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U. launches initiative to assist internship hunt

BrownConnect compiles formerly dispersed resources to connect students with alums, parents

BrownConnect, the University’s new initiative for students to find summer internships and research opportunities through Brown alums and parents, launched Thursday morning, President Christina Paxson announced in a community-wide email.

The initiative is part of a goal in Paxson’s strategic plan to provide every undergraduate receiving financial aid with at least one funded internship or research opportunity. Though the University cannot guarantee that students graduate with secured jobs, it can help guarantee that they complete internships, Paxson told The Herald.

BrownConnect is a joint effort between the CareerLAB, Alumni Relations and the Presidential Advisory Council on Internships, said Aixa Kidd, director of BrownConnect. These three groups hope BrownConnect serves as a “one-stop shop” for employment opportunities that will bring together the alum, parent and student communities, she said.

The initiative will allow first-years, sophomores and juniors to access internships, alum connections and funding, Kidd said.

While these resources were accessible to students before, they were all housed on different websites, such as the Job and Internship Board, the alumni directory BRUNet and the University’s website displaying fellowship opportunities, Kidd said. “Now all of the information is in one place, not five,” she said.

The access to the larger Brown community — including alums and parents — is intended to let students gain mentoring and career advice, Kidd said. The team that developed BrownConnect aimed to assemble alums from various industries to meet the interests of students from all concentrations, she added.

BrownConnect is meant to “bridge the gap” between the Brown setting and the workplace environment, said Michael Baker ’87, president and CEO of the technology company DataXu. Baker has hired several Brown undergrads to work for his company. As a frequent employer of Brown students, Baker said he thinks BrownConnect will give employers access to “talented students,” help students transition between the college and work worlds more smoothly and help students make more professional connections before graduating.

Compared to the recruiting capabilities of large investment banking, consulting and finance companies, students’ roads to nonprofits, startups and smaller companies can be more like “dirt paths,” Baker said. The BrownConnect “benefit for students is an expanded horizon of pathways that are well-lit and smoother.”

The initiative originated in Paxson’s strategic plan, in which she set the goal for “expanded access to summer internships and research experiences.” This goal was a result of an internal report she received, which stated that the number of internships students were obtaining through University resources was very low. “We were actually doing much better than we gave ourselves credit for, but the internship programs were not progressing, and they were very decentralized,” Paxson said.

A recent Herald poll conducted Oct. 22 to Oct. 23 found that only 14.1 percent of undergraduates acquired their most recent summer internship through a Brown-sponsored career service, including CareerLAB, BruNet, the Job and Internship Board and the Industrial Partners Program. Nearly half of respondents — 47.5 percent — indicated that they found their most recent internships by independently contacting or applying to positions directly.

Paxson said she also learned that more students were applying for financial support from the University — in the forms of Linking Internships and Knowledge awards, Undergraduate Teaching and Research Awards and summer earnings waivers — than were receiving it. Though the University strives to be financially accessible for the entire student body, “students need experiences to leverage their Brown education as well,” she said.

After learning these facts, Paxson said, she created the Presidential Advisory Council on Internships, which began exploring different methods of increasing internship opportunities for students, and BrownConnect was born.

The BrownConnect website will include a symbol denoting internships that are available exclusively for Brown students — a feature that has never before been offered, Paxson said.

While peer institutions had advanced career centers and online employment offerings before Brown, “the revolution here will be making use of very intense connections with Brown alumni,” Paxson said. Other schools do not have the same “intensive purpose” with their online internship systems that the University now does, she added.

The BrownConnect launch is just the beginning, Kidd said. “This is just version 1.0,” she said. “We still have to build this up.”

BrownConnect “will become stronger and better over time,” Paxson said, adding that once the initiative gains publicity, alum connections will build and become more accessible.

Looking ahead, multiple workshops and alum panels will be held next academic year to help students prepare for the opportunities found on the online BrownConnect search engine, Kidd said.


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