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Winter Break Internship? More Like Carleton “Externship”

Kai talks about his experience with Carleton's Externship Program over winter break.

Kai talks about his experience with Carleton's Externship Program over winter break.

A Spotlight on Carleton’s Externship Program

A perk of Carleton’s trimester system is the long winter break that lasts from around Thanksgiving until just past the New Year. The break allows for plenty of family time during the holidays, catching up with friends from back home, and even a short-term “experiential internship” called an externship. Carleton has an externship program through the Career Center specifically for Carleton students. Alumni, parents, and various individuals connected to Carleton, all eager to help fellow Carls, provide over 250 externships to the student body every year. The program allows students to discover potential career paths while building their resumes and industry connections. Thanks to COVID, externships this year were a mix of in-person, hybrid, and remote, all lasting 1 to 3 weeks. Although they are unpaid, the Career Center provides funding so all students can pursue externships regardless of financial circumstances.

My Externship

Externship PPT
The PowerPoint I got to present to planners and government officials involved in the TV Highway Project!

This winter, I completed a remote externship at Oregon Metro, the regional government and planning body for the Portland Metro area. My supervisor was Eryn Kehe (Investment Areas Project Manager at Metro), a Carleton ‘96 grad who was incredibly considerate and helpful throughout my externship.

As someone interested in urban planning, it was the perfect learning experience. At the heart of my internship was an independent research project. I got involved in the ~$300 million TV Highway project, a critical transportation corridor in the Portland Metro area. With guidance from Dana Lucero (Program Manager, Metro Community Placemaking Grant Program), I analyzed applications to Metro’s Community Placemaking grant program. The goal was to report on community needs, initiatives, and critical organizations/stakeholders in the TV Highway corridor. My project culminated in a report and presentation for planners and government officials involved in the TV Highway project. It was super cool to discuss my findings and answer their questions! I felt like I truly contributed to a key project.

Externship Report
The Fact Sheet I created for my externship report

My externship experience went well beyond my project. The Career Center has “challenges” that externs complete during their externship. Several include connecting with fellow externs, sharing helpful resources, or networking with industry professionals. My externship host, Eryn, was very helpful in this regard, as she set up several informational interviews for me during my time at Metro. I talked with people involved in my areas of interest, such as Portland’s latest light rail project (Amparo Agosto, Trimet), transit-oriented development (Jonathan Williams, Principal Project Manager at Metro), affordable housing (Valeria McWilliams, Regional Housing Analyst at Metro), and land use planning (Ted Reid, Carleton ‘94, Principal Regional Planner at Metro).

The interviews were a highlight of my externship. We discussed all kinds of topics I was interested in, whether it was their work, hot topics in the field, thoughts on the future of where/how people live, or career paths. I also got to participate in all of Metro’s meetings, whether it was with transportation experts in the TV Highway project or region-wide meetings with elected officials and community members. 

The Outcome

I entered Carleton like many others as someone with many academic interests but completely undecided about my major or career path. My externship has played a formative role in influencing both. Alongside the courses I’ve enjoyed so far at Carleton, my externship has helped direct me toward my intended majors: Political Science and Psychology. It helped me learn so much about urban planning, a field I now would love to pursue a career in. Thanks to the externship, I developed important skills and relationships, giving me a great experience that will serve me well in future internship, job, and graduate school applications.

Kai is a sophomore from Charlottesville, VA, who probably spends too much time enjoying meals (and desserts) with friends in the dining halls. He is a prospective double major in Political Science and Psychology, potential Public Policy Minor as well. He loves volunteering for Project Friendship, playing piano at the Weitz, hanging out at Sayles, taking walks around the Lakes or in the Arb, and pitching/playing infield for the baseball team. Meet the other bloggers!