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Internships Shed Light on Students’ Career Plans

Internships Shed Light on Students’ Career Plans

Posted: November 29, 2018

“What, exactly, can one do with a liberal education?”

It is a question that Thomas Aquinas College students know well, one that is invariably asked whenever they mention that they are devoting four years to studying the greatest works of Western civilization. A simple answer becomes evident when one considers the careers that the College’s students are already planning: They can do whatever they want.

For evidence, one need look no further than the various internships and study programs that Thomas Aquinas College students undertook this past summer. The breadth and depth of these experiences — a sampling of which are recounted below — bear a powerful witness not only to the universality of the College’s curriculum, but also to the agility of the classically educated mind.

Bella Ayala (’19)Bella Ayala (’19)

During her two-month paid internship with the Ventura County Medical Center, Bella Ayala got to see the “whole gamut of medical specialties,” from labor and delivery to palliative care. Each week she was assigned to a new unit in the hospital, where she could watch surgeons, therapists, nurses, and medical examiners at work. She also assisted a physician with a research project about how to improve the quality of care in the hospital’s pediatric outpatient clinic.

The experience gave her more clarity about pursuing a medical career. “The program helped me to see that an MD track is very attractive to me, with psychiatry or psychology as my entry point,” Miss Ayala says. “I aspire to be a companion to people in their hardest moments.”

Isaac Cross (’19)Isaac Cross (’19)

For Isaac Cross, the summer began in Rome, where he participated in a singing tour with a men’s choir, The Floriani, composed of Thomas Aquinas College students and alumni. In May he went to Seattle, where he took part in a weeklong academic conference sponsored by the Independent Studies Institute. For the rest of the summer, he was in the Washington, D.C., area, working as an analyst and writer for the Media Research Center.

“I analyzed news stories for bias or agenda,” says Mr. Cross, “and then wrote up my findings in articles posted to the Center’s website.” He published more than 40 bylined stories, which generated over 90,000 views and 28,000 social-media shares. An aspiring journalist, he’s grateful for the experience: “I now have content to back up my résumé.”

Sophia Dufau (’19)Sophia Dufau (’19)

When Sophia Dufau first learned about the honors internships at the U.S. Department of Justice, she was reluctant to apply. “I didn’t think I would get in,” she admits. The highly competitive program includes a rigorous application process followed by an FBI background check. Yet she decided to take her chances, and this summer was thrilled to spend eight weeks at the department’s Los Angeles field office, researching, writing, and editing background documents for law-enforcement investigations.

“In all that I did, I knew that I was helping further an institution that has such a great mission, and I felt very fulfilled,” Miss Dufau says. She is continuing to work part-time for the department this year and hopes to land a full-time job there after graduation.

Moises Gomez (’19)Moises Gomez (’19)

In his second summer as an intern at the Los Angeles law firm of Olivarez Madruga Lemieux O’Neill, LLP, Moises Gomez saw his responsibilities increase. “Originally my job consisted mostly of filing,” he says. “But one day I had a conversation with an attorney who thought I had some skills that could be put to use. After that, I was allowed to work on active cases, edit documents, write deposition summaries, even draft a motion for summary judgement — which is something you don’t usually get to do until you’re a law student.”

His experience, he says, gave him valuable new skills and insights: “It was amazing to be able to get firsthand experience of the lives of lawyers and the nature of their work.”

Thomas Graf (’19)Thomas Graf (’19)

“I had three main jobs,” says Thomas Graf of his internship at Catholic Answers in San Diego: He wrote captions for the organization’s YouTube videos. (“It was great — I was being paid to watch apologetics videos. So, as I worked, I was getting answers to profound questions like, ‘What is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?’”) He also helped the group prepare for its fall conference on faith and science, and, each afternoon, he took part in the production of the Catholic Answers Live radio program, usually screening listener phone calls.

He hopes to continue working for Catholic Answers, or a similar organization, after graduation. “When you work at a lay apostolate, you’re not only making a living,” he says, “you’re fulfilling the vocation to evangelize.”

Abigail Herbst (’19)Abigail Herbst (’19)

For 10 weeks this summer, Abigail Herbst was one of six Alcuin Fellows at the Charlemagne Institute in Bloomington, Minnesota, whose mission, as she describes it, is “to lay the intellectual groundwork for the next Great Awakening.” To that end, Miss Herbst attended weekly lectures from outside speakers and wrote articles for the Institute’s online magazine, Intellectual Takeout.

“I loved the writing aspect,” she says. “They were able to help me hone my skills for that medium, so as to draw in and keep readers.” Her published articles include: Why It’s Okay that the Constitution Isn’t PerfectWhat Living in a Single-Sex Dorm Has Taught Me About Men and Women, and Is Loneliness Fueling the Rise of Political Polarization in the U.S.?.

Ryan Lockhart (’19)Ryan Lockhart (’19)

For several years alumnus Shane O’Reilly (’95), vice president for strategic sourcing at Anthem, Inc., has recruited at his alma mater, and last spring he offered an internship to Ryan Lockhart. “I hadn’t really considered a career in business before then,” says Mr. Lockhart. Working at Anthem this summer, and now part-time during the academic year, opened his eyes to new possibilities.

During his first few weeks, he mostly shadowed other employees, but over time his duties expanded. By summer’s end, he was the point of contact for three software vendors seeking a contract with the company. His studies at the College, he found, prepared him well. “We learn how to communicate effectively and how to analyze documents,” he says. “Those skills are invaluable.”

Thomas Macik (’19) and Patrick Nazeck (’19)Thomas Macik (’19) and Patrick Nazeck (’19)

Not ones to relax over summer vacation, Thomas Macik and Patrick Nazeck headed to Quantico, Virginia, for 10 weeks at the U.S. Marine Corps Officer Candidates School. There they underwent a relentless regimen of physical exertion, sleep deprivation, and constant evaluation intended to induce stress — “the most fun we’d never want to have again,” says Mr. Nazeck.

The program was “miserable,” Mr. Macik concedes, but worthwhile. “One of the most valuable things I’ve learned from this education is the duty you have to your community, and that extends to the country.” Although a third of all candidates fail, Messrs. Macik and Nazeck successfully completed the program. They plan to accept commissions as Marine Corps officers next spring, just minutes after their graduation from the College.

Elanor Piquette (’21)Elanor Piquette (’21)

As a technical intern at Teledyne Scientific and Imaging, Elanor Piquette spent six weeks this summer working at the company’s offices in Camarillo, California. “Teledyne makes infrared detectors. Some of them are for the military; some are for NASA,” she explains. Most of her work was classified (she had to undergo a background check to get the job), and as such, she knows little of its ultimate ends. “I worked with the focal plane engineers,” she reports. “My main duties were making charts and PowerPoints, processing data, and some coding in Visual Basic.”

A sophomore, Miss Piquette has yet to settle on a career path, but she does expect to return to Teledyne next summer: “It’s too good an opportunity to pass up!”