It’s 4:30 on a Friday afternoon, and I’m sitting with my chair swiveled to the center of a room in “Silicon Alley”, New York City, in a recap-of-the-week meeting. Very quickly, lists of tasks completed and accounts secured turn into talk of what the next steps are, who the next clients are, and eventually, what the next ideas are. How should we design this particular feature of our app? How will we deal with the millions of people that lack addresses in the traditional sense? What kinds of services will our app be facilitating? Once our product is streamlined, how will the information seekers interact with the information finders? Should we buy up this domain name too, in case we expand the franchise in this direction?
I don’t know much about the business world, but it’s my understanding that CEOs don’t usually hash out ideas about the fundamental next steps of their company with low-level employees, let alone interns. And yet, here I am, on the last day of my two-week stint as an intern at Frontier Data Corp, not only listening, but actually being asked to participate in a company brainstorm alongside the CEO, CTO, CFO, and other employees who don’t yet have titles with acronyms. Of course, seeing as the company is 6 members strong (myself included) a meeting with only senior staff members might be somewhat lonely—but still, I can’t help but think how rare, how adrenalizing it is to get to play an active role in coloring what is now only the outline of an application with aspirations of becoming as big as TaskRabbit, Uber, maybe even Facebook. I remember reading an article in The New Yorker this summer about the infectiously optimistic attitude that is pervasive in Silicon Valley tech startups, and at the time, I rolled my eyes; it seemed to me unbelievably naïve and arrogant to think that the world’s problems could be solved by a bunch of programmers working in a bubble perhaps thicker than Reed’s.
Yet here I am, a more-cynical-than-average college student, in a city that is distinctly not warm and fuzzy, unable to shake this feeling of excitement, even hope, at the possibilities for the future. I can feel my future-self cringing.
I participated in my externships to explore career options. I chose one mentor, alumnus Lucas Carlson, class of ’05. He works at CenturyLink in the private sector. My other mentor, Jim Quinn, ’83, works at Metro in the public sector. I enjoyed both of the externships. Based on my experience, I’ve observed the private sector moves faster, for businessmen have less bureaucratic regulations. The public sector, however, seems to have a more multifaceted agenda: while the government works hard on the economy, the environment, and the public's health, a private corporation works almost only on profits. This externship helped me experience the differences between the sectors, though still remain unsure as to which sector to join for my career.
Luckily, my externship offered other insights. My IT executive mentor had me shadow him in order to learn how to communicate with people. It seems like executives spend most of their time communicating with people. He also gave me great advice. He clarified that one should communicate information through stories, as human brains are wired for listening to stories. This mentor also gave me food for thought about how important being present-minded is. He told me not to let my thoughts run my life. This externship was a great way to reflect on the current trajectory of my life, and where I would like to see it go.
At the governmental externship, I had two mentors. One of my governmental mentors, Sabrina Gogol, ’05, had a list of several of her colleagues for me to talk to. During these meeting, I learned a lot about how governmental projects work. I also made contacts in both the clean energy and the agriculture industries. Hopefully I will be able to utilize these contacts for summer work!
The heavens had already started to rumble and give the East Coast a hard time as I flew into NYC a few days after New Year. The first day of work I took the wrong bus and ended up walking 31 blocks down Madison Avenue. Although it wasn’t the most pleasing thing, it was an experience on its own – weaving my way through herds of humans that flock midtown Manhattan every morning. Seeing those skyscrapers tower above me, the financial powerhouses of the world, was an enthralling sight.
I strode into the Conquest Capital office and all I could hear was the buzz of CNBC market tickers signaling stocks, futures, currencies, commodities and what have you. Conquest is a hedge fund involved in trading futures and currencies based on signals from the mathematical mazes underlying their strategies. As a result, most of my work was based on grasping the very elements that make up a trading strategy. I was using a combination of MS Excel and Visual Basic (VBA) to build my model which revolved around what is called a “moving average” in the financial world.
Another part of this great experience was observing traders strike out deals and place orders depending on market conditions. The release of job numbers and retail industry figures for the holiday season coincided with the time I spent there, and I got to see Economics 201 (which I had taken in the fall semester before) at work. I got a real sense of market volatilities and how significantly market indicators can impact trades in S&P 500 and the world currency market.
Michelle Drumm, class of '95, wrote an engaging article on women's involvement (or more accurately, lack of involvement) in technology. Read her article here: http://www.commercekitchen.com/2014/02/women-in-tech/
Michelle is the moderator of Women in Tech at Reed's Working Weekend 2014.
Last Wednesday morning I hopped on my bike to head to Portland Waldorf School for an externship opportunity allowing me to job shadow Alynn Nelson, a 7th grade teacher. I have felt a calling to become a teacher and knew this externship would be a great chance to explore an alternative approach to education, as well as help me explore different subject and grade levels to possibly teach. After an initial mishap ( I turned west down the Springwater Corridor and biked nearly all the way out to Gresham before realizing that I was supposed to turn east and head towards Milwaukee) I finally arrived at the school eager to learn about the philosophy and unique teaching styles of Waldorf Education.
One of the first things I noticed when I walked in the school was the absences of the color white. Paintings and art projects covered the blue, purple, and yellow walls creating a stimulating mosaic of color. I soon came to learn that the colorful environment wasn’t the only unique thing about Waldorf schools.
Alynn Nelson explained to me that Waldorf schools were started in the 19th century by Rudolf Steiner because he was worried about everyone becoming a monotonous factory worker so he created a new type of school to ensure children had the opportunity to receive a creative, enlightening, and spiritual education. When I entered the classroom, I saw 17 students dedicatedly writing and drawing pictures about Michelangelo. She explained that what the students were working on was another important feature of Waldorf education; students did not use textbooks but rather created beautiful pages, that captured the essence of their lessons, which were later bound into a book that reflected all they had learned that year.
I have long believed that nature is the best remedy and that modern medicine needs to become a more holistic process that heals through natural plants and herbs. Despite this conviction, naturopathy was not a term I was familiar with until I came to Portland and came across multiple naturopathic health clinics. I soon learned that the philosophy behind naturopathy shared my beliefs about what was the best treatment for patients. My research into naturopathy left me with an intense desire to find out what attending a naturopathic healthcare clinic would be like.
Then, like fate, Reed posted its available externships for winter breaks and one of the opportunities was at a naturopathic clinic. Therefore, my first day back in Portland was spent fulfilling my wish of learning about working in a naturopathic doctor’s office.
In the electronics lab, five guys huddle around an oscilloscope, a breadboard, and a computer. Writing code down to the metal, our circuit on the breadboard submitted to all of our orders, as servants to a benevolent king or to a ruthless dictator.
For a week I was an extern at Sigenics, a company that designs and supplies application specific integrated circuits (ASICs). Sigenics has two facilities. The main headquarters is located in Chicago and an additional branch is in Irwindale, California. I worked at the California branch with Douglas Kerns* (parent of Lydia Kerns, '16) one of the founders of Sigenics, Marcus, the senior technician, and fellow externs like me.
ASIC chips have many uses. For example, there are special ASIC chips in bitcoin miners, cellular phones, electronic sensors and timers. Companies and researchers contact Sigenics to make ASICs, or custom electronic parts for them.
Briana Foley, a junior religion major, chased her newly kindled passion for ceramics to the edges of the earth. She spent four months abroad through the Tibetan and Himalayan Peoples SIT program. She concluded her trip by pursuing independent research in the settlement of Old Thimi in Kathmandu Valley. The indigenous settlement is home to the Newa people, an integral part of whose culture and lifestyle is ceramics.
Briana “became obsessed” with ceramics after taking an intensive course at Lewis and Clark. She also knew she was interested in traveling to South Asia after taking classes on Hinduism with Mari Jyavasjarvi, a visiting religion professor. These were her loves, and through the SIT program she was able to find a way to synthesize the two and create an original, exhilarating, and rewarding experience for herself.
She glows when she speaks of her time in Old Thimi. Her smile is radiant as she describes living with the community of potters, and the way she came to love the noise and chaos and the rawness of land and the people. Her eyes are alight with memories and every word about her experience and what she learned is bursting with unveiled excitement.
Lydia Kerns, class of 2016
Reedies: Intellectuals in a purified form, dedicated to study and learning for its own internal value, blissfully segregating education from career, and proud to scoff when asked to justify their investment in learning with some claim to its practical application. For four years, Reedies live in a sanctuary where the transcendent value from sharing of ideas is reward enough, and any mundane outcome of education beyond the pleasure of pursuing knowledge is of secondary importance. That’s the stereotype, at least.
The question, often posed by parents, “But what are you going to DO with that major?” may be met by a shrug or a sigh, but the undertones of the question carry the notes of a larger question, one that lives in the minds of Reedies and uncertain friends and family alike: How are you going to be successful?
The question is complex and subjective but also universal, held by a majority of Reedies and associated parties. What does it mean to be a successful Reedie? How can we make the most of our scholarship at Reed, staying true to our love of “learning for the sake of learning,” while also growing into individuals who can consider ourselves successful in the world beyond Reed?
Joan Wang is the Editor-in-Chief of Homer’s Roamers, a publication featuring collection of internationally-oriented creative works produced by students. Homer's Roamers is still accepting written and visual creative submissions from students who have traveled abroad while at Reed.
MW: What motivated your idea for Homer’s Roamers?
This past Sunday concluded the 2013 season of Lents International Farmers Market. I provided a big tub of gourds and little pumpkins for the kids to decorate with paint. After 19 weeks of implementing hard thought out farm related lessons for youth, I didn’t feel so bad succumbing to allow a bit less educational activity. The conclusion of Lents market marks the end of the first year of the Food Scouts program, and the beginning of many years to come. The program achieved its goal of engaging over 300 young people aged 5 through 12. The kids ventured to the farmer's market and used tokens we distributed to buy vegetables while learning about agriculture at the booth they visisted. I feel proud to have been the first director of Food Scouts and am grateful to the Summer Internship Advantage Program, which lead me to an opportunity I loved so much that I decided to stay until well into autumn, seeing it to the season’s end. Now that Food Scouts has had its first year, the infrastructure to continue it (including a hefty binder full of project descriptions, forms, advice and the like) is firmly in place for its next leader to take on.
For more information on Food Scouts, see: http://zengerfarm.org/index.php?page=foodscouts
Image: James Villafranca, market volunteer and Reed alumnus, teaches a scout about the process of fermentation.
Bailey Boatsman, Class of 2016
Biology Outreach Lead Teacher
Bailey is a volunteer lead teacher with the Biology Outreach program. The Biology Outreach program creates partnerships with local schools to provide science lessons to students who would not otherwise have access. Although not pursuing the sciences in her own academics, Bailey cultivates her love of teaching and evident reverence for all learning by bringing science to local elementary school students. Her thoughtful perspective reminds us not to forget that enthusiasm and true curiosity are all that is needed to reveal the joy and discovery in life’s smallest moments.
Robin Fink, Class of '09, lives and works in Ecuador where she does her self-proclaimed “dream job.” Involvement with the Ecuador Service Project her freshman year sparked a lifelong passion and career path. Throughout her time at Reed and beyond, her dedication to service and her drive to take advantage of every available resource earned her multiple awards, grants, and scholarships.
Tell me a bit about yourself, and what you are doing now:
I graduated in 2009, so I’ve now been out as long as I was in Reed. Which is totally trippy, really mind-blowing. I’ve lived in Ecuador for the past 4 years. I currently work at organization called Fundación Pachamama, in Quito. We have a sister organization in San Francisco, the Pachamama Alliance. Our focus here is more on the ground, since we’re actually located in Ecuador. We promote alternative forms of development that don’t depend on the extraction of non-renewable resources, and support alternative, sustainable ways of living that are also spiritually fulfilling. I’m working with a program called Jungle Mamas, a maternal and infant health program. It’s intercultural, so we’re working with indigenous nations of people in the Amazon. Actually, we’re working with the Achuar people, which is interesting because Reed had an Anthropology class while I was there called “Nature, Culture, and Environmentalism” and we read a lot about Achuar people… and now I’m working with them!
Sponsor recruitment for 2014 Reed College Winter Externships is complete and now....it's time for students to apply! There are forty opportunities this winter, and students have until 15 October 2013 to apply.
Here's a visual of the opportunities.
I’m running a little late with this blog post – school has been in session for two weeks already, and my internship ended over a month ago – but I wanted to share this last reflection, even if belatedly, on my summer experience with Commerce Kitchen, a web development and marketing company in Denver. I said in my previous blog post that this internship marked many firsts for me. Consequently, it has posed many opportunities for learning.
Some things I learned were specific to my work, like how to create a successful infographic or how to track visitors to a website using Google Analytics. (Here is a link to the infographic I created on biking in Seattle: http://www.seattlemortgageplanners.com/2013/08/biking-in-seattle/)
Other things I learned were generally useful career skills, like business networking and project management. I also learned some things that I wouldn’t directly list on my newly created Linked-in page, but that are just as valuable for my career and life. I lived on my own for the first time, learned to navigate the very important challenges of finances, cooking, and shared cleaning duties with a housemate. I also learned to recognize when I needed to rely on my roommate and when I just needed alone time.
Kali is the manager of SCOTUSblog, a successful blog with a small staff dedicated to covering United States Supreme Court cases without bias. Kali manifests the spirit of Reed’s liberal arts education, and illuminates that practicing the perspective of “learning for the love of learning” has tangible, real-world value.
MW: Tell me a bit about what you do as manager of SCOTUSblog?
KB: I coordinate the content of the blog. The Supreme Court hears about 80 cases each year and we cover all of them. We also select about a dozen issues that we believe will have broad appeal and we have symposia, that I curate, on those topics.
At the chapter meeting this month, my summer position with Architecture for Humanity Portland officially came to an end. As the meeting’s featured speaker, I presented my accomplishments as Chapter Development Coordinator over the past 10 weeks. Looking back, it’s unsettling how quickly the summer flew by, and I find myself wondering how I managed to fit so many significant experiences within such a short period of time.
Since my last blog post, I’ve helped AFH Portland grow considerably as an organization. Working closely with Becca, the Director of Membership and Communications, I created a comprehensive Chapter Manual to guide the future operations of our chapter. Hopefully, the Manual will serve as a resource to facilitate the success and sustainability of chapter activities long after the current directors are gone.
Using a draft manual written by AFH New York as my model, I created my own 52 page (and growing) document that contains an overview of chapter organization and roles, a project toolkit, resources for information management and chapter finances, a guide to grants and grant-writing, and a strategic plan for future development. Essentially, the Chapter Manual integrates the various components of my work this summer within one cohesive document. Surprisingly, no other chapter to date has created a complete operational manual, so my work could potentially serve as a resource for AFH chapters nationwide (which is really exciting!).
Last winter, we introduced Winter Externships to Reedies. Twenty-four students participated in 11 externships around the US. This year, we're gearing up for a larger pool of opportunities and to deploying more first, second, and third year Reedies across the country from January 6 to 17.
So far for January, we have opportunities in several different areas of education—Waldorf, TESOL, the Socratic method, Saturday Academy, and the politics of teaching. There are some great opportunities for students interested in pre-law: activist law with Public Citizen; family law, tax law; medicine and psychology in neuroscience, small-town hospital/pathology, medical policy and funding, naturopathic wellness and digestive disorders; writing and social media; government with a state representative; finance with a tax practice; environment through sustainability at large institutions and hazardous waste through county government; libraries; the emerging field of radiochemistry; entrepreneurialsim, and social justice through gritty survival issues of homelessness in New York City.
I’ve been struggling to find the appropriate words to express just how profound my experience as a President’s Summer Fellow has been. After falling into a deep rut following a series of negative experiences working as a professional ballet dancer, I desperately wanted to rewire my relationship to my body, my technique, and the concert dance world in general. This was a big request for a ten week project, but I am incredibly happy with the results. Through innumerable bruises, doubts, and tears, I have come out of this adventure a very different dancer then when I began. Spending six weeks training and exploring at the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance has given me new confidence, a new sense of wonder, and new joy in all things dance and movement related.