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Columns

Isman ’15: BrownConnect — encouraging exploration

By
Opinions Columnist

Simply finding an internship is hard. What do you do if you don’t even know where to start looking or who to ask? Now imagine finding and even obtaining an internship you really like but not being able to take it because the pay is too low. The University’s recently debuted BrownConnect service manages to ease some of our worries.

BrownConnect is a “website and search engine where students can search for internship and research opportunities in a wide range of fields and locations, as well as financial support for low-paid or unpaid internships,” according to a University news release on the initiative. This means that information that had to be collected from various different resources is now nicely displayed for us on one page.

Beyond just making students’ lives easier when searching for a job — and getting a job we like —, BrownConnect offers both the opportunity and encouragement to truly explore our passions and interests. It allows students to focus more on the type of internship that they would like to take part in and less on the internship’s compensation level by making Undergraduate Teaching and Research Awards and Linking Internships and Knowledge program easier to obtain and accessible to a greater part of the student population. And it allows students to continue exploring their academic interests outside the classroom.

As a completely new website, BrownConnect is also much more appealing and easier to use than BRUnet. Though one does not necessarily replace the other, BrownConnect’s more modern approach to networking makes the whole process a lot more enjoyable. This means that simply logging in to BrownConnect will not be as daunting.

Moreover, when you log into BrownConnect, the site automatically links to your Job and Internship Board profile, displaying internships that might interest you on the homepage. The personalization of the search also makes the whole process seem much less futile. Before, we could spend hours looking for the perfect job. And while the job and internship suggestions might not always be exactly what students are looking for, they demonstrate an availability of interests that many previously feared they might not find.

BrownConnect thus gives students an opportunity to look beyond what they already know. By including all the information a student might need in one single place, it encourages people to look for something that truly inspires them.

Similarly to the open curriculum, BrownConnect allows students to make choices based on interests and demonstrates that these interests exist in concrete formats. The initiative puts the University in a much more positive light, demonstrating its increased commitment to an exploration of interests that begins with the open curriculum. The new initiative allows students to continue that exploration outside of the classroom, and even away from the school and campus experience.

Additionally, BrownConnect has created “154 new internship opportunities, funded 254 … LINK awards … and increased the number of UTRAs,” according to the University’s news release. This increase in funding and internship opportunities demonstrates that, even at the beginning stages, the program has already had a positive impact on the student body.

This program also allows students who might not have had the opportunity to work in a big city or go without pay to take exciting and career-furthering internships that are under-compensated or require expensive living situations. BrownConnect gives everyone the same chances of obtaining jobs in sectors, such as fashion or magazines, that might have been reserved for wealthier students in the past.

According to a January Forbes article, “for many unpaid internships to be legal, students must fork over cash for college credits.” BrownConnect encourages students not to think this way, but rather to realize that there are ways to receive funding from Brown for the things they really want to do.

This new initiative acknowledges that there is a lot to be learned from internship experiences and helps students realize that, too. BrownConnect encourages people to go out into the world for three months and have new and enriching experiences by simplifying the internship search process and the connection of students to possible employers. Moreover, it helps students realize that Brown’s network extends far and wide and that most alums want to help.

BrownConnect combines the openness and focus on personal growth and enrichment that exists at the University and provides students with a backbone from which to grow, thus allowing us to create new experiences to complement our academic tracks. The program provides guidance for the job search as well as the opportunity to talk to people in the industries of our interest. It also makes the process of attaining funding more straightforward and more common. But most of all, it encourages all of us — regardless of what we are studying, what our parents want us to do or what our financial situations are — to explore our interests and continue learning.

 

Sami Isman ’15 encourages everyone to visit BrownConnect and can be reached at samantha_isman@brown.edu. 

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  1. Is this entire article a paraphrased university press release? Cool.

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