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image: Campus NewsStudents try out mini-careers with CAPS
Ten weeks at a high-powered firm or a nonprofit helps students decide next step.

Luckily for the College's determined young minds, Career and Placement Services (CAPS) helps students test the waters of their futures through its five-year-old internship program.

Internships are available in both not-for-profit and for-profit organizations-from the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago to Deutsche Bank in London to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. This year these organizations reserved 200 internships exclusively for U of C students-which CAPS hopes to increase to 300 by 2003. Most internships take place during the summer except for year-long internships at the Chicago mayor's office.

The program boasts a variety of categories, including artistic and cultural opportunities with Steppenwolf Theatre and the Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio; research internships at the Field Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Institute; and internships through the University Community Service Center and the Human Rights Program.

Melissa A. Peal, a fourth-year English major, has interned twice at not-for-profit educational organizations through CAPS. In summer 1999 she worked with the Chicago Scholars Foundation, an organization that awards one student from every Chicago high school a $1,000 college scholarship. She spent the following summer with College Summit, a Washington, DC-based organization that advises youths from low-income families on their college applications.

Landing an internship such as Peal's, says Hilary A. Caldwell, associate director of CAPS, "is a real learning experience for the students because many of them haven't navigated the process of interviewing. It's structured similarly to looking for a full-time job, but with a lot more support."

Students must submit a résumé, a 500-word essay stating their interest in a particular internship, a transcript, and a faculty recommendation. CAPS acts as intermediary, forwarding the cream of the crop to prospective employers for a final interview.

For-profit companies fund their own interns while the College and alumni donations support interns at not-for-profit institutions.

Kelley Helfand, of Sibson & Company, a consulting firm that partners with CAPS, seeks interns with "problem-solving skills, quantitative skills, the ability to deal with ambiguity, and verbal and written communication skills." U of C students appeal to employers like Sibson & Company because, says Caldwell, they "have excellent analytical skills, are superb writers, fearless problem solvers, and unusually good at managing time."

Often the internships turn into full-time jobs. "Those U of C students who interned with us and then joined us [at Sibson & Company] as employees hit the ground running," says Helfand.

In every case, interns are matched up with a mentor who guides them through assignments and projects, big and small. Joshua R. Keith, a fourth-year economics and philosophy major who interned at the Chicago Goldman Sachs office as a summer 2000 financial analyst, felt this aspect was especially helpful. "Daily contact with clients and colleagues in the office, communicating clearly, and possessing the ability to work in a team became critical in providing the best service," he says. "These skills have served me well in the tasks I have been assigned in my classes-projects that require the student to coalesce a variety of unique and insightful opinions into a clear and coherent argument."

For Peal, her experiences at the not-for-profit organizations transcended such mundane internship tasks as photocopying and stuffing envelopes.

"Honestly, I cannot possibly list all of the meaningful work I did at the Chicago Scholars Foundation and College Summit," she says. "I didn't just gain a sense of how such nonprofits work in a larger system of education. At every workshop I coordinated-from Colorado to Chicago to Washington, DC-I met people who cared about education as much as I do, who knew more about it and truly wanted to help their students achieve something big."

Each underprivileged high-school student who recognized his or her potential made Peal's experience all the more rich. During the workshops, she says, "The students opened their hearts to the staff and voiced dreams that they were afraid they could not achieve. I was inspired by everyone who came together at these summits to make this happen."-B.C.



 APRIL 2001

  > > Volume 93, Number 4


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