January 20, 2010

Amy Luo '10 and F.W. deKlerk, former president of South Africa.

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(Editor's note: From the winter 2010 edition of Bucknell Magazine.)

By Molly O'Brien Foelsch M'98

LEWISBURG, Pa. — Bucknell senior Amy Luo '10 has a "low tolerance for boredom" and "loves a challenge."

Given her activities for the past few semesters, she should be feeling pretty fulfilled. For instance, as an intern in the Development and Alumni Relations office, Luo co-founded the Student Philanthropy Group to promote a spirit of giving on campus. She also has met former president of South Africa F.W. de Klerk, dined with University trustees and developed a program to connect students studying abroad in London with alumni mentors.

As she completes her degree in political science and looks toward her future, Luo feels personally satisfied, and knows she will enter the job market with a few good success stories to tell her interviewers.

Luo's is just the kind of experience that President Brian C. Mitchell envisioned when he initiated the Undergraduate Executive Internship program in 2006. Mitchell got the idea after seeing the impact of having a summer intern in his own office. That student was Ben Portman '07.

Gain professional experience

"Ben brought a lot of energy to the office. I saw an opportunity for other students to gain professional experience and at the same time bring a student perspective to the work we do in the administration," says Mitchell. "So I asked him to stay on and develop a broader program that would involve more students and more offices."

Almost four years later, the program has expanded with Executive Interns reporting to senior staff in the Offices of the President, Chief of Staff, Provost and Investments and Endowment and in the Divisions of Communications and Development and Alumni Relations.

The program is student-run. This year's coordinator, Josh Goodman '10, says, "We're not just getting copies made. We are helping the senior staff accomplish their goals. Plus, we're gaining practical skills and networking with the trustees and the alumni community."

Projects include supporting the Bucknell Forum speaker series, helping to enhance admissions recruitment materials, developing and planning an internship fair, sitting as members of the Town-Gown Committee, creating manager profiles for the endowment's public equity, private equity and hedge fund managers and assisting with the development and implementation of academic assessment approaches.

Diverse perspectives
The students, having grown up in places as far ranging as Shanghai and Pretoria, South Africa, to California, Indiana and rural and metropolitan Pennsylvania, approach their work with diverse perspectives. They also are majoring in a range of disciplines, some of them unexpected. Says Goodman, "We have a mechanical engineer working in Communications, writing and learning the ins and outs of working with different audiences. It's really not about a student's major. Executive Interns are gaining skills that are essential for someone who wants to become a leader in the workforce."

In addition to their in-office work, the Executive Interns participate in personal and professional development opportunities. Guest speakers from across campus cover topics including public speaking and how to manage personal finances.

Recently, Bill Gruver, Bucknell's Distinguished Clinical Professor of Management and Executive-in-Residence, facilitated a role-playing session with the interns. Goodman says of the session, "Most of us are currently in the job or internship search process. We can use many of Professor Gruver's insights to improve our interviewing skills and have a better opportunity at landing a position."

Meeting dignitaries and scholars
Executive Interns also have the chance to meet dignitaries and visiting scholars, including Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is coming to campus Feb. 2.

Maryjane Mitchell serves as adviser to the Executive Interns. She answers their questions about how to approach complex situations and makes sure that their work is both challenging and substantial. She says, "Bucknell benefits from having motivated and talented students in its offices. The Executive Interns bring fresh ideas and help the administration better incorporate student needs into its decision-making. But the biggest impact is on the students. They grow in remarkable ways during their time as interns and truly comprehend what it means to be a professional. It's been a privilege to watch them grow exponentially in their confidence."

Portman agrees. After Bucknell, he devoted two years to Teach for America before becoming a financial adviser for Morgan Stanley Smith Barney. "The internship was one of the most rewarding experiences I had," he says. "Being able to learn from the top leadership of the school and being exposed to so much has given me an excellent model of not just professionalism, but also the relentless attitude that is necessary for real success."

Contact: Division of Communications