By Tomi Obaro, AB’12
Photo courtesy of Jolyn Yao

No other university in the world has a program like this, and when we go to conferences or we have meetings with career directors, it’s the envy of all the schools.”
—Meredith Daw
Career Advising & Planning Services

Rising fourth-year Jolyn Yao always envisioned going into finance or consulting. But when she landed a coveted internship at Google this summer, suddenly the economics major, who had recently finished working at UChicago’s Office of Investments, changed her mind.

“I never seriously considered working in the tech industry until this internship,” says Yao, who works on the Ad Exchange team in the company’s New York office, optimizing the workflow between Google’s technical support and the company’s clients. “I love the environment — in general, it's much more relaxed and laid-back than, say, the finance industry, but at the same time, the employees are still extremely productive and impressive.”

Such transformative experiences have become common among students like Yao, who take part in the College’s Jeff Metcalf Fellows Program. What started in 1997 as an internship opportunity for seven lucky undergraduates has grown quickly into an integral component of career preparation for motivated students in the College. More than 450 internships were available this year, and College leaders hope to see more growth in the coming years, including an expansion of the program’s international presence.

“No other university in the world has a program like this, and when we go to conferences or we have meetings with career directors, it’s the envy of all the schools,” says Meredith Daw, director of UChicago’s Career Advising & Planning Services. “It’s kind of like a one-two punch: Our students with a liberal arts education, which is world-renowned, coupled with these pre-professional programs we’re doing. It’s really a winning combination.”

Unexpected opportunities

Offering paid internships in many different disciplines, the program enables students to explore career options that might be difficult to access without the program’s funding. Alumni, parents, and College endowments ensure that Metcalf employers can pay the base rate of $10 per hour for their interns, although Daw says some employers pay more. For ten weeks or longer, students focus on honing their real-world skills without worrying about finances.

The program brought new opportunities for Hannah Koch, a rising fourth-year, who worked this summer with renowned biological anthropologist Robert Martin at The Field Museum. Still unsure of what field she wants to enter after graduation, the psychology major and biology minor has nevertheless taken part in groundbreaking research — albeit unintentionally.

“Dr. Martin is the acting head of the Anthropology Department, so he got to oversee this really cool mummy scanning project,” Koch says. “We had a mobile CT scanner in the parking lot, and they needed all the interns they could get to help carry mummies to the scanner. Thus, I got volunteered even though I have nothing to do with mummies.” Koch is working on an individual research project on evolutionary biology with Dr. Martin during the summer.

For Daw, these tales of success are proof that the memory of Harold "Jeff" Metcalf, AM’53, lives on. Chicago Booth’s late dean of students and UChicago director of athletics, Metcalf was a mentor and friend to countless students. Since John W. Boyer, dean of the College, pitched the idea of an internship program to a few alumni in 1997, it has grown immensely—this year, more than 450 internships were available.

“The Metcalf internships are an important opportunity for students in any major, and as much these experiences do for students, they are also a wonderful way for alumni to stay connected through the College as donors and mentors,” says Boyer. “We are barely scratching the surface of the creative energy our students have to offer, and I would like to double the number of Metcalf internships available over the next few years.”

‘Immersed’ in work, culture

Anasuya Kabad, a rising fourth-year, says she has benefitted enormously from the Metcalf program. An intern at the American Medical Association in Chicago, the public policy major helps conduct market-research analysis, which is used to inform business development, strategy, and advocacy efforts in the AMA.

“I was always interested in non-profit work, but I felt like this internship really developed some of my research skills,” says Kabad. “I get to take a look at a lot of data and analyze it. I get to use statistical programs that I’ve never used before. It’s taking all my thinking skills and applying them in a practical way.”

Roger Madejski, a double major in economics and Western Slavic Languages, has interned at Intrinsic Value Investors in London, where he researches stocks and presents his findings to the company. He says his experience “has been so much more than an internship.”

“The fact that I have been afforded the opportunity to work in a financial capital of the world that isn't New York is tremendous,” says the rising third-year. “Not only do I get the opportunity to experience the difference in business culture between two hemispheres, but I am immersed in a truly international city.”

Originally published on September 6, 2011.