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Behind The Scenes

From chomping on plants that fizz like Pop Rocks to huddling around a microscope with top cancer experts, Swarthmore externs got a taste of careers during January’s extern week.

Elena Lee ’23 discovered that corn shoots are delicious (almost better than candy) while working with Jess Karol ’16 at Farm.One, an indoor vertical farm in Manhattan.

“I got to prune various microgreens, go on a tasting tour, and attend a hydroponics class,” says Lee. “It turns out indoor farms can get a lot dirtier than I expected.” She also enjoyed sampling a toothache plant, with edible red and yellow flowers that make your mouth tingle and fizz. 

Peter Gann ’71 and his wife hosted Libby Hoffenberg ’20 for a week so that Hoffenberg could shadow Gann at the Department of Pathology of the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine. “It’s a terrific experience for empty nesters,” says Gann. “We learned a lot from Libby about what it’s like to be a college student today.” 

During her week, Hoffenberg sat in on a tumor board meeting, viewed microscopy images, wrote a medical abstract, and visited the Art Institute of Chicago.

Heather Booth, whose late husband, Paul Booth ’64, was a prominent labor organizer, describes herself as a loyal Swarthmore admirer. “I ask for students who are committing their lives to social change,” says Booth. She matched extern Satchel Tsai ’23 with a colleague at Democracy Partners, a political consultant firm in Washington, D.C. Tsai’s week helping with social media was so successful, it led to a paid summer job. 

The extern program is fun for hosts, too. 

And most important, says Booth: “One week can make a difference.”