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Students Collaborate with Array of Alumni Through Virtual Micro-Internships

Blooming flowers in focus in front of clothier bell tower

The global pandemic disrupted but did not deter Swarthmore’s popular Extern Program this year. The Career Services office pivoted to a program of virtual micro-internships, connecting 79 students with alumni across an array of fields in the summer, and an additional 98 students this winter and spring.

“The students pursued incredibly diverse projects, reflecting the myriad ways alumni make an impact in the world,” says Nancy Burkett, director of Career Services, whose team began developing the program last year amid disruptions to students’ summer plans caused by COVID-19.

Just as in past years, students worked closely with alumni partners to gain a glimpse of professions that interest them. They still gleaned career insights and developed professional skills, but this year students were also able to complete substantive projects. 

Thanks to the Advancement Office, the alumni and parent councils, alumni affinity groups, and former extern sponsors, students had a wide swath of opportunities. And with the support of alumni donors, they even received funding for undertaking projects. Career Services also plans to relaunch the SwatWorks program in the 2021-22 academic year and invites ideas for micro-internships

Here, 10 students recount their SwatWorks experiences.

Katie SilvaKatie Silva ’22, a peace & conflict studies and psychology major from Santa Teresa, N.M.
Alumni partner: Whitney Aragaki ’08 of Waiakea High School

“I worked with Whitney to develop a curriculum for a 15-day section of an AP seminar. The goal of the section was to build off the knowledge students have on colonialism and colonization, specifically that of Hawaii, by presenting the history and effects of colonialism in other regions of the world. I compiled a list of peer-edited articles, videos, and films that help explain how colonialism and colonization affected the following areas: Africa, Jamaica, the Philippines, Australia, and Latin America. I also included materials that explained how colonialism and colonization introduced race, gender, climate change, and the global capitalist system. The final part was to create an assignment for students to complete at the end of the section; I came up with three different options, including a visual project instead of a written one. I really enjoyed working on the project. The research I did helped me expand my own knowledge on the subject, and the process gave me an insight as to what goes into creating a lesson plan.”

Ray SidenerRay Sidener ’21, a mathematics and computer science major from Philadelphia, Pa.
Alumni partner: Joe Florence ’04 of FinePrint Data

“In my time with FinePrint Data, I have worked on several different projects. First, I built a script using Python and Selenium that scrapes key HTML files from a dynamic website. This allowed FinePrint to automate this process of saving these files, which was previously done manually. I also had the opportunity to work on extracting key data from HTML and PDF files. I used Python and BeautifulSoup (a Python package for parsing html) to write a script that saves key information from senators’ financial disclosures, such as stock tickers and dates of transactions. I also used Python, Tika, and Regex to write a similar script for disclosures from the executive branch, which came in PDF format. Finally, I worked on a script for a FinePrint Twitter bot, which will post daily updates about congressional disclosures. I used Python, Twitter APIs, and Tweepy — a Python package for interacting with Twitter APIs. In doing all of these projects, I improved my Python skills and learned several new tools, including Selenium, BeautifulSoup, Regex, and Twitter APIs.”

Dylan ClairmontDylan Clairmont ’21, an honors peace & conflict studies and linguistics major from Ashburn, Va.
Alumni partner: Mark Hanis ’05 of Inclusive America

“I had various tasks for this project, such as reviewing executive orders from President Biden to see what still needs to be improved in his diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, as well as creating a guide for presidential appointees to ensure that the candidates selected are more diverse and representative of America. This work has been a great chance to get a practical application of politics and take what I have learned within the Swarthmore context and apply it more broadly. I have deeply enjoyed getting to see what an alum is doing and picture how I could follow a similar trajectory after I graduate from Swarthmore in May. The work that I have done with Inclusive America has not just been busy work, and I have even had some of my contributions published on the Inclusive America website. I am grateful for the chance to see what work is currently being done as well as the positive social implications of the work that I am doing.”

Atinuke LardnerAtinuke Lardner ’22, a political science, philosophy, and economics special major from South Orange, N.J.
Alumni partner: Laura Markowitz ’85 of Voices on the Economy (VOTE)

“I learned what it takes to create an engaging, informative, and enjoyable textbook. My assignment was to be a beta reader for two chapters of the Voices on the Economy (VOTE) textbook. As I read both chapters, I recorded my reactions to the content and exercises. My assigned chapters were on the topics of income inequality and the environment, which I thoroughly enjoyed learning about through several economical viewpoints. What makes the VOTE textbook special is its attention to various economic paradigms, and I was able to apply my studies of political science, philosophy, and economics to evaluate arguments made in the textbook from multiple perspectives. I completed practice exercises and interpreted graphics as if I were a student, all while learning about effective pedagogical writing techniques. I thoroughly enjoyed this project and am grateful to Laura.”

Ryan AraziRyan Arazi ’21, a peace & conflict studies major from Staten Island, N.Y.
Alumni partner: Laura Markowitz ’85 of Voices on the Economy (VOTE)

“For my SwatWorks micro-internship, I had the chance to act as a beta reader for a new textbook being written by Laura. The work was a cutting-edge introduction to economics that emphasized the importance of learning multiple viewpoints in order to enhance how our democracy functions. After reading the textbook and adding my own comments to it, I feel like a more well-informed citizen with a deeper understanding of the economic underpinnings of points of views that are not my own. While reading the text, I felt the same level of intellectual stimulation that I get at Swarthmore, and I am very proud to have been part of the team that helped enhance this text in any way that I could.”

Sannan DhillonSannan Dhillon ’23, a political science major from Lahore, Pakistan
Alumni partner: Natalia Cote-Munoz ’12 of the Council on Foreign Relations

“I assisted Natalia and Dr. Shannon K. O’Neil with the research for her book on trade integration in North America. I helped build the narrative about how NAFTA impacted the automotive industry in the U.S by researching the story of a multinational engine-making firm. I reviewed congressional testimonies, annual records, news articles, and a book on the company’s history. I provided statistics on agricultural exports from the U.S., specifically looking into soybean and corn exports to Mexico and Canada. I also helped the authors understand the changing consumer trends in Europe and Asia by researching and providing statistics on the rising middle class in Asia, and explained how this will translate into an increase in luxury spending. I researched how AmazonGo works, the technology behind it, how it is changing the grocery business in the U.S., and what that would mean for competitors like 7-Eleven and Walmart. I gathered a lot of transferable skills like effectively researching, paying attention to details, summarizing vast amounts of information, and collaborating with a team. I am really grateful for this opportunity and hope to work with Natalia and Dr. O’Neil again in the future.”

Naomi HornNaomi Horn ’22, an honors economics major from Nashville, Tenn.
Alumni partner: Sarah Cohodes ’05 of Teachers College, Columbia University

“Most of my time was spent helping to prepare a literature review for a paper Sarah is writing about charter school outcomes. It will aggregate the last several decades of economic research on charter schools, and my job was to help organize much of this research. I helped to update a previous literature review on the same topic, and worked with Sarah and her grad student to read through newer papers and even independently search for some papers to add. Once I’d summarized all of the papers, I formatted tables to highlight the findings in a user-friendly way. I also helped with an annotated bibliography that explored relationships between educational attainment and voter participation. This annotated bibliography pulled research from fields like political science as well as economics, so I was able to compare these different disciplines’ approaches to the same topic. I gained proficiency at skimming academic publications for relevant information, a skill that will serve me well in future coursework, and was able to explore different research methodologies used by economists who study education.”

Ethan BergmannEthan Bergmann ’22, an economics and mathematics major from Rogersville, Mo.
Alumni partner: Michele Sachar ’90 of Grail Insights

“My primary focus of this project was looking at the economic indicators examined in the current environment and attempting to discern what they might tell us about the recovery process from the COVID-19 crisis. I began by building a comprehensive spreadsheet with information for a wide range of economic indicators in the U.S. and around the world. Then, Michele set up a team to dive deeper into the topic. I worked with one of her colleagues at Grail along with a group of other employees. Actions in this stage included weekly Zoom meetings with the team and the global head of research, researching specific economic crises, and drafting a list of over 100 economic indicators to be considered for our final piece. The team wanted to include an expert opinion in the piece, so I reached out to Mark Kuperberg, a macroeconomics professor at Swarthmore. I was able to lead the interview with him while Michele sat in. The final piece is in the final editing stages and should be published soon. This was a fantastic experience, and I am thankful for the work Career Services put forth in organizing the opportunity. I am also extremely grateful for the thoughtful feedback and guidance Michele offered throughout the project.”

Emma ChiaoEmma Chiao ’22, an economics and computer science major from Palo Alto, Calif.
Alumni partner: Saty Rao ’15 of Wellspring

“My focus was on researching the market landscape of mental well-being tools in the corporate workspace, analyzing competitors’ business models, and recommending a pricing structure for Wellspring. The first piece was to put together a survey that would gauge the demographics, resources from companies, and opinions on burnout of those surveyed. The next was market research and analysis of competitors. I read through several IBIS reports, Mintel reports, articles from professionals, and infographics from trusted companies to understand the future trends of well-being tools. From there I created a slide deck that had a SWOT analysis and key points from my industry research. This will help Wellspring differentiate themselves from their competitors. The last element was building a pricing model in Excel that forecast Wellspring’s revenue, costs, and profits out two years, as well as scaled overtime costs, customer growth and churn rates, and the approximate number of coaches who would be needed to service every user. This model will aid Wellspring in creating a pricing strategy as its business changes over time.”

Ilana SchneiderIlana Schneider ’22, an engineering major from San Francisco, Calif.
Alumni partner: Keyanna Ortiz-Cedeno ’20 of the Enerchi Initiative

“For this internship, I have been using Fusion 360 to 3D-design the building envisioned by Enerchi Initiative. There are two components to this building: a sort of truncated cube as the exterior, and a pyramid in the center. I started with designing the structure of the pyramid. The design for this structure is based off of the ‘Temples of Wholyness,’ erected at Burning Man in 2013, so I recreated a node — a puzzle of six pieces that form a cube — that attaches beams at every angle, and then I constructed the beams. I have been in contact with [the founder of the Enerchi Initiative], and have gone over the structure of the pyramid, and he has helped me with the layout: to form one level of the pyramid at a time. (There will be four levels in total for both the pyramid and the exterior building.) Since I am continuing this internship, I will be able to finish the pyramid structure, as well as construct the truncated cube surrounding the pyramid.”

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