Zama Coursen-Neff ’93 Discusses Careers in Human Rights

Zama Coursen-Neff speaks to a packed room on Monday afternoon.

Zama Coursen-Neff ’93, Executive Director of the Children’s Rights Division at Human Rights Watch, gave a talk on careers related to human rights to a group of 39 Davidson students in Union 209 on Monday, September 16.  This session was just one event on a busy schedule for Coursen-Neff, who spent two days at Davidson talking to student groups, classes, and the public about her work.  In this session, she explained her path to her current position and gave advice for those interested in working in human rights or pursuing nonprofit legal work more generally.

Coursen-Neff emphasized that there are many possible paths to pursuing a career in human rights advocacy, and that students should focus on honing their writing and gaining field experience while at Davidson.  She recalled a study abroad trip in Spain her sophomore year and a trip the summer after her junior year to El Salvador (only four months after a war that had left the country shaken up) as two particularly meaningful experiences for her.  She worked in the field right after graduating from Davidson and before attending law school at New York University.  Although she did not love her time at law school and has not worked as an attorney aside from the year she clerked for a federal judge and an extensive pro-bono case she participated in after earning her JD, she told the group that going to law school gave her a valuable perspective.  She also shared work that she did at the U.S.-Mexican border and in Afghanistan, India, and Papua New Guinea.

In addition to sharing her own career story, Coursen-Neff gave the group a few specific pieces of advice.  She recommended cultivating mentors and role models, which were very inspiring to her both personally and professionally.  She also recommended that students simply “get out there and have experiences,” including field work, before deciding on a graduate field of study. She told students,  “If I had created a plan and stuck with it, I never would have seen all the things I didn’t know were out there.”  Most importantly, she said, students should “pursue work that is meaningful and fun.”  She stated that it is important not to martyr oneself for work that is not engaging and to reflect on the kinds of working conditions that will fulfill your needs before jumping into a job.

At least one paid summer internship at the Human Rights Watch headquarters in New York City will be available this summer for a Davidson student. The internship(s) will be funded by the Vann Center for Ethics at Davidson.  More details will be available on WildcatLink later this fall; the application deadline will likely be in early February.  Seniors should also search for Associate positions on the Human Rights Watch website.  These positions, often filled by new graduates of schools like Davidson, typically become available mid-to-late spring semester.

Learn more about Zama Coursen-Neff by reading her bio on the Human Rights Watch website, and stay tuned for information on the summer internship opportunity!

Interning Her Way to Success: Christi Moore ’15

By Damian White, Career Services Ambassador

Christi Moore ’15  is a sophomore at Davidson College who aspires to become a practicing attorney.  This past summer she worked as a Legislative Assistant in the Public Affairs office for the United States Parcel Service (UPS) in Washington, D.C.  As an intern, she attended hearings on Capitol Hill, practiced memo writing, and tackled pertinent social justice issues with senators and congressmen.  Throughout this six-week experience, Christi had the opportunity to not only work with attorneys, but also learn about the UPS Foundation, which engages in community endeavors that closely align with her own personal values.

During our conversation, Christi made a critical distinction between her coursework at Davidson and the hands-on experience that she received during her summer internship experience.  For Christi, the networking opportunities and resources available to her helped to shape her perspective on the legal field in a way that her classes had not done up to this point.  She indicated that the most important things she learned were that “your hard work pays off, and you must always be prepared.”

Mentorship also played a crucial part in Christi’s summer experience.  She noted that her supervisor and mentor, Ms. Nicole Clifton (UPS VP, Public Affairs), had a welcoming and commanding presence both inside and outside of the office.  As her mentee, Christi recognized and resonated with these qualities.  Christi became an integral component of the UPS Public Affairs office; in fact, she has been asked to come back and work with a partnering law firm next summer.

After Davidson, Christi plans to enroll in law school and ultimately aspires to become a Supreme Court Justice.

Brillo Boxes and Campbell Soup: A Summer Experience at the Andy Warhol Museum

By McKenzie Roese, Career Services Ambassador

Claire Ittner '13 and one of the talented artists she met at the Andy Warhol Museum

Interested in art and its history? Looking to do something this summer outside the box that will get you hands-on experience in the art field? If this applies to you at all, then consider interning in the field of art management. It’s an experience that’s made a lasting impression on Claire Ittner ’13.

Being an English and Art History double major, Ittner has always been interested in learning about art culture and developing a better understanding of art and museum management. This past summer, she got the opportunity of a lifetime when she interned at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as their curatorial intern. She worked directly with both the Curator and Director’s office to receive a truly intimate understanding of the inner-workings of organizing and running a museum. While I chatted with her about her internship search, she reflected back stating, “I wanted to get some exposure to the curatorial side of the art world to see if that was a field I wanted to pursue long-term.” Fortunately, the Warhol gallery position provided the needed insight into museum work culture.

Claire poses with another artist and his work at the Warhol Museum

In terms of her day-to-day experience, the Warhol never ceased to keep her on her toes.
Her work would greatly depend on what events were happening at the Warhol at any given time. For her first month she helped prepare for the Warhol’s first-ever off-site exhibition. Reflecting on the experience, Ittner recalls: “I spent a lot of time at the beginning communicating with them, ordering materials for those who were international, checking on framing, etc. I helped with the install as well, which was really cool, because I was working literally next to the artists, handling their work. They were fantastic and explained their process and why it was that they made the piece they did.”

Ittner’s experience provided her with great insight into not only museum work, but also the field of art management – an experience that will help shape her long-term career pursuits in the art world. Plus, she also highlighted “It was quite fun to work with so many young, forward-thinking people!” So if you feel the urge to experience the art world this summer, the Andy Warhol Museum might just be the place for you.

Major and Career: Do They Really Have to Be Related?

By Paul Van Peursem, Career Services Ambassador 

It’s that time of year again – classes are being posted and most of us try to find that optimal schedule. Why? So you can complete your major. Why? To open doors for jobs A, B or C.  Sometimes it seems like we are stuck to a major based on the excuse: “I want to get a job in…” Or, maybe you chose the oddball major and now are doomed to never be employed. Don’t be so quick to assume your education must pigeonhole you into one career trajectory. Because of our liberal arts setting the strong analytical skills are a given, but we have to be creative and use our smarts to build our professional “toolkits.” Even though each major provides its own specific skills that may boost a resume, it’s not impossible for you to get that unconventional job.

  1. Show interest – Employers are looking to see that you are passionate about the work they do at their firm. So even if you can’t take relevant courses, look for clubs or organizations, on campus and in the area, that are related to your field of interest. If you’re interested in social work – join the International Justice Mission or go volunteer at Ada Jenkins.
  2. Get technical – Some jobs prefer certain technical skills (think Excel or statistical software).  Try to find internships – no matter in what industry – where you can gain such skills. Or try to use them in your papers or research. Although you can say that you’re smart enough to learn these skills on the job, having prior experience can make you a much more attractive candidate.

“Although you can say that you’re smart enough to learn these skills on the job, having prior experience can make you a much more attractive candidate.”

  1. Network – Get advice and suggestions from Alumni or parents. Chances are there is a Davidson alum in your field of interest who graduated with an out-of-the-ordinary major. Come into Career Services to find out about Alenda Links!
  2. Utilize Minors & Concentrations – If your major and career interests are very different, consider choosing a minor or concentration in your field of career interest. This way you can major in something like Anthropology, but use an economics minor to get your foot ‘in the door’ at consulting firms.

Never consider your major a roadblock to any career. As long as you put forth the effort, employers will notice you – and that’s the first step to getting hired!


Interning With Guideposts

 By Paul Van Peursem, Career Services Ambassador
Elise Breda ’13 is an Economics Major who interned in the Consumer Marketing Dept. at Guideposts Magazine in New York City this past summer.  Elise took time out to talk with Paul Van Peursem ’13, Career Services Ambassador, about her experience.

Where did you intern this summer?
My summer internship was at Guideposts, a non-profit organization that publishes magazines such as Guideposts and an assortment of Christian books and devotionals. Guideposts was founded by Norman Vincent Peale in 1945 to encourage and uplift soldiers returning from the war. The organization’s purpose is reflected in its motto: “America’s Source of Inspiration.”

What sort of work were you doing at Guideposts?
As a Consumer Insights intern, I worked in Consumer Marketing with the marketing and editorial teams whose goal was to improve the company’s understanding of its target market and consumers. This group focuses on gaining a clear picture of the consumer’s decision-making process in order to deliver and position goods more efficiently and more competitively.

Can you describe the particular work you did at Guideposts?
My main project was designing a survey to collect consumer feedback on Guideposts’ newest devotional book. This involved creating a direct-to-consumer digital survey, and using social media platforms to select consumers to receive and review the marketing materials and devotional.

I compiled and analyzed all of the data and feedback from the surveys, looking for consumer trends in product preferences, expectations and responses. My findings were presented to the marketing and editorial teams in a product report, along with my recommendations for future development and positioning of the devotional.

Can you tell me about where you lived and worked in New York City?
This summer I lived in The Village in NYU student housing. The location could not have been more ideal — minutes from shopping in SoHo, walking the Highline in Chelsea, or kayaking along the Hudson River. I worked four days a week in the 34th Street Guideposts office (right beside the Empire State building) and commuted one day a week to the Danbury, CT office. The view from the 21st floor was spectacular. New York City certainly has a piece of my heart.

How has this experience impacted your job searching in the future?
I realized my passion for Behavioral Economics and fell in love with the blend of social science and mathematic foundation that was used in data analytics and consumer research. Moving forward, a big-city atmosphere is my first choice for living in — with any luck New York City will be my next home. After my internship experience, I feel confident and enthusiastic about my plans for the future; all thanks to Guideposts!

Preparing for the Democratic National Convention

By Alexa King, Career Services Ambassador

Jared Blakney ‘14 is a political science major from Raleigh, North Carolina. He worked as a digital media intern preparing for the Democratic National Convention, and also worked while the convention was going on in Charlotte. Jared talked with Alexa King ‘14, one our Career Services Ambassadors, to discuss his amazing internship experience.

What made you interested in joining the campaign?
Ever since 2008 I have been an Obama supporter, especially after canvassing for him during the primaries.

What were some of the daily tasks you had to do?
There was no typical day. I was in the communications department, but specifically worked with digital media. I developed content for the website and got to see the impact I was having on the convention almost instantly. When I posted an article online, I saw my name underneath it. Probably the coolest thing I got to do was follow Mayor Villaraigosa and Mayor Foxx ‘93 around and get pictures for the blog.

Do you feel you contributed personally to the Obama 2012 campaign?
Just being part of the energetic atmosphere that goes into a campaign, I felt like I was a part of something big. Putting blog articles online and being able to highlight certain delegates or local community members who were getting involved with the convention was really cool. I felt like I was able to put my mark on the convention.

What was one of the most valuable lessons that you learned from this experience?
Digital media is one of the most public medium[s] the convention has. Being thorough and diligent in my work was one of the greatest skills I picked up. If I made a little mistake millions of people could see it on the website.

What did you do Monday-Thursday at the convention?
My specific role was videographer. I filmed and took photographs of different caucus meetings. We were told mid-way through the summer that it was “all hands on deck” during the week of the convention; whatever had to get done to make the convention run smoothly, we had to be willing to do it.

Was this a good opportunity for you to network with other people interested in media?
Definitely. The staff was helpful and friendly; even senior staff said that if I had a question, just stop by. I made good connections, both for getting a job and for mentoring.

Do you plan on pursuing politics in the future, maybe working at the White House next summer if he [President Obama] wins reelection?
Maybe. My ultimate goal is to do something in business. But if politics turns out to be the route to go, then I’ll take it. I think it would be cool to work on another convention as an actual staff member.

Career Assessment Series

The Career Assessment Series helps with career and academic planning, whether you’re exploring options related to choosing a major, considering graduate schools, or fine tuning your job search. The inventories in the Series will provide you with information regarding your interests, personality type, values and skills, helpful in making better informed decisions regarding the choices you are trying to make.

Skills and Knowledge You Will Gain
1.  Understanding of the connection between aspects of yourself and careers.
2.  Understanding of how your interests can affect your choice of careers.
3.  Understanding of how majors may or may not be related to career choices.
4.  Understanding of your personality type and how it relates to your career choice.
5.  Understanding of work values and skills and their place in the career planning process.

Take One or Take Them All
You are not required to take all of the inventories in the Career Assessment Series. You may take them all, or choose only those of interest to you by signing up for each one individually. All assessments in the Series are presented in a group format by a Career Services Advisor.  The assessments include the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), the Strong Interest Inventory (SII), SkillScan, and Focus 2.

Career Assessment Series 

Exploring Your Personality Type:
The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) can be a helpful tool in thinking about who you are and what you want to do after Davidson. Research indicates that many of the personality types have preferences for their choice of careers. Participants will need to take the MBTI assessment at least two hours prior to the workshop. Handouts and other resources will be provided for follow-up.

Further details provided upon registration. To register, contact Career Services at 704-894-2132, email, or stop by the Career Services office by 5:00 pm the day before the workshop.

MBTI Dates:
Oct 10, 2012, 4:30 – 5:30 pm, Union 313
Oct. 18, 2012, 7:00 – 8:00pm – Chambers Hance Auditorium
Oct 22, 2012, 4:30-5:30  pm, Chambers Hance Auditorium
Nov 6, 2012, 4:30 – 5:30 pm, Union 313
Nov 14 2012, 4:30 – 5:30 pm, Union 313

Exploring Your Career Interests:
The Strong Interest Inventory (SII)
Take the guesswork out of career planning with the Strong Interest Inventory®, an assessment that makes career decisions easier by providing detailed information on top interests, work preferences, and personal styles.  In this workshop, participants will receive a personalized printout of their Strong® results, an interpretive overview, and information on how to connect Strong® results with career opportunities. Participation requires completing a 30-minute SII assessment online prior to attending the workshop. Further details will be provided upon registration.

Note:  To register, contact Career Services at 704-894-2132, email, or stop by Career Services (414 Alvarez) to sign up by 5:00 pm the day before the workshop.  

SII Dates:
Oct. 23, 2012, 4:30-5:30 pm Union 313
Oct 29, 2012, 7:00 – 8:00 pm, Union 313
Nov 7, 2012, 4:30-5:30 , Chambers Hance Auditorium
Nov 15, 2012, 4:30-5:30, Union 313

Exploring Your Marketable Skills: SkillScan
The SkillScan assessment identifies transferable skills, which are essential when targeting appropriate career options.  The assessment features a system for integrating skill results with other traditional interests, values and personality inventories to provide a holistic picture of your career patterns. Participants will take the assessment as a group during the session.

Note:  All participants will take the assessment during the workshop. To register, call 704-894-2132, or come by Career Services, Monday-Friday, 8:30 am – 5:00 pm.  You need to register by 12:00 pm, the day of the workshop.

SkillScan Dates:
Oct 24, 2012, 4:30 – 5:30 pm, Chambers Computer Lab 3130
Nov 1, 2012, 4:30 – 5:30pm, Chambers Computer Lab 3130
Nov 8, 2012, 4:30 – 5:30 pm, Chambers Computer Lab 3130

Exploring Your Interests: Focus 2
Exploring possible majors and/or careers? Attend the FOCUS-2 workshop and develop an action plan of “next steps” toward selecting a major or career. Discover other resources to help you learn about career and major options. Go through all of the stages of career development with the Focus 2 program. Participants will take this assessment during the workshop.

Note:  All participants will take the assessment during the workshop. 
To register, call 704-894-2132, or come by Career Services, Monday-Friday, 8:30 am – 5:00 pm.  You need to register by 12:00 pm the day of the workshop.

Focus 2 Dates:
Oct 11, 2012, 4:30 – 5:30 pm, Chambers Computer Lab 3130
Oct 30, 2012, 4:30 – 5:30 pm, Chambers Computer Lab 3130
Nov 12, 2012, 4:30 – 5:30 pm, Chambers Computer Lab 3130

Managing F.E.A.R.

By Damian White, Career Services Ambassador

Throughout my undergraduate experience, I have found that some of the most interesting and powerful lessons are learned outside of the classroom.  On September 18th, I had the opportunity to attend a talk given by Hill Harper at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.  Hill Harper, an alumnus of Harvard Law School, is an author, activist, and actor who is most recently known for his role in CSI: NY.

After the hustle and bustle of the crowd settled, Hill Harper asked the audience: “What do you think is the number one obstacle the keeps young people from achieving their dreams?” Silence overcame the crowd, and he answered, “F.E.A.R.” Not a “scared of the dark” type of fear, but Hill asserted a “False Evidence Appearing Real” type of fear.  His point was that students often constrain and restrict their dreams by succumbing, consciously and unconsciously, to outside factors that set limits on their potential.

In the beginning of his talk, Hill told students to write down their dreams. After captivating the audience through the use of his metaphor of being an “Active Architect of our Dreams,” Hill asked the students to double their dreams. At this point, students were supposed to write down dreams twice as big as the ones they had written in the beginning of the program. The fact that so many students could double their dreams was proof that F.E.A.R. had already impacted the way they think about their goals and dreams.

So, how do we combat F.E.A.R.?
As the “Active Architects of our Dreams,” we must have a strong foundation.  Hill Harper says that education and money are the foundation that we need in order to begin to build our “dream.”  He asserts that while neither education nor money promise success, they both often lead to options that help as we navigate the often non-linear paths to our dreams.

Next, we need a framework.  This framework is found in the support systems that allow our foundations to remain stable, such as family, friends, and mentors.

Beginning to see our structure develop, we need walls. He says that these walls are made up of the choices that we make.  These choices become very influential in the way that we prepare for the metaphorical “weather” (hardships and obstacles) that we will face along the way.

Finally, Hill says that we need a door.  This door serves to let people in and out of our structure.  By regulating this door, we begin to take control of who has access to our dreams.

Davidson…I think it is time to close the door on F.E.A.R. and open it back up for our dreams.

Iris Leung, Class of ’12, Talks About Her Internships and Job Search

Iris Leung
Major: History    Minor: Chinese
Davidson Class: May 2012

What internships have you had while you have been at Davidson?
During my freshman summer, I interned at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, assisting the museum’s Education Department in creating and leading interactive tours for summer camp visitors. I also translated their “Journey to the Stars” planetarium show from English to Chinese.  The following summer I taught English in Xian, China to kindergarteners using bilingual classroom exercises, drama performances, and songs.  During my junior summer, I interned with Emanate PR, a public relations firm that specializes in consumer, healthcare, and business communications. Not only did I create a business pitch proposal for a mock client, I also assisted in a product launch, blogged for the company website, and helped facilitate a social media contest for one of our products.

What are your plans after graduating this May?
After graduating in May, I will begin my first job as an Account Associate at Emanate PR—the public relations firm where I interned during my junior summer.

How did you find your internship?
To find my internship my junior year, I talked with my career counselor who suggested I use a variety of measures for seeking opportunities, such as LinkedIn and Alenda Links (our Davidson alumni networking system), as well as word of mouth.  She explained that by proactively demonstrating interest and seeking advice from alumni, professors, and even family friends, they could provide me with great tips on finding an internship. I connected with an alumna who recognized my great interest in the PR field and recommended me to the HR Director of the firm as an intern candidate, where I landed the internship and ultimately my full-time job.

What resources in Career Services have helped you the most?
Two resources that were helpful to me in Career Services were, first, the one-on-one sessions with career counselors who showed a genuine interest in helping students find not only jobs, but careers that match their passions and strengths. I did not know what I wanted to pursue when I first started my search, but after I listed my interests and  described my ideal workplace, my counselor helped me narrow down a list that allowed me to realize my dream job.

Second, the annual Etiquette Dinner was extremely useful. Since all Davidson students will undoubtedly have meetings or job interviews over meals in the future, this experience really helped me sharpen my table etiquette as well as the necessary communication skills for such stressful situations.

What other resource has helped you with internship searches?
A resource that helped me learn about opportunities is, surprisingly, Google. While students may know what they are capable of and interested in doing, many do not know what is available. When I wanted an internship that allowed me to interact with many people while constantly learning, I ran Internet searches seeking names of museums to get me started. I would never have been able to work at my favorite museum where it not for Google.

What advice do you have for fellow students?
If you know what you want, don’t be afraid to search online for something related, but more exciting. We’re Davidson students—the world is our oyster!