While many of their classmates slept in and caught up on homework, about 150 Wheaton students spent their free day shadowing Wheaton alumni in the Chicago area on Tuesday, Feb. 7. The “Externship Day” event, hosted by the Center for Vocation and Career (CVC) and the Alumni Association, allowed students to meet and network with alumni in various fields such as healthcare, consulting, urban ministry, education, marketing, engineering, finance, technology and others. Each host accepted anywhere between 1 and 15 students.
According to Laura Wilcox Tanaka ‘09, Associate Director of Connections and Opportunities, the CVC and Alumni Office created Externship Day three years ago with the intention of helping students network with alumni and get practical experience working in their field of interest. They modeled it on similar programs at other schools. “We realized pretty early on we had developed something that worked,” Tanaka recalls, saying that both alumni and students were eager to participate.
The process of preparing for Externship Day begins in the fall, when the Alumni Office reaches out to potential hosts in the Chicago area. Students can submit their applications any time between Thanksgiving and early January. Students can rank their top five choices on their application, with preference going to those who submit applications earliest. During the application process, the CVC offers support for students in writing or updating their resumes. After students apply, the CVC matches students with their hosts by mid-January and then works to provide transportation, conduct workshops for participants, and help students connect with their hosts.
Senior Brandon Newhouse spent the day with Tim Stoner ‘82, the Vice President of Operations at CMT Trading. Newhouse, a business economics major, met with the CEO, CTO, Lead Counsel and other CMT employees to “see what it is like to trade securities, options and futures at a high frequency for profitability.”
Sophomore Alliya Hicks visited Paige Neuhaus, a high school college and career counselor at UCSN Garcia High School, a charter school in Chicago. Hicks enjoyed having the opportunity to experience a day in the life of a counselor. “Sometimes when I think of the job or career I’d like to have in the future, the picture in my head can be fuzzy, since I don’t know exactly all of the specifics of what my job will entail,” Hicks said. “Externship day helped me to better visualize myself in my host’s shoes and what life would be like if I chose to pursue that career path.”
“Even though it is just one day, being physically present in the office of a particular company, learning about what the company actually does, and understanding better what a career might look like there is really powerful and empowering,” Tanaka said. “It is an experience that is hard to replicate on campus.”