Growing up, being queer was a hush-hush topic in many spaces I’ve been to. Being your authentic self meant being everything but out and proud. Whether it was middle school or the professional world, people just didn’t talk about it. Imagine my surprise when I heard of a professional conference opportunity specifically for queer undergraduate students. It’s not just one opportunity, but four. Out for Undergrad (O4U) offers four different conferences all in major cities around the United States: The Marketing conference is offered in Chicago, the Business conference is offered in New York, the Technology conference is offered in San Francisco, and the Engineering conference is offered in Palo Alto, CA. Did I mention that they cover your airfare and hotel?
I had first heard about O4U from Kai Jia, a Davidson alumnus who served as an ambassador for O4U. O4U is meant to help queer undergraduate students get their foot in the door of so many of these major career fields. The focus on academic and career development by fellow queer peers who volunteer their time to make this conference a success is the very meaning of community to me. The speakers, the volunteers, the staff at O4U really do want us to succeed and so planned for an entire year to put together all four of these conferences.
This year I chose to attend the O4U Marketing conference in Chicago, IL. The year before I attended the Technology conference in San Francisco. It was my first time in Chicago and I had a wonderful time. The itinerary was of course packed from 8 am in the morning to 7pm in the evening but the connections I made were worth all the while. Coming into the conference we were already given an assignment to provide hands-on experience in the field of marketing. The selected few participants with exceptional presentations had the chance to present their assignments to all of us. The winner got a position for a first round interview with a major company.
Each conference has their own career fair and so I was able to network with so many people from companies like Pepsico, Henkel, Neilson, Pandora, and even the toothpaste company Colgate. There were plenty of networking opportunities throughout the conference and I highly suggest everyone take advantage of it to get their name known. It’s only one weekend around mid-September or mid-October so take your pick and I hope you’ll have a great time connecting with professional queer peers as I did.
Original posted contributed by Aren Carpenter ’18, recipient of the Jolley Foundation Internship Grant for summer 2017.
This summer I had the amazing opportunity to volunteer at the South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston thanks to a Jolley Foundation grant. I spent about half of my time working in the Sea Turtle Rescue Hospital that treats stranded, injured, and ill sea turtles from the entire east coast. It was an incredibly productive summer for the hospital this year; we treated more than 30 sea turtles and were able to release several just in the time that I was there. There are few experiences more rewarding. The staff and volunteers have such passion for these animals and it was a real pleasure being able to work with them to make a real difference for these turtles. I was involved with the daily care (feeding, cleaning, medical procedures, etc.) of the sea turtles and I was the primary caregiver for 12 terrapins, an estuarine turtle that I was using for research.
Terrapins are near threatened in several South Carolina populations and my research allowed me to study their interactions with crab traps, a leading cause of their declines in the area. I conducted a series of tests on these terrapins and I am planning to submit my findings for publication later this year! Hopefully, my research can help mitigate terrapin deaths in the future. My previous exposure with terrapins also allowed me to start a biweekly terrapin educational program at the aquarium geared for younger children and teenagers. I was told by several of my supervisors that many guests commented that they loved the chance to have hands-on experiences with terrapins, so I believe it was a successful endeavor! As one of my professors used to comment, ‘you never know when one experience, however brief, could inspire a kid to be the next biologist or vet or scientist’. I’d like to think that I was allowing the thousands of kids I talked with to have such an experience.
In all, my summer was everything I hoped it would be. I can’t say enough how thankful I am to the Jolley Foundation for allowing me to expand my horizons, if you will, by exploring new career paths and making a difference in the lives of turtles and aquarium goers alike this summer.
Cigna’s Managed Care Rotational Program (MCRP) allows high-potential individuals to rotate throughout Cigna’s Medicare Advantage (MA) business in three rotations over the course of twelve months, getting exposure to the business model and senior leadership before placement in a permanent role.
When looking for a position post-Davidson, Cigna and the MCRP stood out to me for a few reasons. I was interested in the Healthcare industry, but was worried about getting lost in the shuffle of a large company. Cigna, though a large international presence, has a strong emphasis on personal and professional development. Further, the MCRP provides the opportunity and resources to focus on this development throughout the year-long program. For example, the Chicago-based MCRPs had regular lunches with the Chief Operating Officer of Illinois Medicare Advantage to discuss professional growth and learning opportunities.
Additionally, I did not want to immediately pin myself down to one area of the business; the MCRP is tailored to providing exposure to several critical departments in the company and finding what best suits your interests, skills, and areas for growth.
My experience in the program has been influential on my career path. I found my current role through projects I worked on in my last rotation and the managers and mentors I worked with have continued to be resources for advice and support post-program. I look forward to continuing to learn and develop professionally in my new position and am grateful for the opportunities and support the program has provided for me at Cigna.
Meera Goswitz ’15 graduated from the MCRP in June of 2016 alongside fellow 2015 Davidson Classmate, Benjamin Arkin. 2016 Davidson graduates Catherine Wu and Meron Fessehaye entered the program in July of 2016.
Davidson grad Dan Hagemann ’15 recently completed his first year in Synchrony Financial’s Business Leadership Program. Synchrony Financial (SYF), completing the separation from GE Capital, created its Business Leadership Program (BLP) to begin developing future leaders of the company. Dan, now a full-time BLP, shares his experiences from the Program and answers some typical questions about SYF with you below:
“What is the Business Leadership Program, and why did you apply to it?”
The Program is a 2-year program at Synchrony Financial consisting of three 8-month rotations. Each entry class of BLPs contains roughly 50 BLPs. When you enter the Program, you enter under one “track,” and each of your three rotations provides a different experience within that track. Nine different tracks are offered, ranging from HR to IT to Data Analytics. Mine is Credit, in which I’ve done rotations in Deal Underwriting and Credit Risk.
The rotational nature of the Program still to this day remains my biggest personal draw towards the Program. When preparing to graduate Davidson, I was interested in doing consulting, but I realized that the Business Leadership Program provided that same short-term assignment structure that I admired in a lot of consulting firms. Also, it was clear to me that Synchrony was very serious about investing in its Program participants and valued its employees, both large priorities for me.
“How did you get the job, or at least, what made you a good fit for Synchrony’s BLP?”
As an Economics major at Davidson, I felt very confident about my quantitative and reasoning skills – I’d later realize that they weren’t all that special – which I figured would be important for a position in Credit. However, it became really clear to me throughout the interview process that Synchrony placed quite a bit of weight on leadership abilities and what SYF now calls “Critical Experiences,” and I was able to point out some examples of those abilities and experiences from my time at Davidson, whether related to Wrestling or studying in India and Spain.
“What have been the highlights of the Business Leadership Program so far?”
We’ve had quite a year packed with several awesome experiences, but I’ll try to boil it down to three main points:
Meeting our CEO Margaret Keane as the very first experience I had at Synchrony (9:00am, Monday morning – not kidding!). I’ve been lucky enough to speak with her a couple of times since then, but meeting our fearless leader will remain one of my favorite events that my class experienced.
Traveling to different SYF sites across the country for three weeks as one of our signature Cross-Functional Experiences. We dedicated the three weeks to learning about Sales & Relationship Management, a function none of us work in currently. It brought my class a lot closer together, and we were able to present our findings directly to the CEO and her direct reports at their Management Committee meeting.
Every year in July, the BLP Symposium provides a week-long opportunity for BLPs to reconnect at our headquarters in Stamford with various functions as an orientation for the new class. The improvements that we saw both in our fellow BLPs and Program growth overall in one year were astounding.
“What advice would you give to someone interested in applying to the Business Leadership Program?”
So, my primary advice here applies to any job, not just the Program. Aside from the given of getting to know fellow alumni at the companies you’d like to work at, I think it’s essential that you ask smart questions and show a good knowledge of a company’s business model or nuances to demonstrate both ability and interest. A few really simple, informal test questions like, “How do we (SYF) make money?” can tell a lot about how interested a candidate is in the business, because the content is fundamental to every action we take as a company. Specific to the Program, carefully consider which track you want to be a part of and know how to demonstrate your leadership experience.
Even though I grew up in Silicon Valley, I never thought of myself as a tech kind of gal. While it was cool to live near Google, Apple and Facebook HQ, I didn’t have much interest in computer science, which I assumed was a prerequisite for 99 percent of the jobs my friends’ parents held. It took leaving the Bay Area and coming to Davidson to make me realize how wrong I was.
Although having a computer science background is certainly a necessity for many tech roles, Davidson and its Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program have helped me realize that my liberal arts education is actually an asset here in Palo Alto, rather than a hindrance. As a Hispanic Studies major with no coding experience, I’m not programming or building apps, but what I am doing is just as valuable to the startup I work for–VersaMe, which was founded in part by Chris and Jon Boggiano, Davidson’s Entrepreneurs in Residence.
This summer I worked at Dove’s Nest in Charlotte. Dove’s Nest is a women’s rehabilitation center for substance abuse. My job was to basically spend time with the women and hear about their stories. Everyday I sat in on group therapy sessions, attended classes and workshops, and ate lunch with the women. I also did various organizational tasks for my supervisor. Additionally, I had the opportunity to help out in the admissions department of Dove’s Nest. This meant that I helped orient new residents to the program and gave them their materials.
I worked at Dove’s Nest through the Stapleton/Davidson Urban Service Internship program. This is a program that is offered every year through the Chaplain’s Office. Its focus is to understand issues of urban poverty and homelessness through non-profit work in the city of Charlotte. My time at Dove’s Nest flew by incredibly fast, and before I knew it, I was already saying goodbye.
My final day at Dove’s Nest, I left in tears and was still sobbing on the city bus, all the way back to my host family’s home.
It is difficult to pinpoint one specific reason I was crying so hard. One motivation that stands out to me is that I thought I was going to have a better chance to say goodbye to the women I loved so dearly. I sat in on my last group therapy session and the women in this group said their goodbyes then, but I kept saying back to every woman, “I’ll see you later.” At lunch, it was the same routine. I kept telling all the women I sat with everyday that I would see them later in the day. Sadly though, this wasn’t true. I ended up being treated to lunch by my supervisor and another co-worker, and did not make it back in time to say goodbye to anyone. The overwhelming realization washed over me that I would never be in the same place again. The women would be different, the people different, the stories different. I was so mad that I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye, but I also wondered to myself if it would make any difference. I know that this experience at Dove’s Nest had touched me, but had it really touched them in the same way?
I used to be concerned with this question of “how much impact have I made on these people?” and “what tangible difference can I see?” But after this summer, my questions of worth are ones like “what have I learned?” and “how can I see things differently from the way I have seen them before?” and “how much impact have these other people made on me?” I was crying on the bus because there was an overwhelming answer to all of these questions, on top of a genuine concern that I didn’t get to fully say thank you to the women at Dove’s Nest for all they had done for me.
This job was not about outcome or success, rather building relationships with people based off our common humanity.
The Stapleton showed me how to work towards loving people exactly as they are. It showed me that there is nothing more I can do to be seen as lovely or worthy. It reminded me of this essential truth in everyone, and inspired me to see people in this way. I believe I was weeping on the bus in part because I made the realization that we still cast men and women away. We are conditioned to come up for justifications for why “they deserve” to be homeless, an addict, poor, and we are so conditioned to ignore the simple truth that we are all worthy. This summer opened my eyes like never before to this truth, and challenged me to think of the moments where I have simply cast others away.
Through my tears on that final day, I saw out of the corner of my eye a tissue in the hand of an African-American man. I looked up and held eye contact with this stranger for a moment, when I realized that this man was familiar. He was actually the only person I remember from the bus route consistently. He got on at West Boulevard, what many native Charlotte-eans refer to as “rough part of town” and rode the same bus to uptown where I got off everyday to get to my host family’s house. This act of kindness made me cry even harder than I was crying before. Through my tears, I somehow mustered the words, “thank you.” When the bus got to my stop, I walked out towards the door. I turned back to give that man one last look. He looked at me and nodded. I got off the bus. I will never learn that man’s name. I will never get to tell him how much that moment meant to me. Simply, he showed me that he loved me, without knowing me, without knowing if I was “worthy.”
The Stapleton was so much more than a work experience. It changed the way I think about theology, homelessness, poverty, and my response as a person of faith. In fact, it is hard for me to really think about this experience as “work.” I met some of my favorite women at Dove’s Nest, that I never would have had the chance to meet if it wasn’t for this internship program and the Chaplain’s Office. I am eternally grateful for this internship, for the Chaplain’s Office, and for that tissue from that stranger.
My experience at Americans Promoting Study Abroad has confirmed quite a few things I have read about working with non-profit organizations. First of all I would like to point out that this is an organization I have had quite a big insight and familiarity with before asking for an internship position for. APSA began with partnerships with quite a few other non-profit organizations. The idea was to have these other organizations who were more well established help APSA get on its feet and walk alone. However, that was never really achieved. Thus, we have the situation I am in now. An organization that is about eight years old yet does not have the stable base that it should have at this point. In our team of three, with two staff members from the One World Now organization, this summer we have a group of 21 students and a curriculum that we build as we go. There is far too much work to be done and there is only one full time staff member here in Beijing, our Executive Director. Being overworked and understaffed, that was my impression of a non-profit organization.
But many people would never believe the results we are able to churn out. To get so much done, with only a few staff members, within a limited amount of time, and resources, in my opinion we are all amazing here at APSA. And I am sure this is true for many other non-profits. The amount of fun and self discovery I have been able to enjoy during my internship has only left me with a positive impression. My research skills came in handy when it came to formulating short summaries of sites with hundreds of years of history and significance. My experience at Davidson College has taught me to wear many hats at one time in order to help us stick to a schedule or program. Although I have yet to actually find myself applying what I have learned in classes, other than my Chinese language classes, I have taken at Davidson College, my experience with extra-curricular clubs and networking has given me a better grasp of the real world and what it means to get work done at Americans Promoting Study Abroad.
For a product-testing and certification company, Singapore is a great place to do business. The country itself is fixated on quality and fervent in its desire to produce world class products, both of which lead to demanding regulations and a constant need for testing and certification. But opportunity also flows in from beyond the country’s compact borders. Singapore’s grade-A business infrastructure, and business-friendly rule of law make it a regional business hub for all of southeast Asia. Businesses in neighboring countries seeking to market products beyond their own borders naturally turn to Singapore for testing and certification services, making it a truly ideal place for such a company like TÜV-SÜD to set up shop.
The British flag, an empty parking lot, and a long, glass wall: the first three things I saw when arriving to my job shadowing day. As I pulled into the “Visitor” space, I was still trying to determine why Oxford University Press has an office in Cary, North Carolina of all places. And I’ll admit, I was a bit nervous, and in need of a good distraction. I strode through the front door, anxious yet curious.
Prior to the day, I had no thoughts of pursuing a career in publishing. Being an English major at Davidson, I was taught that I could go anywhere, do anything with the skills I’ve accrued. The outside world, however, was not as encouraging. Instead, people asked me, “so what will you do with that major?” How do you answer that question?
In November of my senior year, I still had no satisfactory reply, and I figured taste-testing a few different jobs was a good place to start. So, I strode into the Oxford University Press reception area, half-excited, half-terrified, and completely ready to learn.
I expected there to be moments of down time, when my job shadowing host would have to complete a small task or run an errand, but not so. My job shadowing host planned a full day for me, filled with real meetings, discussions, and introductions to employees in various departments of the company. I even toured the massive warehouse, from which all OUP books and products are distributed in the United States. Fun fact: Amazon buys so many books from OUP that it has its own special section.
The people I met at OUP proved to be invaluable. I gained access to an extensive network of working professionals willing to help, educate and inspire me in this line of work. I remained in contact with several of them after my visit, and my job shadowing host took a particular interest in my career aspirations, sending me potential job opportunities and lengthy emails containing critical advice. The connections I made at the Press enabled me to follow an entirely different path than I anticipated, and I only wish I could have participated in this program sooner than I did.
So I end with an urgent message to Davidson underclassmen: please, if you do anything during your career search, USE THIS PROGRAM. You will learn so much. You will meet people willing to help you in your journey. And you will finally have a few answers in your pocket when someone asks that dreadful question “so what are you going to do with that major?” Oh, let me tell you.
Living alone for the first time is hard enough. Living alone for the first time, working 40 hours a week in an industry you’ve barely touched – data analytics (as a likely English major) – that’s a little harder.
But like most Davidson students, I like a good challenge. Had I been flushed down a vapid, unstimulating internship with little to do except get coffee for my boss, I might have exploded. That’s why it’s so fortunate that my stint so far at Stratifyd Inc. has been nothing short of eye-opening. So new is this upstart startup in the lanky suburbs of South Charlotte that I was treated just like a full-time employee. I was constantly pulled into meetings with senior executives, grafted with something only heard in college-student legends, perhaps in whispers or rumors but rarely ever documented – real responsibility. It is this blessed “real responsibility” that has defined my tenure here at Stratifyd, and something that, now that I have it, I never want to let go.