Students and alumni pair up for daylong externships that provide a peek at various careers.
While the college spring break experience often conjures up memories of fun in the sun, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences senior Julie Boll witnessed something during her junior year spring break that she’ll never forget.
As part of the Northwestern Alumni Association’s Northwestern Externship Program that pairs undergrads with alumni for a day of job shadowing, Boll, a premed student from Wheaton, Ill., observed as host Michael Nussbaum (WCAS77), a general surgeon at the University of Cincinnati’s University Hospital, removed a patient’s entire colon and helped a specialist operate on a woman with ovaries Boll said were as big as her fists.
“I was really shocked,” says Boll. “I had no idea I was actually going to be in the [operating room] with him. It was definitely the most beneficial experience of my college career.”
Boll and Nussbaum were among 292 pairs of students and alumni who were matched through NEXT in the spring. Though the program is in its fourth year, increased online activity between alumni and students through e-mail and the NAA web site helped boost participation threefold over previous years.
“Going online with the NEXT Program was the perfect way to connect our alumni with students,” says Jim Kaczkowski, the NAA’s director of marketing and communications. “The overwhelming response we received from alumni around the world proves that they’re extremely eager to interact with students.”
Alumni from San Francisco to Singapore offered to mentor students in fields including government, consulting, advertising and marketing, and finance and banking. Nearly 390 alumni volunteered to serve as hosts.
“It was very easy to register,” says Nussbaum. “I got an e-mail, went to a web site and put in my information and a description of what the experience would be. It took literally just a few minutes.” From there, he picked a day when there were interesting operations to observe and prepared Boll by sending her relevant literature.
Health care, along with finance and banking, and law, were the most popular fields. In total, 240 students completed 596 applications.
Once matched, students contacted their hosts and attended a University Career Services training session that covered topics ranging from networking basics to business attire and etiquette.
Laura Pigion, a junior in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science from Prairieville, La., had been struggling to decide between a major in environmental or industrial engineering. She spent a day shadowing Joan DeMeyer (McC92), a senior environmental adviser for Pfizer Global Research & Development in Chesterfield, Mo. DeMeyer introduced her to co-workers, and Pigion was able to observe how employees applied both degrees.
“It ended up being a huge benefit and helped give me more direction,” says Pigion, who is researching a career in consulting that incorporates both environmental and industrial engineering degrees and intends to apply for an externship in consulting next year.
Caroline Moses, a junior in the Medill School of Journalism from Nashville, spent a day with Michelle Madigan (J02, GJ03), an assistant producer at Dateline NBC in New York City. There, she met Bob Dotson, a longtime NBC correspondent, and also interviewed with the MSNBC human resources department for a summer internship that she applied for earlier and eventually secured.
“It was a valuable experience for both of us,” says Madigan. “It sort of gets you excited again about your job.”
Plans are already under way for the 2006 NEXT Program, and the NAA hopes to double this year’s participation numbers. For more information about NEXT, visit www.alumni.northwestern.edu/careers
— Robert Brenner (J07)