January 30th, 2013 | Cross Campus

Forum: UCS

As internship deadlines loom and interviews approach, Yalies are beginning to think more seriously about that dreaded question: “What are you doing this summer?” In today’s Forum, our staff bloggers weigh in on Undergraduate Career Services, the conduit between many a Yalie and his or her eventual summer job.

John Masko, Staff Blogger | Junior in Saybrook College

Undergraduate Career Services at Yale has its formula just right.

In the face of an educational institution all too often focused on molding us politically or making us “citizens of the world” (rather than the loutish misfits we’d no doubt otherwise be), it is a great relief to find an on-campus organization that trusts us to determine our own path. The internship opportunities offered at UCS simultaneously cater to student interests and push the boundaries of what a Yale education offers. Each summer offering with a museum curator or lawyer has its counterpart in education reform, health policy, finance or conservative journalism. Such opportunities not only allow students to explore beyond the boundaries of a Yale education, but can also, by their continued popularity, give the school an idea of what it may be unjustifiably leaving out in its academic programs.

UCS is frequently criticized for the large proportion of finance internships it offers. Such criticisms, though, are far more often indicative of the speaker’s inherent prejudices against the morality or social usefulness of a whole industry than an actual lack of student interest in those careers. On the contrary, the pull toward financial careers is often so strong that Yale students study independently, despite the dearth of relevant Yale courses, to prepare themselves for cutthroat finance interviews and applications. UCS’s support of these aspirations is a welcome relief from a school culture which stigmatizes careers in finance and, indeed, money-making in general. As a student with no interest (and no plan to have any interest) in a financial career, it still strikes me as refreshing to see an organization willing to be an impartial, but helpful, umpire as students discover their own mission.

UCS gears itself instead toward supporting students in their own push to define what success means for them. And, it provides a relatable setting in which to think through that question: Its hiring of student representatives to advise their peers in the organization’s offices and to hold office hours in residential colleges (though these programs could both be better advertised and utilized) creates a level of comfort that a talk with an older staff member sometimes can’t give.

Most important of all, the organization points a way to escape from the allure of a perpetual life in academia. It reminds us that we can’t stay in Disney World forever, and is there to both challenge and support Yale students as they take their next step.

Scott Stern, Staff Blogger | Sophomore in Branford College

I’m ambivalent about my decision not to utilize Yale’s Undergraduate Career Services to find a summer internship. UCS seems quite alluring — with its vast networks of job possibilities, its willingness to coach you through every step in the process and its knowledge of the murky workings of the fellowship world. Yet I feel I should qualify the past sentence.

In theory, UCS will help me find a summer job, get the job and make it feasible. But theory is not always the same as practice. And I fear there are several systemic problems with UCS.

For one thing, its resources are heavily tilted to help people who already know what they are doing. If I want to meet with someone to help me find a job studying ecology in Papua New Guinea, UCS might be the place to go. But if I’m not sure whether I want to study ecology or psychology, or if I want to go to New Guinea or Guinea Bissau, UCS is not the place to go. It has been my impression and that of the people I’ve talked to that UCS discourages students from coming in just to brainstorm ideas.

Even if I knew what to do, for UCS to really help me I have to want to do a certain type of job. Those who want to pursue jobs in music, theater or the arts find limited aid at UCS; those who are looking to find a finance or health care internship are in luck.

In response to considerable criticism about the availability and helpfulness of its staff, UCS launched a program two years ago that hired a number of student liaisons to advise their classmates on jobs and summer opportunities. Programs like student liaisons or peer advisers have good intentions, but they are misguided. I don’t want to talk to a junior in JE about summer possibilities. I want to talk to a professional. UCS should take the money they spend employing students, and put it toward hiring professional counselors.

UCS is doing a decent job helping us find decent jobs. They can do better.

Diana Rosen, Staff Blogger | Freshman in Pierson College

The UCS website has an efficient system set up for students who want to search through the large number of summer internship opportunities as quickly as possible: one-click searches. With just the click of a button, students can access every internship available in each of 13 categories ranging from “Jobs with upcoming application deadlines” to “International Opportunities.” I decided to check out this convenient website element.

When you click on “STEM opportunities,” the search returns 248 internships. “Non-Profit Opportunities” gives you 242 responses; “Education Opportunities” gives 176. The “Arts” and “Global Health” options return 72 and 63 results, respectively.

But “Business Opportunities” returns a whopping 489 search results. There are only 1,085 posted opportunities at this time, meaning that nearly half of those listings are in the business industry.

Columnists have taken to the pages of the News for years with complaints of the ways in which Yale seems to feed its students into consulting and finance. But generally those complaints have to do with the heavy recruitment of upperclassmen for post-graduation positions. The problem with the heavily skewed number of business-related opportunities posted by UCS is that this website is a resource undergraduates make use of starting freshman year. For some students, the summer after their freshman year will be the first time they have held a real job or internship. If they choose to secure that position through UCS, they will find that the largest number of opportunities Yale can give them are in business, which immediately creates the impression that the business path is the logical way to go.

By no means am I advocating that Yale stop offering business opportunities for students via UCS, but the student body would benefit from the addition of a comparable number of nonbusiness opportunities in the future. Even many of the “nonprofit” internships are essentially just consulting positions, and many of the education opportunities are finance positions with charter school networks. Of course, there are students at Yale who want to take the business, consulting and finance paths, but UCS should make more of an effort to provide opportunities to those who hope to contribute to this world in a different way.