Oct. 24, 2012

Externships benefit alumni sponsors, give students 'real-world' experience

Cornell's externship programs don't only benefit students, according to Bianca Jade '01, owner of MizzFIT LLC and a fitness trend expert. "I learn so much from my externs," she says. "They have really helped me build my business and think from a different perspective."

The opportunity to shadow alumni mentors as externs in "real-world" work situations provides students with experience impossible to gain in the classroom, says Nancy Law '84, coordinator of Cornell Career Service's externship programs, which also include informational interview opportunities.

Over winter or spring breaks, externs get a first-hand look at the day-to-day activities of their sponsors and often get hands-on experiences that span the gamut of career fields and are available around the world.

Jade points to her own Cornell externship in advertising as her motivation for becoming an extern sponsor. She discovered a passion for the field during her experience and now wants to give other students similar opportunities.

Psychology major Nicole Bonilla '13 chose to extern with Jade because she was intrigued that Jade had also majored in psychology and had launched her own business.

Although Bonilla got to help with research, mailings and meetings that she says opened her eyes to what it means to have a real job, the highlight of her time with Jade was an appearance as a MizzFIT model on the "Today" show. "It was only a couple of seconds on air, but it was really cool," says Bonilla.

The hard work and extra effort Bonilla says she put into the externship paid off: Jade's publicist was so impressed that she offered Bonilla a paid summer internship. "You never know where your externship might lead," Bonilla says.

Becoming an extern sponsor was a natural progression for former Cornell tour guide Philip Ballard '00, a speechwriting consultant. He's hosted about 15 externs over the last seven years and stays in touch with many of them; one even joined his former company. Ballard sees one value of externships as giving students a chance to see the career paths alumni have taken to their current positions.

"The externship program is an outstanding opportunity for any undergraduate to learn more about an industry while making invaluable alumni connections in their field of interest," says Ballard. "It can make all the difference in finding that first job."

Government major Ofira Honig '14 externed with Bob Smolik '75, who works with the United States Mission to the United Nations. She says being able to see a day in Smolik's life "reaffirmed my desire to make that career path [with the U.N.] my life too."

Smolik explains that he became an extern sponsor "for love of Cornell and out of respect for current Cornell students who are so capable." He says he particularly values how the externships help to grow the Cornell network across generations.

Jake Burton '13 found an externship in Moscow listed on the Career Services website with entrepreneur Geoffrey Moskowitz '91. "It was good working with someone in a foreign country who had a shared experience with me," says Burton. "I had a lot of fun, and the externship definitely got me more interested in going back to Russia and working."

Moskowitz describes it as a "win-win" situation: "I appreciate the chance to give a student an interesting job and help me out at the same time."

Linda B. Glaser is staff writer for the College of Arts and Sciences.