On-the-Job Training

Summer internships help students explore potential career paths

Juliana Mascari’s summer volunteer engagement internship with the United Way of San Diego included setting up a community event in City Heights and Vista, Calif. Featuring book distribution and literacy activities for parents and children, it was there that Mascari knew she was in the right place to make a difference.

Mascari, recalling a University of Kansas-published research study, The Early Catastrophe: The 30 Million Word Gap by Age Three, points to a significant finding about variance in vocabulary. The study indicates that a three-year-old child with working professional parents has an estimated vocabulary of 1,116 words. Whereas, a child of welfare parents is estimated to have just 525 words at their disposal. The difference between these children is likely to grow as they do. That statistic inspires Mascari to do more, and deepens her belief that education can break the cycle of poverty, especially if it starts early.

“I’m forever grateful for taking part in affecting the lives of some of the most vulnerable members of our society,” says Mascari, an English major and theology and religious studies minor at the University of San Diego. “Philanthropy, specifically philanthropy oriented towards supporting family stability, has always been my passion. Learning how this
passion can be utilized in pursuing a Changemaker career after college is invaluable.”

Mascari’s insight and real-world application of her passion during her summer 2015 internship brings a smile to USD Career Development Center Director Robin Darmon’s face.

“We’ve been working a lot on how to get them out there earlier, particularly with liberal arts majors, because their skills are so phenomenal,” Darmon says. “We’ve been working on teaching them to articulate how those strengths can have an impact in a company.”

Internships serve a valuable purpose, providing students with the necessary setting to gain confidence about a particular career path, exposing them to something that may or may not be a good fit. To help them experience potential workplaces firsthand, the center — through the generosity of USD alumnus Jamey Power ‘85 and the J.D. Power family as well as the USD Parents Fund — rewarded Mascari and 51 other undergraduate students with $2,000 scholarships to enable them to take part in internships this summer.

All internships connected to this program — which include companies such as Catholic Charities, California Music Theatre, NASA, the Environmental Protection Agency, GET Engineering, Manta Instruments, Enterprise Rent-A-Car andthe Monarch School — provided real value to both students and employers for up to 10 weeks. Many students used the scholarship dollars to cover basic essentials. For some, it meant the difference between staying in San Diego and going home for the summer.

Katie Fotion, a math major, went to NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. She designed software and user interfaces for a next-generation 3D printer. Fotion learned to work in a group setting and enjoyed other perks. “I had the opportunity to attend several seminars on potential thesis topics for my math major,” she recalls. “And I met an astronaut and listened to his abundance of advice.”

Austin Haynes and Danny Debruin, both mechanical engineers, say their internships at GET and Manta, respectively, sharpened their engineering skills with hands-on projects and by working and learning alongside staff members toutilize the “soft skills” side of USD’s BS/BA dual degree.

Meimei Nakahara, a business administration major, was a life skills support intern for San Diego’s Monarch School. Dedicated to educating students impacted by homelessness and to helping them develop the necessary skills and experiences for personal success, the school and the students made a lasting impression on her.

“I didn’t know about Monarch School until I applied for the internship. I researched the school and its background and, at first, I wasn’t sure how to act or interact with the students because I don’t share a similar background,” she explains. “But then I thought, if I come in with an open mind, talk to people, learn a little more about the organization by asking questions to people in different departments, that would help me.”

It did, and Nakahara completed her internship inspired by the students’ efforts and determination to succeed. She performed data analysis and validated her interest in working in education administration.

“I’ve always been someone who is interested in the admin department, organizing and helping other people, whether that’s students, other young adults or fellow coworkers. It’s something I have a passion to do. Working in this internship showed me that I really like it and that I could pursue this kind of work.”

Having the support of alumni, parents and the Career Development Center is a key resource for all USD students. The center hosts job fairs, runs the online ToreroLink for students and alumni to access job and internship opportunities, and is set to have two Torero Treks this academic year.

Last spring’s Torero Trek to the Silicon Valley took students to Google, Adobe and LinkedIn. Upon graduation, five students were hired at Adobe. Darmon has scheduled a dual Bay Area Torero Trek Oct. 22-23, including company headquarters visits and a networking event with Bay Area USD alumni. Another trek will be in January in Seattle.
“A lot of our four-year plan focuses on getting students active in the exploration process so that they have a clearer sense of their strengths. That leads them to professional happiness,” Darmon says. — by Ryan T. Blystone

Pictured: Business administration major Meimei Nakahara (at left, alongside supervisor KishaLynn Elliott) served as a life skills support intern for San Diego’s Monarch School this summer.