possible Career Paths

Before her externship with HarperCollins Publishers in New York City, Vanessa Davis ’12 hadn’t considered a career in publishing. But after observing the business first-hand, she can now see how the industry could be a good fit for her.

Vanessa Davis ’12 and Alberto Rojas ’94 at HarperCollins in New York City

Vanessa Davis ’12 and Alberto Rojas ’94 at HarperCollins in New York City

Over winter break, Davis shadowed Alberto Rojas ’94, senior director of publicity at HarperCollins, experiencing the ins and outs of the business. After sitting through brainstorming sessions and learning what goes into marketing a book, she has a better perspective on what a career in publicity and marketing entails.

“This externship exposed me to a field that I could truly see myself striving in,” says Davis, who graduated in May with an A.B. with majors in government and law and religious studies.

In 2012, 358 students participated in the externship program under the guidance of 346 hosts, made up of alumni, parents, and friends of the College.  During an externship, students spend two-five days during the January interim observing and interacting with professional hosts in their workplace and gaining firsthand insight into specific careers or industries that interest them.

This year, externships took place in 21 states across the country and Washington, D.C. at hundreds of companies and organizations including Anderson Cooper’s daytime talk show Anderson, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Chevron Corp., Cisco Systems, Crayola, CVS Caremark, Deloitte, ESPN, J.P. Morgan, Merrill Lynch, National Geographic, NBC Universal, Pfizer, Philadelphia Phillies, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Under Armour, U.S. District Court, and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. There were also externships at an array of smaller to mid-sized companies and non-profit organizations.

Lafayette’s externship program is one of the hallmarks of Career Services’ Gateway program, which outlines four steps for students of any major and at any stage of the career search to prepare for life after graduation. Each step coordinates with a class year and is designed to help students explore options, gain experience, and plan for the future.

Madeline Laskoski ’13, left, with Claudine Lilien ’90 at Fox headquarters in New York City

Madeline Laskoski ’13, left, with Claudine Lilien ’90 at Fox headquarters in New York City

“Conducting an externship is one of the integral ‘mile markers’ of the Gateway program,” explains Melissa Schultz, assistant director of Career Services. “For students who are unable to participate in the formal externship program in January, Gateway counselors work with them to identify shadowing opportunities during the year, and walk them through the process of conducting informational interviews so that all students have an equal opportunity to pursue this type of career exploration and build networking relationships.”

Madeline Laskoski ’13 (Goshen, N.Y.) is an excellent example of how externships and Gateway work hand-in-hand to help students prepare for their careers. Laskoski participated in a winter externship in 2011 with Claudine Lilien ’90, senior vice president of cross divisional integrated sales and marketing with Fox Entertainment Group in New York City. Her experience with Lilien directly led to a summer internship with Fox Cable.

A double major in government and law major and English, Laskoski hopes to get a job in the media industry with a focus on politics.

“All of the preparation I did in my first year paid off,” she says. “By the time I am a senior, I will have a strong network of contacts and a lot of experience in the working world.”

Alumni and parents enjoy hosting externships because of “the intrinsic reward that hosting a student brings,” says Schultz.  “Serving as an externship host is a distinct opportunity to personally have a positive, and often pivotal, impact on a Lafayette student by sharing their professional work, experience, and advice with them while building a connection.”

Daniel Rosen P’12 speaks with Megan Devlin ’12 and Elizabeth Moroney ’14 at the New York Supreme Court.

Daniel Rosen P’12 speaks with Megan Devlin ’12 and Elizabeth Moroney ’14 at the New York Supreme Court.

Daniel Rosen P’12, court attorney to the administrative judge for New York County criminal matters, greatly enjoyed playing a role in his externs’ career development. Over the winter, he hosted American studies graduate Megan Devlin ’12, government and law major Alicia Manning ’13 (Newtown Square, Pa.), and biology major Elizabeth Moroney ’14 (Califon, N.J.) at the New York County Supreme Court.

“I wanted to offer students considering careers in law an opportunity to meet and observe those who practice criminal law, including trial and appellate attorneys, defense and prosecution, judges and court attorneys,” Rosen says. “Law school is a great commitment of time and money, and I hope the students I host are able to more intelligently choose whether they should work after college, perhaps as a paralegal, and whether criminal or civil, and trial or appellate work, would suit them after law school.”

In many instances, externships provide students with an insider look at some impressive projects. In 2011, seven aspiring engineers were guided around the new construction at Ground Zero through an externship with Turner Construction. Turner is the construction manager for the World Trade Center Transportation Hub project.

The students delved into the world of structural design with hosts John Pierce ’81, vice president and regional manager of Latin America and the Caribbean for Turner Construction; Terry Carbaugh ’82, project executive for the New York business unit; and Lee Sullivan ’80, senior estimator.

Pierce stresses the importance of alumni hosting externships, saying, “Students need to see various career pathways to determine their own path and this experience gives them that opportunity.  It also is valuable for me because it keeps me connected with undergrads and the challenges that they are facing.”

For more information about the externship program or to volunteer as a host, please contact Schultz at schultma@lafayette.edu.

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