K-Plan Cultivation

Kalamazoo College students may not be in class during the summer, but they are busy cultivating their K-Plans, across the country and around the world, in externships and internships supported by the Center for Career and Professional Development.

This summer 109 students are taking part in the CCPD’s summer career development programs. The Discovery Externship Program, in its 12th year, offers 46 first-year and sophomore students the opportunity to test the waters of a possible career by living and working with an alumni or parent professional for up to four weeks. Externs and hosts agree that the intensity of sharing both workday and “porchtime” experiences leads to rich relationships and deep discovery about the reality of the working world. This summer discovery externs can be found shadowing alumni in hospitals and health networks, a maritime museum, an organic food truck, dentistry and veterinary practices, financial and consulting firms, a school in India and a farm in Michigan.

To ensure the educational quality of their workplace experience, interns enrolled in the CCPD’s Field Experience Program agree with their supervisor on a learning contract outlining mutual goals and objectives for their summer together. They commit to regular structured reflection about their workplace experience, and they receive evaluation feedback at the conclusion of the internship. This summer, 63 interns are spending at least six weeks working with alumni professionals, Kalamazoo area non-profits, social justice organizations, and a wide range of independently-secured experiences across the country. Most Field Experience Program interns receive a stipend to help defray the costs of their unpaid experiences.

Externships and internships challenge students to apply theoretical learning to practical situations and to examine assumptions about work and careers. One current student mid-way through her internship described her summer work experience as “both gratifying and challenging.” She said, “In many ways this internship is not meeting my expectations and is showing me how off-base those expectations have been. These past three weeks have helped me rid myself of assumptions I held, and have given me new ways of thinking about how work at a non-profit can be done.”

The CCPD is already at work recruiting hosts and supervisors for summer 2014. Alumni and parents interested in offering a workplace experience to a student may contact career@kzoo.edu to request more information about becoming part of the Discovery Externship Program or the Field Experience Program.