Metcalf program sees increased studetn interest

By Zach Seward

Since winter quarter of 1997, the Jeff Metcalf Fellows Program has given many career-minded University students the opportunity to have an enjoyable, rewarding summer—not due to the pleasurable warmth of the season or even potential travel plans, but the opportunity to experience highly coveted, paid internships at organizations and businesses throughout the country.

This year the Metcalf Program will place more than 110 interns at 80 organizations across the nation. The number of internships increased from 98 last year and, according to Director of Career and Placement Services Liz Michaels, so did the number of applications. With the last deadline of Monday, February 16 fast approaching, hundreds more applications are expected to flood the office.

Michaels attributes the rise in applications to the growing awareness of the program among the student body and the general consensus that these are valuable opportunities. But in recent years, what has been more important to the success of the Metcalf Program has been the concerted effort by CAPS administrators to strengthen ties with alumni in a wide range of professional fields.

According to Michaels, CAPS has expanded its network of connections, reaching out to alumni, trustees, board members, and friends of the University to secure internship and job opportunities in under-represented fields and regions.

Dean of the College John Boyer, who is mentioned on the CAPS Metcalf Fellows website for providing continued “leadership and support,” also shares CAPS’s ambition to expand the program to 300 students per summer in the next five years. Boyer said he hopes to raise more money and to enlist more alumni support for the program. By helping students with potential careers earlier and by keeping alums connected with the University, Boyer says it’s a “win-win proposition.”

As Associate Director of Employer Development at CAPS, Bill Lan attempts to find substantial internships to be a part of the Metcalf Program. He said the first people he typically turns to are alumni, and that many are often eager to help out.

According to Lan, 62 of the 80 organizations that CAPS works with through the Metcalf Program come from some University alumni connection.

“It’s a great way for alums to help out the university,” Lan said. “They value the education because they’re a part of it and they know that the students can contribute to their companies. For the most part, it’s just been a matter of whether or not they need interns in the summer months.”

Ben Wiener, chief executive officer of Wongdoody, a marketing and advertising company in Los Angeles, graduated from the College in 1994 and has hosted a Metcalf fellow for the past three summers. He said the program is “absolutely worthwhile” for students to pursue. Wiener said he got involved in the program because such opportunities were not offered to him when he was an undergraduate.

“When I was an undergrad at the U of C, it struck me how little the College did to prepare you for the outside world. When this opportunity popped up, I felt like had somewhat of a moral obligation to get involved.

“I can’t begin to convey how much CAPS has transformed since I was an undergrad. The people there now are really responsive,” he added.

While some Metcalf mentors have been involved in the program for a number of years, new mentors are joining as awareness of the program is spreading among alumni, largely by word of mouth.

Rick Atkinson, who received his masters from the University, will be hosting a Metcalf fellow for the first time this summer after his son, a third-year in the college, interned at the Smithsonian last year. Through his son, he became interested in the program and now Atkinson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, will have a fellow of his own to help him research for his new book about the U.S. military campaign in Italy and Sicily during World War II.

“If my son’s experience is any indicator, it’s a great way to experience something that you wouldn’t usually get a chance to do as a 20-year-old,” Atkinson said.

Because the Metcalf internships tend to foster increasing networking and alumni relations, Boyer and Michaels feel that the program is bound to expand.

Wongdoody CEO Wiener said he feels the same way. “A lot of alumni want to help,” he said. “Now that the mechanism is in place I think more will.”