The First Step

Summer is six months away, but mid-winter is prime time for Holy Cross students to explore the many offerings of the College's Summer Internship Program (SIP).

Internships are often the first step on a career path for college students, and Crusaders are no exception. HCM asked SIP director, Pamela L. Ahearn, to shed some light on this important experience that more than 1,500 students have shared since the program began in 2000. 

HCM   How does the Summer Internship Program (SIP) work? 

PAM AHEARN   SIP is a competitive process whereby second- and third-year students in good academic standing apply for admission with a cover letter, resume, transcript and interview. If admitted, students are required to attend an Orientation to the Summer Internship Program and meet with SIP staff to debrief their application and interview. Students are then eligible to apply to the internships housed within the program.  

HCM   Who makes the hiring decisions?

PA   Students apply to the internships that interest them, and then employers select students for interviews and make the hiring decisions.


HCM   How did the program go last year?

PA   There were 417 students admitted to the program for the 2012-2013 academic year and 168 secured SIP internships last summer.


HCM   What are the most popular fields you have seen in recent years among Holy Cross students? 

PA   Fashion, magazine publishing, financial services, medical, media, legal and environmental internships have all been highly coveted by our students.  


HCM   Why are internships particularly valuable for liberal arts students?

PA   At a liberal arts institution, a student's major does not dictate a specific career. Internships allow students to gain some contextual experience and apply what they are learning in and out of the classroom to a professional setting. Internships also allow students to "test drive" a potential career or industry to see if it is something they want to pursue beyond graduation.


HCM   What makes the Summer Internship Program at Holy Cross unique?

PA   First, our alumni were critical in helping to establish the program-money they raised and continue to raise funds a large portion of internship opportunities. That is quite remarkable and unlike most colleges and universities. In addition, the College stepped up by making internship stipends once funded by the Lilly Foundation permanently funded by the College. Finally, we have some endowed money through generous alumni and parents that is earmarked specifically for internships. The Atchinson family and the Powers family are two shining examples of this generosity.

HCM   And what do alumni and parents who partner with SIP gain from the experience?

PA   First, it's important to note that alumni are the most natural resource when creating internships for SIP-they understand the value of a Holy Cross education and want to give back to Holy Cross undergraduates. Those who have experienced having our students as interns are consistently pleased with the enthusiasm, work ethic, professionalism and quality of work of the Holy Cross intern. They find that their intern can oftentimes complete projects that have been on the back burner and can provide a fresh perspective to the organization. Intern supervisors comment that Holy Cross students can speak articulately on a wide range of subject matters and solve problems independently. 


HCM   How do the two Holy Cross Leadership Councils (in New York and San Francisco) help SIP? 

PA   The Holy Cross Leadership Council of New York was key to the immediate success of SIP. It funded 10 of the 13 internships we offered that first summer in 2000. To date, 329 students have interned at a New York Leadership Council site, and its budget for internships has grown from $60,000 to $185,000. That money allows the student to complete an internship that would otherwise be unpaid-the stipend can really level the playing field and give options to all students regardless of geography. 


HCM   And on the West Coast? 


PA   In 2011 the Bay Area Leadership Council modeled itself after the New York Council and began to raise funds for internship stipends. It is a very motivated group that is passionate about Holy Cross and has implemented targeted marketing and findraising campaigns to reach alumni in the Bay Area and spread the word about the mission of the Council. In a short  time, the Bay Area Leadership Council has been able to fund three student interns, and momentum is growing.  ■


Photo: The SIP team includes (seated, from left) Administrative Assistants Kathy Lavallee and Noriah Nor, and (back row, standing) Career Counselor Angela Barnes, SIP Director Pamela L. Ahearn and Associate Director Julie Draczynski '99.




Jared DiPalma '02 is one of hundreds of SIP success stories demonstrating how an internship opportunity can lead to a career. DiPalma started as the SIP intern at AXA Financial in New York City, and landed a spot in General Electric's financial management program after graduation. He joined NBCUniversal in 2008 as vice president of finance for the company's national sales organization. Most recently, in April 2013, DiPalma was promoted to chief financial officer of the NBCUniversal News Group, where he oversees the financial operations of NBC News, CNBC and MSNBC. "There is no question that my SIP experience at AXA was the resume differentiator that helped me land the job at GE," he says.  ■