I did my first externship at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in Princeton NJ, and it was completely rewarding. My mentor, Laura, included me in all her day to day work as an evaluator for one of the largest philanthropic foundations in the world. I learned about the public health advocacy the Foundation does, and gained valuable insight into the health care system of the United States. This externship also showed me what its like to work in a busy office, with meetings and conferences and cubicles. More importantly though, it helped me expand my career interests and gave me valuable contacts in public health.
At the Foundation I helped do research for one of the grant evaluations that Laura was involved in, and also met with public health officials looking to get a grant from the Foundation. I even helped Laura, my mentor, with her chapter of a public health textbook for the new edition. All in all, this externship was great, I learned a lot about public health advocacy, and the externship has helped broaden my horizons in the job search field.
As many of my fellow Financial Services Fellows have blogged, this spring break, a group of Reed students (myself included), traveled to a very far and foreign land, where people wear nice suits, and eat steak, and talk about mortgage backed securities, and follow sports: Wall St. Before the trip, I literally could not fathom what went on at this mythical place whose name alone probably induces shudders among at least 50 percent of the student body. Assuming that my ignorance is the rule rather than the exception, I thought I’d spend this blog post illuminating a bit of the world inhabited by some of the most powerful people in the world. What follows is a brief selection of some of my experiences on Wall St; I’ll let you all cast your own judgment (or go on the trip next year to see it in the flesh!)
During Spring Break, I…
Obviously, this list does not encompass even a fraction of Wall St., or my brief time there. The purpose is more about giving a taste, and maybe piquing the interest, of students to partake in this Reed-sponsored journey to what might not actually be the dark side.
"Marketing is something you do when people don't want to buy your product."
Part of a spirited lunch-hour debate, this quote from my sponsor (Richard Kotulski-Wakefield of AppFog) carries a lot of meaning. Hyperbolic, maybe, but the sentiment pervades many tech startups. If your idea is good enough, just give the beta of your product to the relevant bloggers and tech journalists, and it'll take off by itself. So the thinking goes. This somewhat romantic notion--software market as meritocracy, if you will--attracts the ambitious and the free-thinking in equal measure.
The successful are both.
The experience I had with the Redden & Findling externship was a wonderful one. The people I met over the course of the week were phenomenal, being professionally informative as well as welcoming. I am completely satisfied with the knowledge I gained and I am grateful to the Redden & Findling firm as well as The Center for Life Beyond Reed for providing me with this opportunity.
The externship at the law offices of Redden & Findling seemed to be slightly different than the other externships offered, since it gave a firsthand look into the professional lives of a high-paced law office in East Portland. Traditionally, it’s quite difficult to find opportunities in the area of law as an undergraduate student because of the large pool of graduate law students around the country who are also competing for internships and employment. This externship is a rare experience and it should absolutely be taken advantage of if it continues to be offered.
The highly specialized nature of practicing law generally excludes most untrained students from participating, but Mike Redden found a great balance between observation and engagement that kept me interested for the duration of the week. Rather than have me do office work or simply sit and watch, he narrated almost all of his tasks to me so that I would have some idea of what was going on. All of this insider knowledge about the workings of law firms, estate planning and the ins-and-outs of the law code, combined with fanciful stories of the old days at Reed College, national bridge tournaments, and travelling across Europe made the week energetic and exciting. Unfortunately for Mike, he broke his femur weeks before and was confined to his home office, but it was better than ever for me – delicious lunches made by his wife and the company of two loving dogs by my side was more than I could ask for! His hospitality, willingness to answer all questions, and general light-heartedness showed me a side of law that I’d never seen before.
My name is Florence Randari, an international freshman student from Kenya. I am a prospective Math Economics major planning to join Business School after Reed and start a career in the financial services field. Through the help of my career adviser, Brooke Hunter, I managed to get a winter externship with a non-profit organization called Our House of Portland, to learn more about running and managing of non-profits.
Our House of Portland is a non-profit organization that provides healthcare, housing and other vital services to low income people living with HIV/AIDS. My host was Allen Brady who is the Director of Business services in the organization. Allen took me through a detailed information session on how he manages the finances of the organization, writes a budget and prepares an Annual Financial Statement for the organization among other duties. Being a non-profit, I was interested in knowing how they get the large amounts of money to offer free services to the 14 clients in the Neighbourhood Housing and care program as well as provide food banks, clothing and household items to over 700 people living with HIV/AIDS.
For my externships, I worked for a couple of days with the Multnomah County Library early childhood outreach services. I also went to Northampton, Massachusetts for a week and worked at Forbes Library. I went into the experience wanting to learn about what day-to-day work was like for librarians; I didn't have very high expectations, I just wanted to see what I would learn when I was there. I didn't even really think that I wanted to pursue the library world very strongly before my externship. I was totally blown away! I learned so much, and had a wonderful time. I am completely considering getting an MLS now.
The best part of my experience was working in the archives at the Forbes Library, which housed not only the local history archives for Northampton, MA, but also the collection of the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Museum. I felt completely at home in the archives, and like I could have spent days and months on end just exploring.
When I first started working in the Calvin Coolidge archives, the archivist Dylan told me that NBC had called the day prior and asked for a recording of Calvin Coolidge's first State of the Union address (the first State of the Union that was on the radio). He had looked around for it a little, but didn't think that it even existed, and told the reporter it wasn't in the archives. A few days later, a former archivist called and said she knew the recording was around...she said "it is in a cassette tape, in a drawer." This collection wasn't organized in a particularly accessible fashion; it was basically a room full of large cabinets and boxes with all sorts of different things in them. So when Dylan told me to go look for the recording, he didn't have very much hope, but he thought it would be fun for me to at least familiarize myself with all of the material. After sorting through for a while, I found a very old shellac 78 with the speech on it. Dylan came back and told me that we couldn't really send that to NBC, and after looking for a little while longer, we found a CD someone had transferred the speech to. Success!
State government doesn't get much love from pop culture. There's glamour in Washington D.C., (House of Cards, The West Wing) and there's down-home folksy know how at the municipal level (Parks and Recreation), but state government is a black hole where entertainment magnates dare not tread. Over the course of my externship working along side a state legislator, I learned that state government (or at least my state government at home in Minnesota) is more deserving of a long-running Emmy award-winning television series than federal or municipal government. While municipal budgets are collapsing and Washington is gridlocked, state governments are, due to a number of factors, quietly wielding more and more influence over the way federal policies are implemented and designed. Moreover, with Washington caught in its own headlock, states are being tasked with solving big problems on their own. I interned with Tina Liebling — my local House representative, and mother of Sam Liebow, '14. Rep. Liebling is the chair of the Health and Human Services committee in the Minnesota House of Representatives. For a week, I watched as Liebling and her staff geared up for an extremely short legislative session -- in the words of my Governor, Mark Dayton, an "un-session." The short length of this “un-session" is meant to force Democrats and Republicans to get their grievances worked out before their bills hit the floor. During my externship, Liebling and her staff were setting her committee's schedule for the upcoming session. This meant meetings with lobbyists, constituents, and other legislators. I had the opportunity to sit-in on some of these meetings, mostly those between Rep. Liebling and a lobbyist or lobbyists. As someone who had never met a lobbyist before, listening and watching them work was quite interesting. A few of the lobbyists I met seemed like very highly-paid, extremely-biased research assistants. These lobbyists laid out a problem, a solution and, frequently, gave Rep. Liebling a bill to sponsor. Other lobbyists seemed like professional hand-holders, navigating their clients through the political process, and keeping them on message. The importance of lobbyists became clear to me over the course of the externship. It is simply impossible for a legislator to have an encyclopedic understanding of every topic they will encounter from medical licensing disputes, to volatile organic compounds. Lobbyists pass on information in thirty minutes that would take a legislator a week to research, allowing the legislator to craft a more informed opinion on the subject. The trick, I think, is to separate the facts from the spin. The better the lobbyist, the more difficult making that distinction becomes. I found myself trying to disentangle truth and “industry opinion” quite a lot over the course of the externship. I was tasked with researching and writing a report on the long-term care insurance market during my externship. The cost of long-term care is spiraling out of control. Minnesota’s “Medical Assistance” program (our version of Medicaid) could be spending $5 billion on long-term care in 2035 — which could bankrupt Medical Assistance entirely. Every stakeholder has a different solution to this problem, from massive tax incentives to entice people to purchase long-term care insurance, to mandating every man, woman, and child to carry long-term care insurance. If you want to read more about the advantages and disadvantages of currently proposed solutions and the long-term care insurance market, you can access my report here:
David Lipkin, Reed class of 1991, is one of the co-founders of Method, an experience design firm, which was founded in 1999. Method currently has offices in San Francisco, London, and NYC. I spent two weeks at Method as an extern in the NYC office. While at Reed, David majored in history and also focused on anthropology. Currently, he manages the strategy and business development of the NYC office, though he also maintains an active role in many of the projects.
Despite all of the projects, clients, initiatives, and goals that Method juggles, it doesn’t come off as a stressful place to work. Their fifth floor space is open and well lit; nobody has an office. There’s a basketball hoop mounted on one of the walls, and I quickly learned that late afternoon breaks to play games of dice were commonplace. Everyone was friendly, and interacted with each other as peers. Until I spent time at Method, I didn’t fully appreciate how valuable a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere is to facilitating creativity in the workplace.
With that said, I confess that when I arrived at 9:30 on the first day, I was apprehensive. I wasn’t sure what I was going to be doing for two weeks. I felt like I didn’t have any design skills to speak of, and my front-end development skills definitely didn’t seem up to par. But everyone welcomed me and it was fine, I suppose. One of the best parts about my experience at Method was that there was so much going on- and so much that I could do- that I had to let go of the uncomfortable feeling that I was an intruder very quickly. After the morning standup, I was invited to observe one of the project meetings. I stood in the corner of the area watching when the project lead turned to me and said, “Feel free to jump in with any ideas or questions you have.”
Over winter break, I was an extern at the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience under Dr. Sharon Thompson-Schill at University of Pennsylvania. My co-extern and I spent our days at Sharon’s lab talking to her and other researchers about their research.
One of the topics that Sharon is interested in is cognitive control. This refers to the executive control of the prefrontal cortex on cognitive processes such as rational thought, task flexibility, and working memory. Interestingly, when the human brain is developing, the prefrontal cortex grows much slower than the rest of it—as a result children exhibit the traits of someone with a damaged prefrontal cortex for many years. This quality has inspired much research into ways to accelerate the prefrontal growth of children, to make them “mature” faster.
However, Sharon points out that there are some important tasks that children are better at than adults, like learning and creativity. Their prefrontal immaturity may actually aid in these tasks and the cognitive control that adults have inhibits them. I observed a tDCS experiment in the lab that either increased or decreased prefrontal activity in participants while they performed tasks that require learning and attention to see if their performance was affected by the changes in prefrontal activity. The idea was that participants with decreased prefrontal activity were more like children and would do better on the tasks without the control of the prefrontal cortex in action. Therefore, it may be inadvisable to hasten the prefrontal growth of children without fully understanding the benefits of slower growth. Perhaps it is most efficient for children to have underdeveloped prefrontal cortices to learn more fully and to develop flexible learning and rational thinking later as adults.
This winter break I had the pleasure of visiting Sam Groveman, an alumnus who is currently getting his doctorate in radiochemistry at Hunter College in New York City.
The radiochemistry program that Sam has been tirelessly campaigning is in its first few years of operation, and Sam is hoping that more Reedies will become interested in applying. The program lies at the intersection of two pre-existing groups, the City University of New York system (CUNY) and the NSF funded Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship program (IGERT). This allows for extensive collaboration with other groups within the CUNY and IGERT systems, including several prominent universities around the country, as well as national laboratories such as Oak Ridge and the prestigious Memorial Sloan Ketterin Cancer Center.
To get involved with the program one has to apply to the graduate center for CUNY, and get accepted into the chemistry program. The first two years of the program are spent taking graduate classes and rotating through various labs in the CUNY system. One of those years will be spent at Hunter, if the participant knows he or she wants to be in IGERT. For the first two labs, the particpant receives a stipend. Then the last three years are spent doing research and dissertation work.
I’ve loved animals ever since I was a little girl. Bugs, lizards, squirrels, frogs- you name it. And of course, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always replied that I wanted to be a veterinarian. After all, what job could be better than one where you got to play with animals all day and make them feel better? Once I turned thirteen, I left this childhood dream behind for more realistic pursuits. Like becoming a physicist (hahaha). I couldn’t dissociate being a vet from my childish (and therefore naïve) fantasy of it. It took me a while before I started listening to that little girl again, but this time I was determined to base my decision about what to study and do with my life on something more substantial than “really liking animals”. This is where Dr. Chris (a Reed graduate!) at the Gresham Animal Hospital came into play.
I participated in an externship with Moira Tofanelli. Moira is a School Psychologist at Creative Sciences School in Portland. She was very accommodating and tailored the experience to my interests. I learned that a School Psychologist spends their time focusing on the kids who are not doing very well in school, either academically or behaviorally, and try to determine if they need special educations services. I was intrigued that this was not an exact science; there are many circumstances making it it unclear what is causing the issues for the child and what steps should be taken to help correct the problem. This was highlighted for me when I did a case study of a sixth grader who was undergoing an evaluation to determine eligibility for special education services. Overall, my externship was a very rewarding and interesting experience.
The Reed Financial Service Fellowship was an engaging experience where I got to explore questions that have been at the back of my mind with regards to a career in the Financial Sector. I aggregate these questions into two: “what does it means to work in the financial sector?” and on a more reflective note, “Am I cut out for such an industry?” It is accurate to say that my intent to find answers to these questions gave structure to my fellowship experience. This trip to New York happens to be my first ever, and it was an incredible experience. The buildings were so tall that even a complete upward tilt of my cervical vertebrae wasn’t enough to show me their apex, and in a day I saw as many people in the subway as I had seen in a year in Portland! That was my level of bewilderment when I got to New York.
There aren’t too many externships where they strap electrodes to your head. Not on the first day, at least.
But here I was, at 11 AM on a Thursday, listening to a cheerful senior rattle off instructions while gently attaching two large rubber pads to my scalp. While this may sound eerily like the start of a ‘50s science fiction movie, I was actually just a participant in a tDCS experiment, a form of neurostimulation in which constant, low-level current is delivered to the brain via small electrodes. tDCS changes the resting potential of neurons, making it harder or easier for them to fire. As a result, it can be used to temporarily increase cognitive ability in areas like memory and language.
Although my externship at Crossroads Community Services was short, just four days, it was an extremely enriching experience. I saw the organization both from an administrative perspective by attending meetings, seeing how food for the soup kitchen, shelter, and pantry is acquired and organized, and how guests at the shelter are selected. I also took a volunteer's perspective, by participating in helping the shelter, soup kitchen, and pantry programs. Additionally, I was able to learn from my externship sponsor about the ins and outs of the shelter system in New York. I became aware of the factors that can lead to homelessness, and about some of the potential solutions.
Crossroads Community Services consists of three different programs. The women's shelter gives up to ten women dinner and a warm place to sleep every single night. The food pantry acts somewhat like a grocery store with free items for families having trouble making ends meet. Their soup kitchen serves dinner to homeless individuals every night and serves a full, restaurant style breakfast on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Sundays. Additionally, the soup kitchen hands out coats and other donated goods before dinner some days. The three programs complement each other well, each providing vital resources to individuals in different situations of need. The three programs are able to support each other, because one often is able to make use of leftover or unused resources from another of the programs.
My first experience was with the soup kitchen, working with other volunteers to go on what are called "food rescue missions”. These “missions” consist of picking up the day's unsold, leftover foods from stores and company cafeterias (CCS is in midtown. I had no idea that businesses were a source of food for soup kitchens, and found it really interesting and inspiring that for-profit companies were willing to be so generous. Also, the food we were able to scrounge up was really tasty! The guests who come to the soup kitchen for dinner every night really seemed to appreciate it.
The Reed College Financial Services Fellowship is a career exploration program funded through the generosity of a Reed trustee with support from the Reed College trustees' investment committee. Students interested in financial services and/or quantitative fields compete for the fellowship and are interviewed by the College trustees’ investment committee. Fellows have the opportunity to gain insight into career options in the financial services industry through a short-term field trip to New York City. The trip includes business dinners with alumni and trustees of the College; an opportunity to shadow professionals in the workplace to get a sense of day to day operations, to discuss specific jobs and careers in the field, to take a tour of a trading floor. Pre-departure workshops on networking, resume writing, and intro to markets will be held as well. This is the first reflection from the 2014 Financial Services Fellows, Sanjeev Verma.
Financial Services Fellowship: Fact & Fiction
You might expect that as good Reedies we shook hands with all of the "evil" people on Wall St. in a detached manner with a heightened sense of irony. Au contraire! I put down my metaphysics book for a week and fully immersed myself in their world. Turns out, a job in finance does not amount to the death of "life of the mind." Finance is very much an intellectual profession; it is a technician's sport that requires both brains and creativity. I know that I went in with a few preconceptions too, but please allow me to dispel some of the common myths about finance. Of course, finance is not a perfect industry, so I will also share some of the unfortunate truths that I confirmed while on the trip.
Hearing Tests, Ear Wax, and Tonsils, Oh My! Thoughts from West Suburban ENT Center and Hinsdale Hospital
First arriving in Chicago, I was very nervous. Being in a cold and foreign city, I wondered what the winter externship would be like. It turned out that externing for Dr. Mahoney, an otolaryngologist at the West Suburban Ear Nose and Throat Center and Adventist Hospitals was an amazing and eye opening experience worth above and beyond anything I could have imagined. Dr. Mahoney and her family were welcoming and wonderful. They opened up their doors and provided me with an opportunity to share in their daily life for the week of the externship. On the very first day, we arrived at the Hinsdale Hospital around 7:30 am to meet her pediatric patients for surgery. On days that she does surgery, she’ll impressively and safely complete a number of tonsillectomies, adenoidectomies, and tympanostomies (ear tube surgery) in only a few hours! It was amazing how she so skillfully blended efficiency with patient and parent relations, making sure that everyone was well informed and provided the best care possible. In all surgeries, especially pediatrics, and even the non-invasive ones, safety is key. Having the opportunity to observe a team of skilled health professionals at work, whether performing surgery or checking up on a patient, reminded me of the rehearsal and production process for theatrical performances. Success in even the smallest things was impossible without the dedication and skill of everyone working together. It’s amazing the effect that one small surgery can have on someone’s life.Though the surgeries and checkups that she tends to perform are more for improving quality of life, in the long run, something as simple as removing your adenoids to lessen middle ear infections and fluid, snoring, or even sleep apnea, for example, pays back tenfold, especially during the developmental stages of a child. For many children, excessive ear infections can prevent proper hearing of stimuli in one’s environment, inhibiting or stunting a variety of developmental functions, most importantly included among these being successful language acquisition.
After a few routine surgeries, Dr. Mahoney and I traveled to other hospitals that she is affiliated with to check up on other patients, whose ages ranged from recently born to middle aged, and perform tracheostomy tube changes. Then we went to Grand Rounds and listened as the keynote speaker discussed their research and current developments on the use of Gabapentin for radiation induced oral mucositis, a common complication of radiation therapy, to reduce the need for high total doses of narcotics and unplanned treatment interruptions during chemotherapy. Following this, we went to the clinic to meet with patients, where I also met and observed the work of wonderful medical assistants, secretarial staff, an allergist, a pediatric endocrinologist, and two audiologists, who very kindly let me shadow them during hearing tests and discuss experiences and educational opportunities pertaining to the field of audiology, which is a career I’m interested in pursuing. Over the course of the week, the above schedule outlined was somewhat routine, but the number of opportunities to meet and learn from professionals was endless, and there was even time to visit the Oriental Institute and Art Institute of Chicago! While my original learning objectives were to gain a better understanding of the field of otolaryngology and audiology and to gain contacts and references. The opportunities available went above and beyond what I could have hoped, and my personal and professional objectives for this experience helped me to explore not only these fields, but also the health care field at large.I gained a better understanding of what being a doctor in both a clinic and hospital setting Rachel Ellinger Winter Break Externship Blog Post West Suburban ENT Center is like and found out more about various other careers both that I have considered and that I never even knew existed in hospital settings, such as nursing, respiratory therapy, occupational therapy, social work, psychiatry, and theological counseling. I also learned more about what medical employment in the military and navy is like, which is another path that I’ve been interested in.
Working with Dr. Mahoney and meeting with various other professionals, I realized that every profession requires dedication and love for what you do, because success in any career whether it be a baker or a doctor, requires hard work and devotion. And, it's very difficult to do anything that becomes such a big part of your life unless you love it, so it's very important to follow what you're passionate about and what makes you happy.
The camera pans across the office and lands on a young ingénue. She weaves between the various secretarial desks arranged in the large central space of the office, clutching a small box of personal possessions with which she will adorn her own desk. The men of Sterling Cooper gather around the perimeter to gawk at Peggy Olson, who is unaware that this will be her first day as Don Draper’s personal assistant--
Okay, so my externship experience was by no means analogous to Peggy Olson’s introductory scene in the premiere episode of AMC’s Mad Men. But it is approximately representative of my familiarity with advertising when I applied for a winter externship with Cooke & Co., a marketing start up located in Brooklyn, New York and founded by the supremely cool Steve Wax ’65. My existence is surprisingly divorced from the deluge of advertising media some people may experience. There are no commercial breaks on Netflix, I was an early adopter of AdBlock, and I couldn’t tell you the last time I picked up a physical piece of print media. Figuratively, I was Peggy Olson on her first day at Sterling Cooper, and literally, all that I knew of advertising was Peggy Olson’s character arch from secretary to senior copywriter.
I can tell you now that Cooke & Co. is nothing like Sterling Cooper, and modern marketing has come a long way since Don Draper. The scope of marketing has expanded from print, radio, and brief television commercials to websites, social media, and beyond. In many ways, advertising platforms are more accessible to brands than ever before, and perhaps as a result, the “market” is a bit saturated. Thus, the need for brands to differentiate both themselves and the ways in which they engage with their audiences has become extremely pronounced.
David Smirnow and his family are fabulous hosts. They let me stay in their home for five days while I shadowed different doctors including David at the city hospital. I was able to see the beautiful Montana landscape every morning on my way to "work" with David. I say "work" because I got to watch everything but did not actually have to do anything. After all I am not certified to cut someone open, not to mention it was too much fun to be called work. David was invaluable in setting up day for me to shadow in pathology, radiology, anesthesiology, and surgery. I had the opportunity to see cancerous cells under a microscope, bones and the womb through CT, MRI, and X-ray scans, brain surgery, and more. The doctors were friendly and full of information to help lead me along my path to medicine. I was also able to see an autopsy, which I admit was a little unnerving but very educational. It was like an anatomy class but more smelly. Overall, definitely an experience not to be forgotten!
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.