Grad Studies Externship Program

On January 24, 2012 by Grad Forum
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Lisa Sprute using eye tracking technology at Merchant Mechanics.

This fall, Dartmouth’s Graduate Studies Office coordinated the first “Graduate Studies Externship Program.” Organized by Kerry Landers, Assistant Dean of Graduate Student Affairs, the program paired current graduate students with alumni from many of Dartmouth’s Arts & Sciences Graduate Programs. Over 80 graduate alumni signed up to host current students, and by December, close to 40 graduate students were paired with alumni.

Once paired, the participating graduate students contacted their host and scheduled a date for the daylong externship. Though the experiences of each graduate student who participated in the externship program were unique, most students discussed their professional goals with their host, engaged in career-oriented conversations with the staff at the alumni’s place of employment, received feedback on either their resumes or CVs, and finally, shadowed their host for a full day.

“I’m excited by the number of graduate students who participated in this year’s Graduate Studies Externship Program,” said Brian Pogue, Dean of Graduate Education. “I hope this program continues to be mutually beneficial for both our current students and our graduate alumni, and that in the coming years that more of Dartmouth’s graduate students are able to visit our alumni.”

Lisa Sprute, a student in Psychological & Brian Sciences (PBS), was hosted by graduate alumnus Kimberly Rose Clark at Merchant Mechanics, a market research firm in West Lebanon. While at Merchant Mechanics, Lisa learned how to use the eye tracking technology that the company uses to gather information related to a shopper’s visual attention in various environmental contexts. Also, both Lucy Mukura, a student in Dartmouth’s Program in Experimental and Molecular Medicine (PEMM), and Chelsea Boyd, a student in the Microbiology and Immunology department, visited Hillel Cohen GR ’84 in Cambridge, MA at Novartis Vaccines & Diagnostics, a vaccine manufacturer that produces products that prevent over 20 vaccine-preventable viral and bacterial diseases.

“The Dartmouth Externship was an amazing learning experience for me,” states Lucy. “[Dr. Cohen] introduced me to a number of his colleagues with diverse backgrounds who took time to answer questions that I had. This opportunity was an eye-opener—there are certain programs you can afford to miss in graduate school, but this is definitely not one of them.”

According to Dr. Cohen, the two externs were a delight to host, and the visit was mutually beneficial for both his company and the graduate students. According to Cohen, while at Novartis, Lucy and Chelsea sat in on a multi-continental meeting and also had the opportunity to speak to several of the company’s staff members regarding both their current jobs and career paths.

“Regulatory affairs in biotech or at the FDA is something I have been considering as a possible career,” stated Chelsea. “My trip to [Novartis] really solidified this for me, as I was able to think about what a good fit for me this type of employment is. I would highly recommend this externship experience.”

In addition to private-sector employers, graduate alumni in education also hosted paired students. In December, Wesley Whitaker, a second year student in Dartmouth’s Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) program, visited graduate alumnus Richard Hardej, an instructor at Phillips Exeter Academy. During his day on campus, Wesley sat in on three classes, and had the opportunity to speak with several of the academy’s teachers.

“I really enjoyed my externship at Phillips Exeter Academy,” said Wesley. “Mr. Hardej was a wonderful host, and it was a pleasure observing how secondary education works at the academy. All of the staff members that I spoke with during my day on campus were more than happy to discuss their career paths, and each took the time to explain their roles at Exeter. I learned a lot through my externship, and I think that every graduate student should participate in the program before leaving Dartmouth.”

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