Grant Program Supports Arts and Letters Summer Internships

Author: Ben Horvath

The Notre Dame campus is an exceptional place for learning, but some lessons can only come through real-world experience. That’s where internships play a vital role.

“Internships give Arts and Letters students an opportunity to polish the critical thinking and communication skills they develop during their studies here—and apply them in a professional setting,” says John McGreevy, I.A. O’Shaughnessy Dean of the College of Arts and Letters.

According to Career Center statistics, 460 College of Arts and Letters students participated in some sort of internship during summer 2012. Positions range from a risk management intern at CitiBank China in Beijing and a human resources intern at Google in Dublin to a jazz research intern at the Smithsonian and a sports ministry internship with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

To support students as they pursue these opportunities across the country and around the world, the College and the Career Center developed the Arts and Letters Summer Internship Program (ALSIP). Open to rising sophomores and juniors in the College, ALSIP provides stipends to defray travel and living expenses that might otherwise make an internship cost prohibitive.

Interning in the Big City

Kelly Taylor '13 interned last summer at The Late Show with David Letterman Kelly Taylor ’13 interned last summer at The Late Show with David Letterman

Thanks to the program, Kelly Taylor, a film, television, and theatre and American studies major moved to Brooklyn Heights last summer to intern for academic credit at the Late Show with David Letterman, where she conducted research on scheduled celebrity guests and helped with a variety of production duties.

It was quite a learning experience, says the Rochester, Michigan native. “I had never been to New York City before and didn’t know anyone there, but I had to fly there, find housing, and then figure out how to get to work.”

Once she got to work, Taylor got to learn what it is really like behind the scenes at the Late Show. “It’s a full-time job all day to put together an hour worth of television,” she says, “and to make sure that it’s high quality and a good show takes a whole team effort.”

Alisa Rantanen interned last summer at Insight Product Development in Chicago and says her work there re-affirmed her interest in her major, industrial design.

“It’s great to have this experience where you can know if you’re right or wrong about your major and what you want to do for a career. I’m lucky because I loved it,” says Rantenen, who was recently named one of the top five industrial design undergraduates in the country for 2013 and has been offered a job at Insight.

Economics major Stephen Bradley, who interned as a financial analyst at Groupon, says getting a grant to help pay for housing in downtown Chicago as opposed to his home in the suburbs was extremely beneficial.

“It allowed for me to get there earlier and stay later, so I was able to attend a lot of higher level meetings that I wouldn’t have had the chance to attend if I had to get the train and go home,” he says.

Putting Skills to Work

Alisa Rantanen Industrial design major Alisa Rantanen interned at Insight Product Development in Chicago

Rantanen says the fast-paced workday forced her to hone her skills.

“You aren’t juggling other classes like at college, but it’s your responsibility eight or nine hours a day,” Rantanen says. “School has given me a good background and a breadth of knowledge, but the internship forced me to get better and faster.”

At Groupon, Bradley created statistical reports for company executives, comparing, for example, how many people were buying a specific deal and how many people were looking but not buying. It gave him great experience, he says, in “analyzing trends and seeing when is it time to look into something deeper—like was there something wrong or was it just an off week?”

Although she helped with a wide variety of general production tasks, Taylor’s primary responsibility at the Late Show was to help compile information on celebrity guests for the pre-show interview. “We had to find information from things like magazine articles, other interviews they’ve done, and their past work history and condense it to a packet of pertinent information,” Taylor says.

The internship, Taylor says, was a great chance to leverage the many skills she has developed and honed as a student in the College of Arts and Letters, including public speaking, critical reading and analysis, research, writing, and organizational skills.

Gaining Career Insights

While working in media is challenging, Taylor says her experience confirmed her interest in the profession.

“It made me realize how tough the industry is, but it’s also very rewarding. I learned you definitely have to assert yourself,” Taylor says. “I know that if I have to broaden my career search I can succeed because of the contacts I made.”

Rantanen says her internship gave her confidence that she will “land on her feet” in her future job search.

“I feel so much more self-reliant.”

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