Investing in Opportunity

September 25, 2019

By Audrey St. Clair ’03

As part of her internship, Nina Steigerwald ’20 sets up signs to promote AdventHealth's employee wellness program.
Photo by Scott Cook.

The second cohort of the Gateway Fellows funded internship program proves there’s no substitute for real-world, hands-on experience.

Whether it was fighting for human rights in the Middle East, developing employee wellness initiatives at a premier medical facility, or probing dopamine-signaling pathways in the lab of an R1 university, this past summer’s cohort of Rollins Professional Fellows delved into their internships prepared to make a difference. Launched last year, this highly selective funded internship program gives Rollins students the opportunity to participate in some of the world’s most prestigious programs, ones that eschew coffee fetching and answering phones for meaningful and productive work.

Rollins trustee Carroll Hanley Goggin ’85 provided seed funding for the inaugural cohort of Rollins Professional Fellows in summer 2018 as well as for this past summer’s second group of industrious students. Longtime Rollins donor David Lamm made the first gift to help establish an endowed fund, which when fully funded by additional donors would support the internship program and other Center for Career & Life Planning programming moving forward.

To be considered for the program, students had to submit an application, resume, and a personal essay articulating both the value of the experience toward their career goals and the potential impact of the funding on their ability to engage with their internship, along with a detailed budget of expenses. Upon conclusion of the internship, each student completed a final reflection project that included key takeaways from the experience and their plans for moving forward in their career journey.

Without the support of the program, the majority of the Rollins Professional Fellows would have struggled financially, which would have diminished their ability to fully capitalize on the value of these one-of-a-kind opportunities. Thanks to the Rollins Professional Fellows program, Kimmy Bonar ’21 now knows her calling is in the lab engineering better medicines and Colin Kelly ’21 is living and breathing environmental justice. Each of the following Rollins Professional Fellows went out into the world, tested their abilities, acquired new skills, and returned to Rollins ready for more.

Nina Steigerwald ’20 photographs AdventHealth employees.
As an intern in AdventHealth’s human resources department, Nina Steigerwald ’20 focused on everything from coordinating employee badge access to developing wellness initiatives. Photo by Scott Cook.

The Psychologist: Nina Steigerwald ’20

Human Resources Assistant, AdventHealth

On day one of her internship at AdventHealth, Nina Steigerwald ’20 realized it’s impossible to deliver whole-person care—in any form—without organizational skills and creativity. Fortunate for her, these have been two cornerstones of her Rollins education and have prepared her for the numerous and varied tasks she took on as an employee specialist intern at AdventHealth’s Altamonte Springs campus.

From sorting files and entering data to creating wellness initiatives and developing job-search tools, the Hamilton Holt School double major in psychology and health-services management was prepared to be productive and proactive from the start. When asked to create additional resources for employees transferring within the organization, Steigerwald suggested implementing a transfer survey as opposed to the standard exit interview that had been used in the past. She also developed creative ways department leaders could promote and enhance team connection and employee well-being.

Nina Steigerwald ’20 working with a staff member at AdventHealth.
Photo by Scott cook.

“The small class sizes at Rollins and close relationships with my fellow classmates and professors really prepared me for the teamwork and collaboration necessary in this internship and the work I did to improve the employee experience,” says Steigerwald.

Thanks to the Rollins Professional Fellows program, Steigerwald was able to dive into this internship while also studying for the GRE—something she couldn’t have done while simultaneously holding down a summer job. Her experience at AdventHealth has motivated this lover of people and talented taskmaster to pursue a career as an industrial psychologist, not only helping companies achieve success but ensuring maximum employee satisfaction.

Maliha Qureshi ’19 speaking from the podium at Goldman Sachs in New York City.
Maliha Qureshi ’19 landed a prestigious internship with Goldman Sachs in New York City in the global investment firm’s asset-management division.

The Financier: Maliha Qureshi ’19

Operations Intern, Goldman Sachs

Because of the interpersonal and communication skills she has gained at Rollins, Maliha Qureshi ’19 felt prepared to take on the Big Apple and an internship in the asset-management division of one of the country’s leading global investment firms. The economics and math double major served as an operations intern on Goldman Sachs’ funds oversight team, which is responsible for managing risk and daily oversight of all internally managed hedge funds, money market accounts, and exchange-traded funds.

In her role, Qureshi focused on process-improvement projects designed to increase automation and efficiency using tools like Alteryx, but she came away with much more than technical skills. She learned the ins and outs of high-stakes, fast-paced financial dealings and navigated with aplomb the inner workings of the highly competitive world of money management because of the relational learning foundation she received at Rollins.

“This summer gave me a taste of the finance industry and showed me what it takes to be successful at a prestigious firm in such a demanding business,” says Qureshi, who’s been offered a full-time position at Goldman Sachs following graduation. “I also learned the importance of committing to excellence, maintaining a work-life-balance, and staying true to yourself.”

In addition to the funding provided by the Gateway Fellowship, Qureshi is grateful for the weekly assignments built into the program that focused on career building, which helped her reflect on and assess what she had learned on the job and how to translate it into marketable skills going forward.

Lauren Oxendine ’20 learned what it really means to provide humanitarian aid to children in Middle Eastern refugee communities.

The Humanitarian: Lauren Oxendine ’20

Advocacy and Communications Intern, Save the Children Jordan

Lauren Oxendine ’20 spent the summer putting the Arabic skills she’s gained the past two years at Rollins into action as an intern in Save the Children Jordan’s Advocacy, Communications, and Media department.

Through the School for International Training (SIT), the international relations major took part in the Counseling and Humanitarian Action internship, where she first completed coursework that explored topics like the challenges facing refugee host communities before diving head-first into hands-on humanitarian work. A typical day at the office included compiling daily news reports for the organization’s beneficiaries, transcribing case study interviews for publication, updating social media accounts, and taking copious notes on field visits to the refugees living in host communities.

“This experience provided me with an outlet to apply knowledge from my coursework to the real world,” says Oxendine, whose career sights are set on the international humanitarian field. “I got to see firsthand the connections of learning about political theories, history, and communications.”

In addition to her Rollins’ coursework, Oxendine points to her work-study experience on campus and participation in the College’s new Career Champions mentorship program as the foundation for her success this past summer. Oxendine’s alumni mentor—who works in the U.S. State Department and was deployed to the Middle East in an international-aid capacity—went so far as to do mock interviews with her in preparation for applying to the program.

Kimmy Bonar ’21 working in a lab during her internship at Drexel University in Philadelphia.
At Drexel University’s College of Medicine, Kimmy Bonar ’21 spent the summer investigating dopamine-signaling pathways to better understand the neuroHIV virus.

The Scientist: Kimmy Bonar ’21

Undergraduate Intern, Drexel University College of Medicine

When Kimmy Bonar ’21 steps into a lab, it’s as natural as a slide slipping into a microscope. So when biology professor Susan Walsh connected her to Emily Nickeloff-Bybel ’12—a PhD candidate in the pharmacology and physiology program at Drexel University—Bonar couldn’t pack her bags fast enough.

Working alongside Nickeloff-Bybel, the biology major focused on investigating dopamine-signaling pathways in primary human macrophages by performing protein quantification. The goal of the research is to reveal potential therapeutic targets in a particular type of the HIV virus known as neuroHIV, which can persist even with anti-retroviral therapy. Understanding how dopamine is involved in the virus could aid the development of targeted adjunctive therapies to prevent or mitigate neurocognitive dysfunction in patients.

“This internship helped me write my own experimental protocols and create better time management skills that I can use going forward,” says Bonar, who felt prepared for the high-level demands of this internship because of the proper benchwork techniques, safety precaution, and data-collection skills she’s learned at Rollins. “I learned how much I enjoy being in the lab and want to study and develop alternatives to chemotherapy for cancer treatments.”

Neny Lairet ’21 keeps track of the markets while on the treadmill at Knoza Consulting.
Neny Lairet ’21 was encouraged to multitask in her role as a client support specialist at local firm Knoza Consulting.Photo by Scott Cook.

The Executive: Neny Lairet ’21

Client Support Specialist, Knoza Consulting

The value of teamwork. Technical acumen. Project management skills. International business major Neny Lairet ’21 came away from her summer internship having learned and applied all three to the world of e-commerce at Knoza Consulting, an Orlando-based firm focused on optimizing client listings and growing revenue on Amazon.

“I learned so much about sales and marketing and about the importance of collaboration within a team,” says Lairet, who plans to pursue an MBA at Rollins’ Crummer Graduate School of Business after graduation.

Neny Lairet ’21 collaborates with business professor Allen Kupetz at Knoza Consulting.
Neny Lairet ’21 collaborates with business professor Allen Kupetz at Knoza Consulting, a local optimization-focused startup founded by alumnus Adam Schwartz ’10 ’12MBA.Photo by Scott Cook.

Whether it was researching product listing optimization or investigating compliance requirements, Lairet credits her classes at Rollins for equipping her with the presentation, communication, and critical-thinking skills necessary to be successful in her internship. She points to Statistics for Business with business professor Serina Haddad in particular for teaching her how to use Excel proficiently and analyze data.

The aspiring business leader is grateful to the Gateway Fellows program not only for the financial support, but also for the connections she made with fellow Rollins students, alumni, and board-of-trustees members who continue to provide guidance and insights as Lairet plans her next steps.

Growing oyster gardens was just one layer of Colin Kelly ’21’s immersive internship and independent study at the Cornell Cooperative Extension in upstate New York.

The Marine Biologist: Colin Kelly ’21

Shellfish Aquaculture Educator, Cornell Cooperative Extension

If Colin Kelly ’21 had to choose one word to describe his experience as an intern for the Cornell Cooperative Extension—an educational system devoted to maximizing the state of New York’s agricultural and natural resources—it would be “multidimensional.” This applies not only to the hands-on work he was doing—growing oysters to help restore shellfish to the bays—but also to the larger lesson of pursuing a career that’s not only financially viable but also personally fulfilling and contributes to improving our communities and the world.

Because of the Gateway Fellows program, the marine biology major was given the financial freedom to make those connections, to see in practice what he’d been learning in the classroom, to get a taste of that meaningful life and productive career for which Rollins is preparing him. In growing the oyster gardens, Kelly worked with members of the local community to educate people on how they can earn an income while also promoting environmental justice by creating floating cages, providing weekly maintenance, and monitoring the growth of the oyster beds. Kelly also conducted his own experiment as part of an independent study project in which he measured the growth potential of three different oyster-growing techniques.

“Every day presented me with a different understanding of aquaculture,” says Kelly, who’s enrolled in Rollins’ 3/2 Accelerated Management Program that allows students to complete a bachelor’s degree and an MBA from the Crummer Graduate School of Business within five years. “This internship has just reaffirmed my plans to pursue oyster aquaculture, and I look forward to going back to my hometown of Chesapeake Bay, [Virginia], and starting a program to educate the public on how to grow oysters and benefit the environment.”

Students wearing caps and gowns walk to a commencement ceremony on Rollins College’s campus.

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