STUDENTS SAMPLE POTENTIAL CAREERS THROUGH CAREER DEVELOPMENT EXTERNSHIP PROGRAM
Before diving headfirst into the post-Haverford job world, students can dip their toes in a variety of career fields through the Career Development Office’s externship program. By shadowing professionals—mainly alumni of Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges—in their workplaces during winter or spring breaks, students can explore the career options that interest them.
Haverford’s program was initiated in the 1970s, and the numbers of participants have increased each year: 115 students served as externs during this past winter break. “The Career Development Office has really been pushing the program and reaching out to students,” says Amy Feifer, associate director of the CDO. “It’s such an integral part of helping with career decision-making.”
For students, relationships with their alumni sponsors are just as valuable as job experience. These sponsors cover a diverse geographical spectrum, both nationally and internationally, and many are former externs themselves. “They had such a positive experience that they want to give back to the community and provide for other students,” says Feifer. “Hosting an extern also helps sponsors think more critically about their jobs and what they like about them. It re-energizes their careers.”
One of the perks of externships is that students need not be familiar with or skilled in a particular field in order to shadow professionals in that area. “The exposure to the field is a big benefit,” says Feifer. “The goal is to give students more information to make informed decisions.”
Senior political science major Linzee Amory wanted to shadow Paul Denig ’74, director of the State Department’s Foreign Press Center, because his position blends her love of politics and her longstanding interest in journalism.
For three days, Amory stayed with friends in Washington and accompanied Denig and his colleagues to a number of briefings for reporters around the world concerning tsunami relief, the Iraqi elections, and the 50th anniversary of Disney. She also attended a planning session for a briefing by State Department spokesman Richard Boucher. Back at Denig’s offices in the National Press Center, Amory assembled packets of information for the foreign press about the history of presidential inaugurations in the United States.
“The combination of journalism, policy, and government really clicked with me,” says Amory, who as a result of her externship is even more enthusiastic about a future career in politics. Denig, whom she valued as a mentor, has already invited her back to Washington. “He was very interested in what I wanted to do with my life, and helpful in figuring out the next step,” she says.
Not many people can claim to have assisted with an autopsy, but that’s exactly what junior Michael Crawford did on the first day of his externship with Ellsworth “Buster” Alvord '44, professor emeritus of neuropathology at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, part of the University of Washington School of Medicine.
During his week with Alvord at the Medical Center’s pathology and neuropathology departments, philosophy major and biology minor Crawford not only participated in the aforementioned autopsy, but also watched numerous brain dissections, studied brain scans, and observed the intensity of a frozen section: While in the process of removing a brain tumor, surgeons came across a group of cells and were unable to determine, on the operating table, whether or not these specific cells were part of the tumor. Neuropathology was called to the OR, where they were given a small sample of the cells to take to a lab, freeze, stain, identify, and inform the operating surgeons in a matter of minutes.
“I saw 10 times more than I ever thought I could in a week,” says Crawford, whose experience confirmed for him his goal of obtaining a doctorate in neuropathology and conducting research. His sponsor also made a significant impression on him. “I was really in awe of Dr. Alvord,” he says. “I love the fact that he is so well-liked and respected by his peers and the scientific community as a whole. I think it’s amazing that he has a seminar named after him (the Annual Alvord Lecture in Neuropathology).”
Sophomore Benjamin Djang thought an externship with Roger Breitbart ’77, pediatric cardiologist at Children’s Hospital of Boston, would be “interesting and fun.” He was right on both counts.
During his week in Boston, Djang met a wide range of Breitbart’s patients, including newborns with possible heart defects and babies and toddlers recovering from recent heart surgery. Breitbart also demonstrated various pieces of heart equipment, such as stethoscopes and EKG machines, and gave Djang, a history major fulfilling pre-medical requirements, the opportunity to listen to a heart murmur. “I was also able to talk to and ask questions of the interns that worked with Dr. Breitbart,” he says. “This gave me another firsthand perspective on becoming a doctor.” On the last day of his externship, Djang was even invited into the OR to observe heart surgery conducted on a newborn infant.
Djang had been considering a medical career before his externship, but had not chosen a specific concentration. “Now, if I were to pursue medicine,” he says, “I would probably look into cardiology as an area of focus.” His admiration and respect for Breitbart definitely influenced his decision: “He was always patient with me when I did not understand something he was doing.”
“I’ve seen lawyers on television, where it’s glamorized,” says sophomore Jeanne Dreskin, “but I wasn’t too familiar with law in real life.” To that end, she chose to serve her externship with May Mon Post ’95, an attorney for the city of Philadelphia.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” she says. “I wasn’t even sure what depositions or arbitrations really were.” While observing Post and her colleagues, Dreskin sat in on plenty of both at the city courts for criminal justice and mental health. She also had the opportunity to accompany Post to a Chancellor’s Reception attended by all Philadelphia attorneys.
“Before this,” says Dreskin, “I hadn’t realized how much grunt work is involved [in law].” Post offered her some worthwhile advice: choose a field of study in the humanities that requires a great deal of reading, writing, and research. (Dreskin is a religion major.) Post also told Dreskin how her time at Haverford taught her to study hard and discipline herself, preparing her for the rigors of law school and aiding her success in a job she enjoys. “She likes the excitement of going to court and speaking in front of people. It keeps her on her toes.” Post still keeps in touch via e-mail with Dreskin, who is considering a future in environmental or human rights law.
Education runs in sophomore Sarah Loeffler’s family: Her parents, grandparents, and many aunts, uncles, and cousins are public school teachers. Though she’s never felt any pressure to follow the familial career path, she decided to observe seventh-grade teacher Ella-Kari Loftfield ’85 to, she says, “see for myself if I enjoy working with children.”
Loeffler stayed with her sponsor at Loftfield’s family home outside Albuquerque, N.M., and accompanied her to classes at Eagle Ridge Middle School in the Rio Rancho Public School District. Loeffler assisted with lessons in Loftfield’s class on New Mexico history, lent a hand with such activities as the annual Geography Bee, tutored students after school, and helped them with their research for the school’s upcoming History Day.
In addition to teaching, Loftfield was involved with a variety of administrative tasks, a fact that resonated with Loeffler: “It’s not something, as a student, that you’re ever exposed to firsthand.” Loftfield sits on several committees and struggles with issues such as teacher shortages.
Her experience at Eagle Ridge has given Loeffler, a double major in history and Spanish, a new perspective on a career in education. “I expected it to be completely different from what I knew,” she says, “but there was a sense of continuity that felt familiar and comforting.”