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2015 Internship & Job Challenge Success Boosts Goal for This Year

Aspen Institute Internship
Noelle Smith ’16 with Aspen Security Forum team

As seminars manager at The Aspen Institute, Hadley White '98 brings together leaders from all around the world-including CEOs, four-star admirals and opera singers-to examine their values and their place in society. This past summer, Noelle Smith '16 experienced these seminars with 11 other interns while working in The Aspen Institute's conference department. The opportunity to get an up-close look at the inner workings of Aspen arose through the Center for Career Development's Internship & Job Challenge.

Smith was one of 78 students who obtained summer internships through the challenge. In 2014-2015, 220 internship positions and 94 jobs were posted on Davidson's internal career site—a record number since the challenge's start in 2012. Parents, alumni and friends of the college supported the challenge by forming, finding, or funding positions. This past year also showed a major increase in grants for unpaid internships, totaling $101,000.

"There is a need in the student body for professional experience, which is so sought after by employers, so this is a strong initiative for the college to support," said Assistant Director for Internships Jamie Stamey. "This gives students a foot in the door, which makes a significant impact in a job market where networking and personal contacts are so crucial."

Aspen Calls

White posted an internship position in the hopes of expanding the Davidson network at The Aspen Institute. "Last summer President Quillen came to the Ideas Festival, and I realized how closely The Aspen Institute's mission and interests align with Davidson's," she explained. "The institute at large really values humanistic studies, which is in line with Davidson's focus on developing and educating the whole person."

The position stood out to Smith, who was interested in policy and had heard of the institute while conducting research for political science courses.

Noelle Smith
Noelle Smith ’16 with CNN journalist and news anchor Wolf Blitzer

"I had spent previous summers as a camp counselor and as a student researcher working with a geography professor, but wanted a more structured experience," she said.

Although Smith hadn't completed a summer internship, she had been involved on campus with Davidson Outdoors and the Honor Council and found it helpful that, as a Davidson alumna, White understood these commitments.

"I thought Noelle's Davidson Outdoors experience would be ideal for running successful events at the Aspen campus," White said.

After a round of interviews with White and others, Smith landed the event planning position for conferences addressing public policy and innovative ways to approach the world's critical issues.

"I got to see many incredible speakers and learn the logistics of conference planning," she said.

One of those speakers was Clifton Kinnie, a college freshman and primary organizer of the protests in Ferguson, Missouri. "To hear a younger person speak about the difference they're making in the community was really powerful," she noted.

Smith also helped organize a program that connected community leaders from developing countries. Having been exposed to those leaders and their stories, she now uses them as points of reference in a course she's taking on the politics of development.

Davidson Ties

Although Smith and White worked in different departments, they would meet a couple of times each week. "Just having a Davidson connection there made the transition so much easier and more comfortable," Smith said.

White also understands the value of the Davidson network, as she sought out the advice of Davidson alumni when deciding whether to attend graduate school. "I wanted to explore the field of international development after Davidson and spoke to four alumni with really interesting jobs who recommended I pursue a master's degree, so that was a huge confidence-builder in taking the graduate school plunge," she said.

White remembers a time when she, too, was looking for internships and exploring her professional interests, and she considers the opportunity to help current students do the same a great way to give back.

"Once you get someone from Davidson in somewhere, it strengthens ties and makes it easier for the next person," she explained. "This is an important initiative for helping students investigate their current interests, and for exposing them to new ones."

This year's Job & Internship Challenge is off to a strong start, with a goal to post 350 internships and full-time jobs, as well as to raise funds for students who cannot afford to pursue unpaid, high-quality internships. Please contact Assistant Director for Internships Jamie Stamey at jastamey@davidson.edu with questions or to provide information for a potential internship or job opportunity.