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Amherst College > News & Events > Amherst Magazine > Archives > Spring 2005 > College Row
College Row
Ulloa teaches class
Melissa Ulloa ’07, an intern with the Urban Education Program, teaches students at PS/MS 218 in the Bronx, N.Y., about narrative elements in The House on Mango Street. Ulloa’s mentor teacher in the classroom was Min Kim ’02.

Read more about Amherst interns' experiences in "Voices from Amherst's Winternship and Urban Education Programs."

Interterm activities jumpstart January

One of the events during Interterm this year was called “The Versatility of the Liberal Arts Experience.” It’s a title that might as easily have been used for Interterm as a whole, considering the variety of opportunities available to students who spent January on campus.

The “Versatility” event involved 13 young alumni who returned to campus for a two-day series of discussions with students. The alumni, most of whom represented classes from 1999 to 2001, explained how their careers had unfolded as a result of their Amherst education and how students might consider the direction of their own educations.

For students who wanted to explore new directions, Interterm offered a number of noncredit courses in unusual subjects: Students could choose from tracking cougars in the Quabbin Reservoir watershed, learning to play pool, improving their tango skills, picking up tips on computer maintenance and machine-shop techniques or training to become an emergency medical technician, among other things. 

Students wanting to explore careers had several options. Twenty-four students interested in public service participated in the Winternship program this year. Organized by the college’s Community Outreach Program, Winternship offers students intensive three-week internships at nonprofit organizations in Washington, D.C., and New York City. This winter marks the second year of the program’s expansion to New York from its long-established base in Washington, with an increasing number of internships and a growing pool of alumni hosts, who house the students and sometimes sponsor events. Between the two cities, students this year worked at organizations ranging from One Economy to Women Empowered Against Violence to the Public Theater to the African Services Committee to the Coalition for the Homeless.

Richard Wilson ’07 worked at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, now headed by former Amherst College President Tom Gerety. Wilson was in charge of gathering data for a Brennan Center project to ease federal restrictions on poor people suing the government for their benefits. “What I really liked,” he said, “was seeing what goes on behind the scenes in making public policy. I’ve taken political science classes, but this was really different.”

Caitlin Kekacs ’07 interned at the Urban Justice Center’s Mental Health Project, where she worked in support of a class-action suit on behalf of people discharged from mental health institutions without follow-up care. She also filed court papers and organized the files of the organization’s closed legal cases. “I’ve learned so much...I had no idea,” Kekacs said. “President Marx has been saying we should go beyond the Amherst bubble, and that really influenced me to do this.”

As always, several Winternship events involved all the interns, including a gathering at the Williams Club and a dinner organized by Bill Lienhard ’90, the director of the Mental Health Project at the Urban Justice Center and an intern host. “These aren’t well-developed career paths,” Lienhard says of his involvement with the Winternship program. “I made a few false starts in my own career, so I wanted to help students learn about what it’s like to work in the public-service sector and how to get there.”

A second Amherst Interterm career opportunity, the Urban Education Internship Program, placed 25 Amherst students in New York City public schools. Coordinated by the Foundation for Excellent Schools and Williams College and administered at Amherst by the Career Center and the English Department, the program includes students from Williams, Middlebury and Smith colleges, as well as Amherst. Each intern spent three weeks in a classroom working with a mentor teacher and performing a variety of tasks. Some interns observed teaching techniques, while others provided one-to-one tutoring, led classroom instruction and, in some cases, actually designed curricula. “It’s hard in some ways to be a teacher here,” says Stephanie Gounder ’08, who worked with mentor Elon Slutsky ’02 at P.S. 218 in the Bronx. “The children have very different abilities, and most of them have problems at home—absent parents, economic struggles, lack of opportunities. But when they get engaged, they can really achieve. It’s incredibly rewarding.”

Associate Dean of Students Rebecca Lee, who coordinates these internships with Professor of English Barry O’Connell, says that the program’s urban setting makes it especially potent for Amherst students. “Issues of public education are so critical at this point,” she says, “that for our interns to have first-hand knowledge of it, particularly in New York City, will have a tremendous impact.” The schools and their students also benefit from working with Amherst interns. Lee remembers a student in last year’s program whose internship took place at the middle school she herself had once attended in the Bronx. “She was amazed at her reception,” Lee says. “For the students, this was a girl—one of their own—who had made it out of the Bronx and was succeeding. She provided a model for them; showed them it could be done.” 

Interterm also offered a program for students interested in the world of business. Now in its third year at Amherst, the Business Leadership Seminar attracted 140 students from 13 colleges and universities and featured presentations by 25 business leaders, including 14 Amherst alumni. The program’s purpose was not instructing students in finance, manufacturing or marketing, but rather introducing them to the nature of the business world.

There were panel discussions on networking, graduate school, innovation, global business, problem solving, leadership, and philanthropy as an obligation of success. The program also offered conversations with recent alumni about their experiences in the business world and frequent opportunities for participants to talk with the presenters—exchanges that proved valuable for all concerned.

“After seeing the caliber of our students, some of our alumni expressed an interest in having their companies recruit at Amherst,” says Joseph Maliekel ’06, who organized the program. “It’s an incredibly exciting opportunity. And it’s really fulfilling to work on a program that helps reconnect alumni to Amherst and its students.” The program ended with a career fair, where students could talk with representatives from major companies like Lehman Brothers, First Boston, Pfizer, Capital One and Credit Suisse.

“I thought the seminar was really helpful,” says Matthew Hui ’08, “because it gave insight into the professional business world that is not necessarily provided in a liberal arts curriculum.”

Read more about Amherst interns' experiences in "Voices from Amherst's Winternship and Urban Education Programs."

Next: Alumni sons and daughters >>

Photo: Frank Ward

 
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