UConn Students Gain Valuable Experience as Interns

David Rifkin '16 (BUS).
David Rifkin '16 (BUS).

When college graduates nationwide are vying for jobs, there is one item on their resumes that’s becoming a must-have for employers: the internship. A nationwide survey in 2015 found that 60 percent of employers prefer to hire candidates with relevant internship experience, a figure that has been climbing in recent years.

But UConn students need not worry, as the University is staying ahead of this trend and helping students take part in a wide variety of internships, says Beth Settje, associate director for career development.

“I constantly get phone calls and emails from employers saying, ‘I want to hire UConn students,’” Settje says.

UConn has become a target school for a number of big-name companies to recruit interns, including Travelers, General Electric, Aetna, Disney, and Cigna. Cigna even has its own floor in the Information Technology Engineering Building reserved for students with paid Cigna internships to work on projects with company employees on-site.

“We’ve become more of a presence,” Settje says. “Most of these companies only have the money to recruit from eight to 10 schools, and UConn is one of them.”

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the recent internship experiences of some UConn seniors who will soon be launching their careers:

David Rifkin

David Rifkin '16 (BUS).
David Rifkin ’16 (BUS) interned at the White House last fall.

This summer, David Rifkin ’16 (BUS) is delving into the world of finance through his internship experience. The business management major from Glastonbury, Conn. is an asset management and portfolio strategy intern at J.P Morgan in New York City, where he assists the wealthiest clients in the world with expanding their finances.

It’s not his first intern position. Last fall, he added an internship at the White House to his resume, which he says remains the “most incredible experience of his life.”

Rifkin interned in the West Wing, where he got a broad perspective of government life while conducting research on news topics for White House staff to use. The weekly cabinet reports he and his colleagues wrote were even sent to President Barack Obama himself. With every report they wrote, Rifkin said it was critical that all facts were double – even triple – checked to ensure accuracy.

“You put your heart into every report you write,” he says, looking back on his experience. “When it’s going to be read by the President, you can’t make any mistakes. It gives you a knot in your stomach; it plays with your emotions.”

When it comes to weighing his future career options, Rifkin’s biggest challenge may be to decide which of his passions – government or investing – to pursue.

“I just love the strategic mindset,” Rifkin says, “whether it’s in high levels of government or with finance.”

Cheyenne Baker

Cheyenne Baker '16 (CLAS).
Cheyenne Baker ’16 (CLAS) is a sports intern at WTNH Channel 8 this summer.

Growing up, Cheyenne Baker ’16 (CLAS) bonded with her dad by watching sports. Now, the Montville, Conn. native and journalism major has combined that same love with another passion – television production – that’s brought her closer to the action.

Baker is a sports intern this summer at WTNH Channel 8 in New Haven, where she’s involved in every aspect of TV production, including writing scripts, editing video, and interviewing athletes. In fact, her Red Sox and Yankee game highlights appear every night on WTNH’s SportzEdge segment.

Baker’s biggest project so far has been her very own reporter’s package on the Travelers Golf Tournament earlier this summer in Cromwell, Conn. After filming her standups, interviewing players, and writing the script, Baker’s final step was to add voiceovers and edit her video footage. However, when she went to do this, she discovered that WTNH uses an entirely different editing software from the one she’s familiar with at UConn’s campus station, UCTV. So Baker had to teach herself to use the program, and she did it in just one night.

Her favorite assignment this summer was interviewing Red Sox legend Bill “The Spaceman” Lee at a charity game for former Red Sox and Yankees players hosted by the Bridgeport Bluefins.

“Bill was just so animated, so easy to talk to,” she says. “Bill was the star of the package WTNH made for the game, and they used my whole interview with him.”

Baker’s next hands-on experience will be an internship with the Jerry Springer show in Stamford this fall. Upon completing the interview for the position, she was hired on the spot. Although it won’t be sports-related, she couldn’t be happier.

“I love to do sports, but this industry is so hard to make it in, that I’m happy to do anything,” Baker says. “I just love TV production.”

Tashi McSweeney

Tashi McSweeney '16 (ENG).
Tashi McSweeney ’16 (ENG) is an intern at Porsche in Germany, where he must present his reports in German.

For most people, delivering an analytical report before a team of top business executives would be terrifying enough. But for Tashi McSweeney ’16 (ENG, CLAS), who interns at Porsche, this is just a typical day at work – except that the report has to be presented in German, not English.

“I would have been nervous giving this report in English, so to do it in German was pretty daunting,” the Stonington, Conn. native says. “But it worked out, and people told me I had done well afterwards.”

McSweeney’s internship at Porsche in Ludwigsburg (a suburb of Stuttgart) is not his first time in Germany: he studied at the University of Heidelberg last fall, after taking two years of German at UConn. His study abroad program, called the Connecticut–Baden Wurttemburg Exchange, connected him to his supervisor at Porsche. However, being required to communicate his ideas in the engineering world made overcoming the language barrier that much more challenging.

“It was very hard to understand everything being told to me, and even harder to express what I was trying to say,” he says. “Simple things like making a phone call became challenging.”

The level of McSweeney’s work, too, is that of professional-level engineers. As a member of the After-Sales Engineering department, he is part of a team that develops ways to repair Porsche models. He also spends time in the Body and Frame Sub-Department that prepares auto body parts for testing. His favorite project to date has been preparing auto body parts for a new welding method. Even though Porsche has extremely high expectations, the creative and critical thinking challenges the work brings are just what he is looking for in an engineering career.

“There’s a good mix of actual work with my hands and more theoretical work,” McSweeney says. “That’s exactly what I like about mechanical engineering.”

Parth Rana

Parth Rana '16 (BUS).
Parth Rana ’16 (BUS) is spending his summer as a capital markets and investment banking intern with Citi.

When Parth Rana ’16 (BUS) accepted an internship at Citi, it was not to bask in the prestige of interning at a world-renowned bank. Instead, the finance major and math minor from Bridgeport had his sights set on getting his hands dirty working 60 to 70 hours a week as a capital markets and investment banking intern. Rana is spending his summer helping clients grow their investments from bonds, loans, and stocks.

As the only intern among his immediate group of coworkers, at first Rana found it challenging to make connections with established professionals. While his professors and alumni connections in the School of Business had helped him land his first interview at Citi, once the internship began, it was up to him to forge relationships with coworkers. But as he gained more experience, he became more comfortable interacting with them and soon received more assignments, through which he hopes to prove that he is capable of analyst-level work.

“If you show you want analyst-level work, you’ll get analyst-level work,” he says.

Keeping up with Citi investment bankers is no light work. Excelling at this level, Rana notes, involves working efficiently, seeking feedback, and making improvements with each deal he completes – an exhausting process, but one he finds rewarding.
“It’s satisfying to look back on a finished project,” Rana says, “and say, ‘hey, I actually worked on this.’”