Princeternship program connects students to careers through alumni

April 5, 2012, noon
Princeternship index

The Office of Career Services' Princeternship program allows students to explore potential careers by getting an inside look at the jobs of alumni.

Graphic courtesy of the Office of Career Services

In addition to the Princeternship program, Career Services offers many other ways for students to connect with alumni:

Alumni connections and summer networking receptions

Students and alumni meet face to face at these networking events offered in the summer at regional alumni clubs and on campus in the fall. 

Alumni Careers Network (ACN)

An online database of 4,800 alumni volunteers who have offered to share career advice with students.

Princeton-in-Washington (PIW)

Alumni networking programs and guest speakers for students interning in Washington, D.C., during the summer. Last summer, 600 students participated in this program.

IMAGINE Speaker Series

High-profile alumni share their career journey and all the unexpected, unimagined opportunities and challenges along the way.

Career panels and guest speakers

Alumni share information about their professional experience and industries as part of Career Services' extensive career education programming efforts. Last year, 198 alumni served as guest speakers or panelists at events hosted by Career Services.

Industry Expert Program

Alumni offer professional development seminars on topics not offered through academic curricula. 

From working at an auction house to meeting government leaders, Princeton University undergraduates participating in the Office of Career Services' Princeternship program explore potential careers by getting an inside look at the jobs of alumni.

Since the program was re-launched in 2008, more than 200 students have spent one to three days during their academic breaks at alumni workplaces across the country, with 34 students most recently participating during spring break, March 17-25.

The program enables undergraduate students to make professional connections and explore a range of industries, including architecture, arts, business, communications, engineering, health care, nonprofits, technology and more. The alumni hosts expose students to a "day in the life" of their profession by arranging for students to participate in board, client or patient meetings, office tours, seminars, case studies and projects.

"The information gathered through this exposure to professions helps students as they consider the connection between their majors and careers, and try to decide which career is the right 'fit' for them," Director of Career Services Beverly Hamilton-Chandler said. "While some students come to Princeton with a specific career path in mind, most begin the process of exploring majors and careers while in school. The career development process is a journey that unfolds as students expand their knowledge and experiences, and continues throughout their time at Princeton and beyond."

The Princeternship program is one of the many ways that students and alumni can network through Career Services. Nearly 200 alumni participated in career education programs last year as hosts, guest speakers, panelists and mentors.

"Student-alumni engagement is an important part of career exploration and the Princeton experience," said Lisa Bogdanski, assistant director of student/alumni engagement programs, which is a new role designed to enhance and expand alumni partnerships with Career Services.

Hamilton-Chandler said alumni are an important resource for both information and inspiration.

"Each of their career journeys has been unique and their educational and extracurricular experiences, professional interests and goals have led them in different paths — some in directions they might have never imagined while in school," she said. "Alumni can also show students that they can have successful careers in areas that might not be related to their undergraduate major."

Noting the level of support from alumni given the challenging economic climate, Hamilton-Chandler added, "Now, more than ever, we appreciate the continued support of alumni who, through their dedication and involvement with their alma mater, are making a difference by sharing their insights and advice for current students as they navigate through the career exploration process."

In addition to student-alumni events, Career Services offers several programs that allow students to assess their interests and skills, strengthen their knowledge of career options, pursue their career goals, participate in internships, pursue graduate studies and gain employment after graduation.

As part of Career Services' continuing efforts, Hamilton-Chandler said the office hopes to expand the Princeternship program by increasing the number of alumni hosts, locations and student participants.

Students can apply to the Princeternship program through the Career Services' TigerTracks website and are encouraged to chronicle their experiences by writing a blog for the website. The following are excerpts from blogs written by five students.

Historical Footnote: After this article was published, additional historical information was obtained indicating that a form of Princeternships was offered in the early 1980s through the mid-1990s. The program was initially designed as a way to give seniors the opportunity to receive hands-on career experience by pairing them with alumni who work in their field of interest. In 2008, the Princeternship program was re-launched with an emphasis on early student engagement with alumni as part of the career exploration process.

Princeternship Chen

Senior Brandon Chan (left) and junior Kanwal Matharu (right) gained new perspectives on the field of medicine after working with Dr. Richard Levandowski at the Princeton Musculoskeletal Institute. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Chan)

Brandon Chan, Class of 2012

Princeternship: Princeton Musculoskeletal Institute, Princeton, N.J.
The thought of going to medical school is an intimidating one, one which we have to spend time to think about and explore through various activities, shadowing experience and talks with others. This Princeternship allowed me and my fellow Princetern, Kanwal Matharu, Class of 2013, to witness a professional who truly enjoyed every minute of his job. My host, Dr. Richard Levandowski, Class of 1970, has a love of medicine, and his patients' love for him was evident in every appointment. This inspired us to fully commit to medical school and tackle all of the challenges ahead with this type of specialization as a possible goal.

We would enthusiastically recommend this Princeternship because of the environment Dr. Levandowski creates with his energy. He engaged us in various ways, whether it be asking us questions or sharing anecdotes, or giving us stethoscopes to give us a way to contribute to patient care in a small way. Dr. Levandowski and his staff made us feel welcome at every step, and it was a great experience. Although writing simple prescriptions and taking heart rates was fun, the true value of this Princeternship was spending time with Dr. Levandowski and his caring staff.

Princeternship Gadsden

Junior Richard Gadsden experienced life as a law student during his Princeternship with Elizabeth Corwin, associate director of academic success at Pace University Law School in New York. (Photo courtesy of Richard Gadsden)

Richard Gadsden, Class of 2013

Princeternship: Pace University Law School, New York
After a full morning at the courthouse, my host, Ms. Elizabeth Corwin, Class of 1989, took us over to Pace Law School for lunch and a meeting with a student studying international law. She explained to us that, while students may get a certificate in a certain type of law, this doesn't limit them to practicing that type. We ended the day sitting in on a class, "Criminal Procedure Adjudication." The day we visited, the class was discussing the different ways of screening the decision to charge, comparing preliminary hearings to grand juries. At some points, the professor lectured, but she spent a lot of the class time posing questions to the students and guiding them to the answers, rather than telling them. Students were all actively involved in the learning process.

Overall, I was extremely satisfied with this Princeternship. I got to experience a bit of what it's like to be a law student and also see some lawyers in action. I was only vaguely thinking about law school as an option before, but this experience has made me want to consider it more seriously. I learned so much in these three days, and I would recommend the program to anyone thinking about law.

Princeternship Christie

Junior Hana Garfing (left) and senior Alexandra Banfich (right) spent their Princeternship working for George McNeely, senior vice president for business development at Christie's auction house in New York. Their duties included helping McNeely's assistant Ashleigh Curry (second from right). (Photo courtesy of Hana Garfing)

Hana Garfing, Class of 2013

Princeternship: Christie's auction house, New York
My host, Mr. George McNeely, Class of 1983, was down to earth, engaging and incredibly likeable. In a short amount of time, he explained to me how Christie's worked and what business development does. He really loves his job and has a true passion for the art auction house. His office walls are covered in colorful posters, including an image from an art exam that I took last week. I was given a project to research the Chinese art market, the subject of an upcoming panel discussion that Mr. McNeely would be participating in. I was also told that I would be helping his assistant and the other administrative assistants during my short time. Organizational skills and use of [Microsoft] Excel were imperative in this role.

I loved my time at Christie's and wish that I could have stayed longer. Everyone was friendly, welcoming, smart and deeply passionate about the work they were doing. I briefly experienced that in this field, no day is the same, so getting bored is never an issue. I love performing different tasks, always expect the unexpected and enjoy adapting to new environments, so this Princeternship was perfect for someone like me.

Princeternship Simpson

Dennis Matthies gives sophomore Anna Simpson a tour of the research and development company SRI International in Princeton, N.J. (Photo courtesy of Anna Simpson)

Anna Simpson, Class of 2014

Princeternship: SRI International, Princeton
I met my host, Dr. Dennis Matthies, a graduate alumnus from the Class of 1974, at Frist Campus Center for a short drive down Washington Road to SRI International (formerly Sarnoff Corporation). As we entered the building, he told Josh Chen, Class of 2014, and me about the rich history of the laboratories. They were formerly part of RCA Corporation and the location of innovations such as the color television, liquid crystal displays, high-definition television and many others.

We went from the past to the present as we went through an iris scanner that identifies employees as they walk through it and over to Dr. Matthies' office, where he told us about his current responsibilities in the company.

The most valuable part of the day for me was hearing about Dr. Matthies' experience, the range of his projects and his perspective on defense contracting. I would enthusiastically recommend the Princeternship program to anyone curious about a career path or industry. As Dr. Matthies pointed out, Princeton alumni are very eager to share their experience and expertise with current students.

Princeternship Christian

Sophomore Christian Smutherman (right) attended government meetings at the U.S. Department of Education with his host Massie Ritsch, the department's deputy assistant secretary for external affairs and outreach. (Photo courtesy of Christian Smutherman)

Christian Smutherman, Class of 2014

Princeternship: U.S. Department of Education, Washington D.C.
Mr. Massie Ritsch, Class of 1998, my host during the Princeternship, brought me to an array of top government meetings within his department. I was given the wonderful opportunity to sit in on a confidential debriefing between top White House officials and the Department of Education's political appointees. I was then whisked away to another important meeting where the department discussed an upcoming international summit for education. I was able to listen as the department's leaders talked to representatives from all over the world about this upcoming event.

I've learned so much about the government and my perspectives have definitely changed. This has helped me to see that I want to continue learning about policy and education reform. This experience has reinforced my desire to further change in my own community and provide resources for the students who are fighting for a better education. If you're a freshman interested in government, policy, or just education in general, go for this opportunity.