Career IDEAs Externship Program: Brown University

Career Administrator

 For four days I worked as an extern in the Office of Student Development, the Swearer Center, at Brown University in Providence, RI. During my stay, I transferred a paper trip itinerary to an excel spreadsheet and organized logistics for a Bonner Fellows trip, created a companion document for historic stops on their tour of the Mississippi Delta, analyzed survey responses, and sat on a panel with an applicant for an open Director of Faculty position. Completing all of these tasks in a timely and efficient manner intimidated me- I wasn’t aware of what exactly I was doing until the last minute, and was given a quick deadline. But working under pressure pushed me to complete all of the tasks quicker than I expected- I learned that when I invest 100% of my energy into one task at a time, I actually complete work that is more detailed and is of higher quality. In fact, I even was able to complete them faster- I was done with the majority of my work a day ahead of schedule. Because of this, I learned more about my professional skills and how I implement them in the workplace, as well as time management.


In addition, I gained a much greater understanding of the higher education industry, specifically how universities collaborate with community partners to provide a wholesome experience for their students. For example- Brown University encourages their separate departments to incorporate some form of community service into their curriculum, and support diversity initiatives by providing funding and stipends for students who participate in specific programs. Seeing a university that was so well-rounded in every sphere of higher learning was truly inspiring, and made me realize that I want to be surrounded in a community as supportive as theirs one day.


The employees who worked there were also very welcoming and informative in all of the informational interviews I had with them. I talked to program managers and leads, assistant directors, dean of colleges, directors of student development, and many more personal around the office. After talking in more detail about each of their roles, I realized that while I want to create policy to enact a greater change, having one-on-one student interaction is extremely important to me. I need to be in an advising role to maintain my passion for youth development and to remain empathetic in everything I do. The setting of the workplace also influenced how I picture my work environment might look like in the future: The Swearer Center was located in an old house where there were no official offices, so the staff were haphazardly jumbled together under one roof. I would like to be in a more professional office with designated work spaces for the sake of feeling orderly in the workplace.


I learned a lot about how I perceive higher education and what I can bring to that community; whether it be more emphasis on service projects, more funding for students, or a greater emphasis on student support, there are many ways college kids can be empowered. Most importantly, I was able to learn more about myself and what I can gain from putting passion and thought into everything I do. This four day externship will impact the decisions I make for the rest of my time here at UVA, and I’m eternally grateful for having had this opportunity. 

The Career IDEAs Externship Program aims to connect students with meaningful externship opportunities in J-Term and during the Summer months. Students apply to the program via Handshake and get selected by an externship site that will help them explore the industry of their choice. The program is open to all students, but priority will be given to those who have not had an externship or internship experience. The following groups are especially encouraged to apply: 2nd and 3rd years who are first-generation college students and part of under-represented populations.  Learn more about the program.  Applications Open In March for Summer 2018! This program is made possible due to partnership with the UVA IDEA Fund.  Learn more about the IDEA Fund here.