Extern program fosters career interests
By biconews On 8 Feb, 2000 At 05:00 AM | Categorized As Archives | With 0 Comments

By Suzannah Skolnik-Smith

When Christine Kaminski, a Bryn Mawr freshman, signed up for an externship over winter break, she hadn’t anticipated the impact it would have. Kaminski went to Richmond. Virginia, to shadow Polly Stephens (BMC ’87), a general surgeon specializing in breast surgery. “I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in the medical field,” said Kaminski, “but I wasn’t sure as to a specialty. After being able to sit in on patient visits and observe surgery, I felt very motivated to consider becoming a surgeon.”

The externship program at Bryn Mawr and Haverford is run by the Career Development Office. Each year, Career Development tracks down alumni and other friends of the colleges who are willing to sponsor a student extem during breaks. Each participating professional submits a form to the Office that outlines the available externship. These forms are filed in catalogues at both Career Development offices.

Associate Director of the Haverford Career Development Office Amy Feifer describes externing as “shadowing someone in a particular field, asking questions and having conversations; it’s the conversations that are most invaluable.” Feifer added that the connections that students make while participating in the program are also very important. She cited one student who landed a job at a major corporation after doing an externship with the president of the company during her years at Haverford.

Students seeking externships first browse the catalogues at the Career Development offices for ones that interest them. They must then fill out an application that asks for their top four choices and any relevant coursework, experience or skills. For a spring externship, students must turn in their applications in early February to the Career Development office, where extemships are assigned on a first-come, first-serve basis. Selection for the winter break job opportunities takes place in early November, and members of the Career Development offices noted that this year students were lined up for selection well before the office’s 8:00 a.m. opening. Applicants receive their assignments by a Career Development counselor, and they must sign a waiver committing them to the externship. Once the student’s dean gives approval, he or she must attend a mandatory extern orientation before beginning the program.

Bryn Mawr’s Associate Director of Career Development, Geoffrey Falen, said that externships benefit both students and their sponsors. “They give students an opportunity to view a professional operating in his or her environment and to observe first-hand what happens on a day to day basis in a field of interest to that student.” According to Falen, sponsors welcome extemships because they allow them to contribute to the professional development of students and, in the case of alumni, provide a way for them to remain active at the colleges.

While most externships take place on the East Coast, the Career Development office also arranges them in cities across the country and outside of the United States. Henrik Fahlgren, a Haverford senior exchange student from Sweden, will travel this spring to Germany to work with the chief executive of the Wall Street Journal’s Berlin office, also a Haverford graduate.

“Part of the reason I’m going to shadow David Wessel is because I am considering a career in his field,” said Fahlgren. “For me, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity … I wouldn’t be able to work with an American newspaper in Sweden.” Other students from Haverford and Bryn Mawr will travel this spring to London and Ecuador, as well as many cities in the United States.

Although this year’s extemship program has drawn record-breaking numbers of participants, 120 for winter break and 65 for spring break, Feifer said that the Career Development Office is still offering extern opportunities and will be accepting applications until Friday. “More students get involved every year,” said Feifer, “but I’m hoping to see even more seize this wonderful opportunity.” Students who have been through the process know what she means. Said Kaminski, “It really opened my eyes.”

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