Brent Chifford, JE ’09
Sometimes, no amount of foresight can prevent even the best laid summer plans from going awry. When Chifford, an economics major, arrived at the office for the first day of his internship sporting a brand new suit from Brooks Brothers and a smart leather attaché case filled with pens and paper, he was greeted not by the well-heeled business executives he expected, but by a group of technicians in lab coats and rubber gloves. “I had applied to help out a prestigious i-banking firm,” explains the still-confused student, “But I must have overlooked something in the paperwork.” Indeed, rather than catching a glimpse of the high-stakes world of investment strategy and portfolio management, Chifford had happened upon a morning meeting at the Central New York Eye Bank in Rochester, where, unbeknownst to him, he had pledged to work nine-hour shifts for the next three months. “For the first week, I thought it was some kind of hazing ritual for the new recruits,” muses Chifford, who spent significant portions of time in a large storage facility sorting frozen eyeballs by color and size. “Eventually it became clear that some sort of mistake had taken place.” After a brief consultation with his supervisor, it was revealed that the Yale undergraduate’s resume had in fact been confused with that of another Brent Chifford, a medical student from Duke currently employed, and similarly out of his element, at Morgan Stanley’s Manhattan offices. “After reviewing the situation, Brent and I agreed that it was probably in everyone’s best interest if we switched places,” Chifford says, adding that handling vitreous humor “kind of grossed me out.” But despite the mishap, the Yalie remains optimistic about the long term benefits of his experience. “Working at the Bank really taught me to look ahead and keep my eyes on the prize,” he concludes. “Sometimes you can’t see what you want until it’s right in front of you.”
Alex Lesser, BK ’10
If the adage “If you don’t succeed, try, try again,” is to be believed, then Alex Lesser, a Berkeley sophomore, is a notable anomaly. Despite having applied to 17 internships, 11 fellowships, 8 summer courses and a job as a lifeguard at his hometown’s YMCA, the underclassman was denied acceptance to all but one program. “I was really excited to go to Malaysia with the botanical research team,” recalls Lesser, “But the malaria vaccine I had to take made me break out in a full-body rash. I was itchy and bedridden when my flight departed for Kuala Lumpur.” Shunned by potential employers and abandoned by his colleagues, the student decided to spend his summer at home with his mother, Elaine Whitetree Lesser, a former seventh-grade teacher. “At first I was disappointed, but things picked up fast,” explains Lesser, “My mom can be a real drill sergeant. She put me to work right away.” According to the sophomore, Mrs. Lesser rapidly devised a schedule to keep her son occupied: twice a week, he would weed the family garden. In the evenings, he would help his mother put together a scrapbook for his aunt’s upcoming 57th birthday. And on Wednesdays and Fridays, he would pick his little sister up from her lifeguarding job at the YMCA. Overall, Mrs. Lesser was impressed by her son’s commitment. “He’s a very special boy,” said the parent via telephone. Many of Lesser’s Yale professors seem to agree, further deepening the mystery behind the student’s inability to secure summer employment. In an instructor report for HUMS 065, Language and Gesticulation in the College Seminar, a TA described the undergraduate’s effort as “capable.” In response to a question Lesser posed to Professor Charles Bailyn during a lecture on black holes, the eminent astronomer noted, “Good question.” Still, Lesser refuses to see his domestic vacation as a failure. “Wherever you go, there are lots of ways to gain a profitable experience,” remarks the Berkeley ’10er, “I bet I learned just as much as those kids in Malaysia.” As for the future, Lesser has decided to keep his options open. “Who knows, maybe I’ll do this again next summer,” he laughs nervously, “That is, if my mom will take me.” Applications to work for Mrs. Lesser will be available online by mid-October, 2007.