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Bridging the Gap from CC to Career with Internships

The Charge: To help students connect their liberal arts experiences to their professional journeys, CC aims to develop new internship programs for students in a variety of sectors. These programs will empower them to explore the possibilities, develop their professional identities, and connect with post-CC opportunities.

What’s Happening: Internships help bridge the gap from being a student to landing a full-time job after graduation. They provide practical experience and connect students with potential employers. During Summer 2019, CC piloted the Edge Internship Program, a 10-week full-time experience providing opportunities for rising juniors and rising seniors to connect academic learning with professional work. Edge internships take place at companies with a CC connection (CC alumni, families, and friends) and interns participate in professional development boot camp to clarify personal and professional goals and gain workplace training.

Kishen Mangat ’96 hosted CC interns as part of the pilot at his Denver workplace, Cisco, in the technology field. “My story is one example. How does a liberal arts grad with an economics degree go from being a technology entrepreneur to a Cisco executive? Colorado College creates an iterative gene,” he says. “On the Block Plan, you learn how to assimilate new information quickly and to link complex topics. Complex thinking and pattern recognition skills are integral in any sophisticated field. Our world is moving at head spinning pace. Colorado College uniquely prepares its students to cope and thrive in a variety of highly demanding environments.”

Maggie Horowitz ’20 is a classics and computer science major who interned as an AI and machine learning engineer. “It’s nerve-wracking putting yourself forward with such big companies. Being in the Cisco office is really inspiring. With our daily check-in meetings, I could hear what they’re accomplishing each day and ask any of the team members questions,” she says of her time interning over the summer. “The internship made me aware of the opportunities that computer science holds. Before, I thought AI was more robotics and machines, and now I realize it can be applied on a smaller scale, like helping a system function well.”

“This was not an easy internship,” says Mangat. “We gave the students a difficult problem and provided some guidance in terms of what tools and processes to use. They had a strong support structure with talented sponsors, but very limited prescription in terms of ‘how’ to solve the problem. The results were outstanding as they were able to develop a prototype that improves communication service reliability through AI-based network operations.”

Brianna Fuentes ’21, a computer science and math major with a Spanish minor, also worked as an AI and machine learning engineer intern. “I’ve gained more confidence in my major and seeing that the things I’m learning apply to the real world,” says Fuentes. “It’s sparked my curiosity even more in AI and computer science. Cisco is such a collaborative space; and as CC students, we’re able to learn and adapt quickly to this work environment.”

For the 2019 Edge pilot program, seven interns participated at sites spanning Colorado and California, across an array of industries, from healthcare and communication technologies to real estate and software development. The CC Career Center supports students with coaching and workshops focused on internship preparation for the Edge experience and two additional signature internship programs:

The Summer Internship Funding Awards Program is designed to increase the ability of all CC students to participate in an internship opportunity, many of which remain unpaid or underpaid. Ninety-two students were awarded funding to support internships 6-12 weeks in length both in the U.S. and abroad for Summer 2019. Students participated in professional development workshops prior to their internships, set learning goals, and provided internship reflections upon completion of their internships. Approximately 30 funding recipients will present their experiences during the Summer Research and Internship Symposium on Sept. 27.

The Public Interest Fellowship Program offers students and graduates summer and yearlong paid fellowships in the Colorado nonprofit sector. CC students are in high demand because the Block Plan teaches them to develop creative solutions to systemic problems on extremely short deadlines. During its 17-year tenure, the PIFP has successfully placed over 400 Colorado College fellows. The PIFP offer students positions at leading impactful nonprofits along Colorado’s Front Range each year – these include: ACLU, Denver Scholarship Foundation, the Bell Policy Center, Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, and many others.