Launched in 2011, Pomona College’s summer internship program has already funded 33 students in full-time domestic and international internships, including stints at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, a post-production studio in Los Angeles and an economic development group in New York.
Summer internships are rooted in the Pomona College Internship Program (PCIP), which started in 1976 and continues today, with about 80 students working as part-time interns each semester in Claremont, Pomona and the Los Angeles area. With PCIP’s success came a push for intensive, full-time working experiences, where students could spend up to 10 weeks in the summer exploring possible career paths, reaffirming areas of interests or finding new ones.
For Peter Pellitier ’14, an internship at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont last summer gave him a firsthand look at graduate level research, while Mitsuko Yabe ’14 says her experience as a veterinary assistant at an animal hospital in New York confirmed her passion for veterinary medicine.
Along with summer research, internships have become an increasingly important part of a college education. ”It used to be a college degree was the mode of access to the employment market,” says Mary Raymond, director of the Career Development Office (CDO).
Nowadays “a student can have a great transcript, but they have to have developed their resumes too.” Internships, adds Raymond, also can give students an edge when applying to graduate school and for competitive fellowships and scholarships. The CDO works closely with students to prepare them for the workplace, says internship coordinator Marcela Rojas, who helps them navigate the application process and interviews with prospective employers. It’s up to the student, however, to find an internship and to present a budget to the selection committee. “We want them to pursue their interests and understand what research is involved when finding an opportunity, very much like the job market,” says Raymond. “In a way, we see gaining those practical skills as part of the academic experience here.”
For many Pomona students, work is a necessity, so taking advantage of unpaid or low-paying internships is not always possible.To level the playing field, the College pays hourly wages for PCIP programs and provides stipends of $4,000 to $5,000 to cover living expenses and travel in the summer, funded primarily by gifts from alumni, parents and foundations. In December, the Parents Fund announced a $100,000 challenge, with gifts directed to internships matched one to one by an anonymous donor.
With more applicants for summer internships than available funding, Raymond hopes the program will continue to grow so that all interested students will have a chance to participate. “We want to encourage intellectual curiosity, and that can be satisfied in a number of ways,” she says. “Students understand the formula for getting into college and doing well academically. But they’re also looking for the formula for happy, successful and personally rewarding lives. Where do you go to find out what the script is for that? It can only come from your own experience.”